ICC’s $500,000 investment will support 50 talented new Canadian professionals in putting their skills and training to full use

DECEMBER 15, 2021 – The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) — Canada’s leading citizenship organization and the world’s foremost voice on citizenship and inclusion — has made a $500,000 investment in Windmill Microlending’s innovative and highly-effective Community Bond program, helping 50 skilled immigrants build successful professional lives in Canada thanks to Windmill’s accreditation and upskilling loans.

“New immigrants don’t need more rhetoric about what a welcoming country we are. They need resources to carve out successful careers and lives here,” said ICC CEO Daniel Bernhard. “That’s why the ICC is proud to invest in Windmill Microlending’s proven loans that ensure qualified new Canadians can be recognized for their talents and get off to a flying start in Canada.”

The partnership is a natural one. Through its Canoo mobile app, the ICC  has helped over 425,000 immigrants establish their Canadian lives by providing free admission to over 1400 museums, science centres, art galleries, parks, and historic sites across Canada. As Canada’s largest and most successful microlending charity for skilled immigrants and refugees, Windmill converts potential into prosperity by offering low-interest loans to help skilled newcomers obtain the credentials they need.

“Windmill Microlending is thrilled for the support of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, another great Canadian charity supporting the integration of immigrants,” said Claudia Hepburn, Windmill’s CEO. “ICC’s substantial investment comes at a time when Canada is experiencing a severe shortage of skilled labour. This loan capital will empower 50 skilled immigrants to acquire the accreditation they need to fill the skilled jobs. We are grateful to former Windmill and ICC board member Andreas Souvaliotis for his vision and role in bringing our organizations together to make this investment possible.”

“Canadians think of ourselves as a welcoming country — and we are — but in the global competition for talent and energy, we need to do more than talk a good game,” says Bernhard.  “As economics, geopolitics and climate change drive increased migration worldwide, we call on individuals, business, government, and civil society organizations to join us as active participants in Canada’s welcome network. It’s time to step up to the plate.”

About the Institute for Canadian Citizenship

The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) is a national non-profit organization co-founded by The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul. The ICC works to inspire Canadians to be inclusive, create opportunities to connect and encourage active citizenship. Since 2005, the ICC has also supported more than 425,000 new Canadian citizens with programming to encourage a sense of belonging and build a more inclusive Canada.

About Windmill Microlending

As Canada’s largest microlending not-for-profit for skilled immigrants and refugees, Windmill addresses the underemployment of internationally trained professionals across Canada.  By offering affordable loans of up to $15,000 to pay for launching or advancing their career, our clients are able to achieve career success and convert potential into prosperity for themselves and for Canada. Founded in 2005, Windmill Microlending is a registered charity supported by donors, government, sponsors and granting agencies.

For further information:

Windmill: Rob Hindley,

ICC: Amy Leis,

Since its origins, democracy has been a work in progress. Today, many question its resilience.

We are proud to partner with Bertelsmann Foundation and Humanity in Action for the third season of the How to Fix Democracy podcast, exploring practical solutions for how to address the increasing threats democracy faces.

Season 3, Episode 1: The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson on citizenship and belonging
Adrienne Clarkson is the co-founder of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the former Governor General of Canada. Madame Clarkson tells host Andrew Keen her story of coming to Canada, learning what it was to be Canadian, and her journey to becoming Governor General of the country. Along the way, she formed important ideas of what citizenship and belonging means in Canada and around the world.

At a time when the forces of exclusion, discrimination, and hate continue to gain strength all over the world, we must choose inclusion as a pillar for the world we want to create. At our first digital-only 6 Degrees forum, we heard from speakers from around the world — and from our communities — on how we must approach the intersecting crises of this moment, how we emerge from the pandemic with a more equitable society, and how the global movements for racial and social justice can push for meaningful change.

Here’s what we learned, what actions you can take, and how you can connect with our network.

Racism, ageism, misogyny, and inequality are poisoning our societies, and these problems have been laid bare during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The changes we need — in justice, in reconciliation, and in building trusted (and trustworthy) institutions — won’t happen overnight. It will take relentless optimism, determination, imagination, and work. We have already seen how this pandemic has inspired heartening efforts for change. When you are in need of further inspiration, think about the young people in your life — in your family, in your circles of friends, and in your neighbourhood — and the kind of world you want them to inherit.

[icc_block_quote quote=”What am I doing today to make the life of the seventh generation a better one?” author=”Roberta Jamieson” border_colour=”#000000″]

We have to work harder so we leave no one behind. Too often, our policies, our institutions, and even our progressive movements have primarily benefited some, while leaving others in the dust. To ensure that diverse voices are heard, and to ensure that everyone shares in the opportunity to thrive, we must continue to connect, to exchange ideas, to understand one another, and to work together. We have seen examples of our potential for this kind of solidarity in response to COVID-19, and we must build on this momentum.

[icc_block_quote quote=”Fundamentally we cannot move forward without saying that everyone deserves liberty, everyone deserves to thrive in our society. And we will not compromise the lives of our most marginalized people in the name of progress.” author=”Ijeoma Oluo” border_colour=”#000000″]

To make systemic change, we need an army of ethical, imaginative, and enthusiastic people pushing on all fronts. We need people to use their voices, their votes, and their dollars to demand that those on the “inside” work for real change, while celebrating those positive changes. But this is not enough. Institutions of power, and the cultures therein, are not built for disruption even when society demands it. To overcome this inertia, and to overcome the injustices upon which many systems are built, we also need allies on the “inside” willing to recognize when critical structures are failing, with the creativity and energy to replace them with something entirely new. Inside or outside, we need you involved. Now.

[icc_block_quote quote=”There’s this fascination with grassroots, but I have to be bold on this, we need to seize power. We need not to be shy, as civil society, to get into politics.” author=”Renata Ávila” border_colour=”#000000″]

Think big. Part of the multi-faceted crisis in this moment is due to a failure in imagination. We have to think big to make big changes. We have to think hard to make hard changes. Respond to this crisis with ambition, not retreat.

Interrogate what role you play in upholding harmful systems. Systemic racism is far deeper than far-right militias and tiki torches. Well-meaning people can and do contribute to systemic racism in complex ways. Strengthen your understanding. Listen to the oppressed.

Set goals, big and small, and celebrate wins. Progress serves as motivation. Define clear objectives, and make sure you celebrate successes along the way.

Don’t do it alone. Making change is hard work. As The Hon. Murray Sinclair reminded us, it’s important to build a personal support system to protect your own mental and physical health.

“Show up, show up, show up”. Find ways to be an ally, and do them. Figure out how you can move beyond beliefs and rhetoric to action and impact. Repeat.

Litigate. Your rights are enshrined for a reason. If they are infringed, you have a duty to protect them, and to strengthen them. Not just for yourself, but for your community, and for future generations.

Run for office. While flawed, our political institutions are powerful tools for change. A single ethical politician will not change the world, but what about 100? 1,000? 10,000? Be one of the many.

Act now. Literally now. Do one small, achievable thing in the next hour to take a step on the path of inclusion. Find out what is involved with running for a local office. Find a good resource on the Indigenous and/or colonial history of your place. Find an organization that shares your values and whose work you would like to support. We cannot wait until after the pandemic to start creating a more just and equitable society. Start now.

– Read the reports from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, headed by Senator Murray Sinclair, act on its 94 calls to action, and listen to Dr. Yvonne Poitras Pratt from the University of Calgary explain the importance of Orange Shirt Day, which recognizes survivors of Canada’s residential schools.

– In his new book, Michael Sandel explores the central question of our time: What has become of the common good? The Tyranny of Merit is available now!

Future of Good is on a mission to find and celebrate local Canadian projects that help communities #BuildBackBetter for a thriving decade. Click here to share a project.

Freidrich Ebert Stiftung partnered with to bring people from across the political spectrum and across the United States together for conversations on current affairs and identity. Watch the video highlights from Looking for America.

– Listen to the Economics and Beyond podcast. Every week, Rob Johnson talks about economic and social issues with a guest who probably wasn’t on your Econ 101 reading list, from musicians to activists to rebel economists.

– Read TwentyThirty, an online magazine presented by the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt. It sheds light on the social, political, and environmental challenges we face and features inspiring responsible leaders who are working to solve them.

– Read IndigiNews, a grantee of the Inspirit Foundation that aims to  debunk stereotypes about Indigenous communities perpetuated by the media.

Couldn’t join us for 6 Degrees? Catch up on who participated here, and watch all of the videos here. 6 Degrees is an ongoing forum, so follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for resources, news about upcoming events, and inclusion news from around the world.

Meet Canoo member Angelina Paras.

Angelina chose to move to Canada because “it’s a country that’s both historically relevant yet still nascent in terms of economic and social potential. I feel like there is much for me and my children to learn from and contribute to this country that I chose.”

“What I love most about Canada is its rich ethnic diversity, coupled with an amazing citizenry that has embraced people from all corners of the world. It’s what enticed me to live and raise my children here. In fact, Canada adopts multiculturalism as a national policy. I have felt this from the get go, as minorities’ representation in the workforce and in education is encouraged, added to a plethora of support services for newcomers like me.”

“My favourite place in Canada is my new home and community, because it is symbolic of our immigration journey. But if I had the chance to revisit a place, it would be postcard-pretty Banff in Alberta, because our trip to this picturesque town for our landmark wedding anniversary will always be memorable.”

“I typically visit Canoo venues with my husband and my children, and my mother-in-law who lives in Toronto but stays with us in Winnipeg for a few months each year. The best place I’ve visited using Canoo was the Canadian Human Rights Museum (CMHR).  I have visited the CMHR several times in the past, but they always have something new to offer. In July of 2019, I used my Canoo app to see the Mandela exhibit with my friend, who was visiting from Minnesota. That state has its own share of amazing museums, but I was proud to show her around the world’s first museum dedicated to human rights, and we were both fortunate to view the Mandela exhibit which was ongoing at the time. She is an educator, while I work for the Manitoba Legislature, which means we not only have to be curious for personal curiosity’s sake but we need to be updated on all matters political! The effort that goes into curating and researching for these exhibits is remarkable, and as a Winnipeger, I am fortunate to have easy access to this excellent edifice.

“Although I work for both the city and provincial governments, have been summoned for jury duty, volunteered at countless events and voted twice since we arrived, active citizenship can be many other things. It can be as simple as welcoming new citizens to the community or watching a game at your kids’ school. It can be sharing a personal traditional recipe or lending a hand to a neighbour in need. When you keep a mindset of trying to give more than what you take from the society you live in, that, to me, is what active citizenship is all about. 

“Inclusion to me doesn’t just mean “tolerance,” which I feel gives it a sense of “putting up with”. Inclusion is a deliberate welcoming of others’ culture — stepping back and having an open mind;to give recognition and genuinely have appreciation for the added value that others can give.

“Cultural places serve as living dioramas, giving us a glimpse of other people’s ways of life. Awareness opens the path to inclusion because people would come to realize that there is a greater society in which they live, and that the languages, abodes, food, beliefs, music, attires, traditions and customs in that greater society are legion. If anything, cultural places are kaleidoscopes of this remarkably diverse world we live in.

“Canoo has opened the doors of not-to-be-missed places to newcomers like me. Through Canoo and others’ generosity, our family has been able to take an introductory peek into museums and national parks, which we would definitely visit again in the future.”

*Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity.

Canoo gives new Canadian families access to 1400+ arts, culture spaces and parks across Canada. While Canoo is free to use, it’s not free to operate. As a charity, we rely on donations to help keep Canoo available and free for new Canadian citizens. With your generous support, we can help thousands of new Canadians and their family belong. Give the gift of Canoo! Become a monthly donor today.

Meet Canoo member Amjad Baig. Amjad moved to Canada because he believes it is a country where “there is unlimited opportunity and potential where your dreams can become reality.”

“Canada is a truly multicultural country with a rich ethnic diversity,” he says, “You feel welcomed and belonging here. The gorgeous scenery views of the untouched and natural environment are breathtaking and next to none I have seen so far.”

Amjad lives in Toronto, but his favourite place in Canada is on the West Coast. “Even though I stay in Toronto, two hours north of Vancouver by road lies our favorite place – Whistler,” he says, “The natural beauty, unique mountain lifestyle and stunning scenery is the best escape like nowhere else. Finding yourself in the mountains, breathing in the wild air you just get swept up by the unique energy. There are always some adventures that can inspire and challenge you anytime of the year in Whistler.”

During his time as a Canoo member in 2019, Amjad visited Casa Loma with his family, one of his favourite cultural venues in Toronto. “We went to Casa Loma on the 25th of August, 2019. It was our family day out,” he says, “We saw some of the most amazing things like the Great Hall, The Library, The Estate Gardens, The Round Room, Sir Henry Pellatt’s Suite, Lady Pellatt’s Suite, The Windsor Room, The Pellatt Board Room, Queen’s Own Rifle Museum, the stables and finally the Automotive Museum. The experience was as if you traveled back in time, at times we would stand and just imagine what life would have been during those times, such an amazing history. Our favorite was a secret storage area beside the fireplace.”

Amjad believes that cultural venues like Casa Loma can help build more inclusive societies: “Coming from various cultural places and background help to understand others better, learn through connections making it a better resilient, stronger and socially inclusive community.”

“Canoo is so very thoughtful and such a beautiful gesture to give every new citizen to experience and learn a little more about the land, food, culture, nature and connect with people,” says Amjad, “ Canoo celebrates the experience of being truly Canadian, not just to celebrate a new citizen’s journey from landing to becoming a citizen but recognizing & rewarding the hustle and the contribution during that period. Visiting the parks and Casa Loma was simply beautiful. Thank you Canoo for the memorable experience!”

Canoo gives new Canadian families access to 1400+ arts, culture spaces and parks across Canada. While Canoo is free to use, it’s not free to operate. As a charity, we rely on donations to help keep Canoo available and free for new Canadian citizens. With your generous support, we can help thousands of new Canadians and their family belong. Give the gift of Canoo! Become a monthly donor today.

Meet Canoo member Janega Boltiador-Gallant. She immigrated to Canada from the Philippines, and currently, she resides on the East Coast in Prince Edward Island, her favourite place in Canada, with her husband. Janega chose to move to Canada because it is her “dream country” and to “have a better life.”

“What I love most about Canada is that it is a very productive country,” says Janega, “And it’s the place where I met the love of my life! I am looking forward to many more years here spending our lives together with good health and more happiness.”

Janega typically visits Canoo venues with her husband. The places she’s enjoyed visiting most using the Canoo app are the Anne of Green Gables Museum at the Green Gables Heritage Place and Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst National Historic Site, PEI. 

“I went a few times to the Anne of Green Gables heritage site with my family,” says Janega. “I love learning about how the story was made. We went walking on the trail — it was a pretty good experience. We saw all the stuff that makes up the story at the Green Gables House, and we got to get dressed up in Anne’s clothes. We even took some pictures. It was very cool.”

Janega agrees that cultural spaces, such as heritage sites and parks, are important experiences for building a sense of inclusion and belonging for new citizens in Canada. “Cultural places will let you share your culture from where you’re from,” says Janega, “And to be included in social gatherings with a bunch of people from different countries allows you to learn about, and experience, their cultures. This kind of inclusion means I can be part of the success of this country.”

Janega highly recommends that all new Canadian citizens download and use the Canoo app! “It will give you more information about lots of wonders in this world and the beautiful places that you can visit,” she says. “It is very helpful!”

Allegations have surfaced on social media in recent days with respect to the alleged conduct of one of our board members. Max FineDay has resigned from the Board of Directors.

The Institute for Canadian Citizenship is an organization founded on the principle of inclusion and we expect our board members and staff to live up to that ideal.

In advance of Canada Day, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) spoke with Joy Abasta, a new Canadian citizen originally from the Philippines, about what Canada Day means to her  and how she planned to mark the day.  

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

ICC: How are you planning on celebrating Canada Day?
Joy Abasta: I’ve been doing a lot of reflection, with Indigenous people’s day being June 21st  and it being so close to Canada Day, which is July 1st. Before, I always celebrated Canada Day because as an immigrant it feels like you can finally celebrate with Canadians. Like  I’m here and everybody’s free and we are all trying to be fair and polite, and we are known from the other parts of the world as friendly, and always saying ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry.’  But when I started school in September 2019 and dived into Indigenous studies, that’s when I realized that there’s a particularly dark history in Canada. Now, I feel a bit conflicted.

My partner and I were just talking this morning…We asked ourselves how we can celebrate both Indigenous cultures and Canada being Canada, and he said that, ‘oh, you know what? We can go for a drive in Squamish because there’s a lot of history in Squamish, as well.  And then we can go and find some Indigenous installation art or hikes and whatnot.’ Also, there’s an app that was created by Dr. Rudy Reimer, it’s called the ímesh app. If you open the app, it’s going to tell you which territory you’re on while you’re walking. It’s going to tell you what the name is and what their traditional work is, so for example, berry picking, or fishing and what not. So we’ll probably do that. 

What initially drove you to learn about Indigenous cultures and communities?
I moved here in 2014, and when I moved here I didn’t know anything about Indigenous culture. I started to volunteer at different organizations and in 2016,  I volunteered at the Vancouver Community Policing Centre in the west end. They were so big about this walk for reconciliation, so  I signed up for that because I needed my volunteer hours for the month, and then I realized it’s for the Indigenous communities. I think that’s when it all really started for me, it opened up the conversation and curiosity. 

Before I moved here, I had heard so much good stuff about Canada; that, ‘hey, this is better than the United States because of health care,’ and then when I landed here and found out what I did at the policing centre, I was exposed to what happened to Indigenous cultures and what has happened to them — the assimilation, the genocide. It was horrifying. It’s always hard to discuss, even with my students at school, because I’m also just learning. But we all have to talk about those difficult histories. Since then, every time I go out and discover or explore a new city in Canada, I try to make it a point to see if there’s an Indigenous installation art, or maybe a museum, or anything that celebrates the Indigenous history of the communities that live there.

What pushes you to continue this learning?
I see similarities with what happened in Canada and in the Philippines. Because the Philippines were also colonized by the Spaniards. And being in the Philippines, I’d always heard about the Philippines being colonized, but that’s basically it. I didn’t realize the weight of that term until I moved here, until I realized what happened with colonization and Indigenous people in Canada. But Canada has been my home, and maybe I’m projecting, but I also want to be an ally of Indigenous people. I can never connect with the trauma they had, but as a student of public health — and hopefully eventually to become a public health official — I think it’s really important for my career to always be thinking about BIPOC. Here in Vancouver, or here in British Columbia, there’s still not a lot of conversations happening, so I wanted to become an ally to try to scratch the surface, and try to influence the people around me to reconsider what’s happening around us. A lot of the time people can ignore what’s happening to other people around them, especially if they’re not of similar backgrounds or cultures. 

How did you learn about Indigenous communities and cultures?
If I go somewhere else, like Whistler, I’ll always go to museums that include Indigenous history and culture. I think museums were my initial resource on Indigenous people. Then I started school in September of 2019, and I owe it to the professors and supervisors that I had, because I’m also a TA [teacher’s assistant] for Indigenous studies.  Dr. Joyce Schneider and Dr. Rudy Reimer and Dr. Madeline Knickerbocker are very knowledgeable about Indigenous studies. Drs. Rudy and Joyce are members of the Indigenous community and Madeline is a white settler who has been doing about 10 years of work on Stó:lō communities in British Columbia. I”m really grateful I was able to have these sources.

How is celebrating Indigenous cultures part of celebrating Canada Day? How is it not?
We must celebrate Indigenous culture and Indigenous people and communities on Canada Day. I don’t know if celebrate is the correct term, but basically just acknowledging that they were here first, for at least 12,000 years before the white settlers or the colonizers. What can we do with reconciliation and other acts of decolonization every day so that we can make celebrating Canada Day worth it. 

How have you been connecting with Indigenous culture and art during the pandemic?
It’s been hard, of course. There’s a ton of resources online and I was fortunate enough to still be a TA, so as I go along I still feel I’m connected to my allyship with the Indigenous people. So what I’ve done this summer so far is learning how to say specific words or terms in an Indigenous language. I think there’s about 600+ Indigenous languages in Canada, but here in Vancouver the language is Hul’q’umi’num’. I’m trying to learn how to say hello and ‘thank you,  you know, very basic words in their language. Indigenous languages are dying; not a lot of Indigenous Peoples know how to use the languages, because of colonization and assimilation. So, for me, I just want to try to make an effort to learn these common terms because language is a really big part of everyone’s culture.

Oh Canada – Call for all Canadian artists to take part in celebrating new Canadian citizens this Canada Day with an anthem filmed from coast to coast to coast.

The Institute for Canadian Citizenship invites you to participate in singing the bilingual national anthem as part of our Celebration of Citizenship  — an interactive virtual coming together of Canadians that celebrates the Canadian values of diversity, inclusion, and active citizenship, and offers a communal moment of hopefulness and pride.

The Celebration of Citizenship event will recognize new Canadians and immigrants who are frontline workers, and show gratitude for their contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also celebrate new Canadian citizens with a virtual citizenship ceremony, held in partnership with the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, that will be broadcast live.

We invite all Canadian artists to participate in this volunteer opportunity. To receive information on submitting a video, please contact Hiba Omar at

Canoo member Joy Abasta became a Canadian citizen in February 2020. She says she chose Canada because of the country’s diversity, move towards inclusion, and the high respect for others’ rights and freedoms.

As a new citizen, Joy is actively and continuously learning about the Indigenous Peoples in Canada, and she knows it is both a privilege and a responsibility to be learning and living in the unceded Coast Salish Territories. She also believes that while immigrants and new citizens have much to contribute to Canadian society, it is also important to acknowledge that we all have to work together towards decolonization and reconciliation with the Indigenous Peoples to be a truly inclusive and progressive country. As a public health leader, she is an advocate and an ally in achieving culturally competent and gender-sensitive communities in British Columbia, and hopefully, in all of Canada.

Joy’s favourite place in Canada is Whitehorse, Yukon. “A week after my oath of citizenship in February 2020, my partner, Wesley, and I flew to Whitehorse, Yukon,” she explained, “There, we chased the Aurora Borealis, we met a Canadian ranger, and experienced dogsledding and snowmobiling. I learned more about trapping and got to feel and try on clothings made of real arctic fox, mink, and wolf pelts. The most unforgettable of them all was when we visited the Beringia Interpretive Centre where we learned more about Indigenous Peoples, human migration theory through the Bering ice bridge, and admired the remains of woolly mammoth, giant sloths, and saber-toothed cats.”

When travel restrictions due to the pandemic are over, Joy plans to visit other provinces and use her Canoo membership in museums and art galleries. She hopes to see the beauty and hidden gems of Winnipeg, Toronto, and the Maritimes.

Joy believes that cultural places and public art installations play a major role towards awareness and inclusivity: “These cultural places serve as a medium where we learn the country’s history, its traditions, cultures, and even the dark past. Social inclusion will only be achieved if we learn from history and that we truly welcome everyone regardless of their skin colour, race, gender, and social class.”