L’Arche Canada’s Statement on Anti-Racist Organizational Change

Over the past five months, L’Arche in Canada has confronted one challenge after another. In February, we suffered an organizational trauma that shook us to the core with the Jean Vanier revelations. In March, we faced a global pandemic aimed at the very lives we seek to protect. In April, social distancing became something we had to insist on, rather than something we fought against. In May, we confronted what had become the worst global recession since the 1930s. And as June came around, one Community Leader summed up what many of us were feeling by simply stating "I'm still standing".

2020 has turned everything upside down: our founding story, our daily routines, our funding sources, our way of working, of celebrating, of mourning.

And yet, we are still here. And we are standing.

Over the past three weeks, we have followed the waves of protests for racial justice that have engulfed American cities and spread across Canada and beyond.

For 56 years, we have dedicated our hearts, our hands and, for many of us, our entire lives to ensuring that people with disabilities can enjoy their natural rights to live in safety and dignity. At the heart of L’Arche is the conviction that diversity should enrich, not divide.

Disability has always been our entry point into the struggle for belonging, but the global outcry against racially-motivated violence reminds us that if we truly hope to achieve our mandate of “a vibrant structure that respects diversity across Canada”, if we are serious about our mission to “build a more human Canadian society where everyone belongs,” then we need to re-assess and re-invest in the work of anti-racist safeguarding and organizational change.

We are committed to encouraging more people in L’Arche in Canada to do the work of looking inward and identifying forms of discrimination and privilege in our movement. Etty Hillsum wrote: “Each one of us must turn inward and destroy in ourselves all that we think we ought to destroy in society”. We must go further and turn outward--to our homes, workshops, leadership structures, and boards--and fix in L’Arche in Canada all that we think we ought to protest in the streets.

L’Arche Canada acknowledges our need to engage in race equity work. As a first action, we will put into place a process for identifying an external consultant to assess our racial equity culture and then, to facilitate organizational change at the national, regional, and community-levels.

Let’s remember June as a month which drove us toward a deeper commitment to each other, especially to the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) members of L’Arche in Canada.



L'Arche Canada Leadership Team:

Jean Dansereau, Director of Operations
Marni Davis, Regional Leader
Jeff Gilbreath, Regional Leader
Michael McDonald, Communications Coordinator
Louis Pilotte, National Leader
Jenn Power, Regional Leader
Elizabeth Richard, Regional Leader
Guillaume Richard, Director of Fundraising
John Rietschlin, Board President
Lori Vaanholt, Director of Strategic Development and Innovation