VIDEO: President talks diversity at Intercultural Dialogue Institute

York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri speaking on stage

York University helps students become citizens of the world through its interdisciplinary teaching and programs, as well as the diversity of the University community, President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri told some 250 community and business leaders at the Intercultural Dialogue Institute last Thursday.

“Diversity in the classroom makes for a better learning environment and cultural diversity makes for a more tolerant and peaceful society,” he said. Shoukri was one of two keynote speakers at the Intercultural Dialogue Institute’s annual dialogue and friendship dinner at the Royal York Fairmont in Toronto. The second keynote was delivered by Usha George, dean of community services at Ryerson University. The Intercultural Dialogue Institute is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to promote respect and mutual understanding among all cultures and faiths.

“What many in our community don’t realize is that this diversity exposes our students to a high level of differing opinions and points of view on all issues of studies and of national and world affairs,” said Shoukri, who spoke about living together as neighbours in a global community.

“By learning within such a diverse community, and from some of the best professors, our students gain a better understanding of the world in which they live. Our students learn to address societal issues through a diverse lens, and as a result, this interaction provides them with a broad range of approaches to addressing real-world problems.”

Shoukri recalled his own early experiences as a new student in Canada almost 40 years ago. He arrived, he said, not knowing what to expect but ready to live and learn here. After receiving his master’s and PhD degrees from McMaster University, he decided to stay. “To Mamdouh Shoukri delivering his keynote address at the Intercultural Dialogue Institute’s annual dialogue and friendship dinnerput it mildly, I felt embraced by the country, by the people and by the system.  And not once have I ever looked back,” he said. “Not only did I make a good decision…I am convinced I made the best decision of my life.”

Mamdouh Shoukri delivering his keynote address at the Intercultural Dialogue Institute’s annual dialogue and friendship dinner

In his opinion, said Shoukri, Canada has one of the best education systems in the world and York, as Canada’s third largest, is a University with “strong moral values…like equity, social responsibility, accessibility and fairness.” These are values “we truly believe in” and they have “shaped who our students become” – global citizens.

In addition to the keynote by Shoukri, Charles Sousa, Ontario minister of immigration & citizenship, spoke briefly to guests at the dinner. Messages were read by Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada, Jason Kenney, federal minister of citizenship & immigration, and Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario, among others.

The Intercultural Dialogue Institute also handed out two Excellence in Community Service awards during the evening, one of which went to York alumnus and CBC Metro Morning host Matt Galloway (BA Hons. ’94).

The institute promotes respect and mutual understanding through partnership with other communities, cultural, religious and interreligious organizations by organizing educational and cultural activities such as seminars, conferences, discussion panels, luncheons, interfaith family dinners and cultural exchange trips.