Growing up in Peru, Mila Beaudoin learned about the Incas, their reverence for unity, and how strong communities are built when people work together in harmony.
Nearly four decades after moving to Canada, teachings like this still hold deep meaning for the co-lead of CWB’s House of Latin America (HOLA), an Employee Represented Group (ERG). “Our values, our accomplishments, our struggles, our identities – there’s so much depth to what it means to be Latin American,” says Beaudoin, who’s also a Paraplanner with CWB Wealth.
She says observances like October’s Latin American Heritage Month offer a chance to reflect and reconnect with her culture, share it with her teammates, and expand her knowledge of other Latin American countries.
Canada is enriched by over half a million Canadians of Latin American descent, representing all 22 Latin American countries. In 2018, the Canadian Government proclaimed October as Latin American Heritage Month to remember and celebrate past and current contributions of Canadians of Latin American origin.
CWB Inclusion and Diversity Specialist Malvika Kathpal says the need for an ERG like HOLA came to light a year ago while planning activities for Latin American Heritage Month.
“The Latin American community in Canada has made significant contributions socially, economically, and politically. The idea for HOLA was born from conversations on how to celebrate and educate employees about those contributions,” she says. “It was a natural segue to go from recognizing the month of October to making a long-lasting commitment to the Latin American community at CWB.”
Since then, HOLA has been spotlighting Latin American countries and cultural holidays year-round. Membership has grown from a handful of employees to over 40 today.
“As a first generation Canadian, I treasure the culture and values inherited from my parents. I take pride in being able to pass them on to my children,” says HOLA co-lead Mitch Estrada, an AVP, Credit Risk Management – Retail for CWB. “To me, forming HOLA and celebrating Latin American Heritage Month provides opportunities to reflect on and appreciate the sacrifice my parents made in moving our family to Canada for a better life.”
While HOLA continues to showcase Latin American culture to CWB employees, Estrada says it’s also evolving to embrace and introduce tougher topics like racism, stereotypes, and biases.
This October, HOLA’s Latin American Heritage month programming includes:
- Customs in Latin America (traditions, celebrations, superstitions)
- Struggles in Latin America that have increased immigration to Canada
- Biases against Latin Americans (perceptions)
- What it means to be a Latin American in Canada
- Drop-in breakout rooms: Travel to Latin American countries
Building relationships through inclusion and understanding
Beaudoin says fostering understanding is important to the ERG, and she’s encouraged by the number of allies who’ve joined. “A lot of members aren't Latin American or don’t have a Latin American heritage, but they’re interested in Latin American culture. And so together we’re learning about the struggles, triumphs, similarities, and differences."
Being aware of what colleagues are carrying with them in the workplace builds better relationships, says Kathpal. “When we try to understand someone better by getting to know their culture and what prompted their move to Canada, we better appreciate the different perspectives they bring.”
She has this advice for business owners who may be pondering how ERGs might benefit their employees in the workplace: Take note of the diversity of your employee population and consider if you currently hold space to support their unique needs – or if there’s a gap that an ERG could potentially help bridge.
“At CWB we aspire for our work population to represent the Canadian population,” she says. “With that also comes celebrating the diverse communities among our employees and setting them up with the spaces and supports to thrive.”
This Latin American Heritage Month, Estrada suggests not overthinking your participation if you’re a business or individual that wants to get involved. “Celebrate with us. Attend a local event. It won’t just be informative from a cultural perspective. Knowing the Latin community, it will also be full of delicious food and great music. I guarantee it will be time well spent,” he says.
Adds Beaudoin, with a laugh: “I realize this is self-promotion but take this as your sign to try Peruvian cuisine – it's the best.”
Employee Represented Groups:
- Goodera’s Guide to Hispanic Employee Resource Groups
- 27 companies with standout initiatives to support their Hispanic and Latinx Employees
- Daughters of Latin America: An International Anthology of Writing by Latine Women
- Recursos antirracistas en español