Canadian Centre for Diversity to close doors

Janice O’Born

TORONTO — After 63 years as a going concern, the Canadian Centre for Diversity (CCD) is ceasing day to day operations.

The organization, which began life as the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews (CCCJ), will wind up operations in the next 60 to 90 days, lay off 10 employees and seek out other charitable organizations to take on its primary leadership education function, said Janice O’Born, chair of the board of directors.

Four hundred Toronto students who have signed up for the organization’s leadership training program will be told the program has been cancelled, she added.

O’Born said the steps had to be taken now so that there would be enough funds on hand to ensure current staff receive a full severance package. The reason for the closure is purely financial, she said. In recent years, private sector donations have dried up and government grants have not been forthcoming. The organization faces a $1-million shortfall in its 2013 budget.

O’Born attributed much of the problem to “donor fatigue,” as more and more high-profile charitable projects draw away available community resources. She also said previous management mishandled the change that led to the end of the CCCJ and the creation of the Canadian Centre for Diversity.

Long-standing supporters were not consulted about the change, she said. Many were angry at being handed a fait accompli and decided not to support the new organization.

The change, however, was necessary, she said. “The school system did not allow us in as Christians and Jews. They said we were not being inclusive.”

The name change was not accompanied by a proper media and marketing campaign, she added.

Victor Goldbloom, who headed the CCCJ from 1979 to 1987, said he was saddened by the organization’s demise. Prior to World War II, “Canada was a country where anti-Semitism was widespread. There was no formal dialogue. There was all kinds of exclusion from clubs and the boards of major corporations.”

Following the Shoah, “there was a need for dialogue… to reflect on the Shoah and the kind of society Canada was before the war,” he said.

Even during his tenure as CEO of the CCCJ, there was a perception in some circles that the need for the organization was lessening. Jews were no longer being excluded from larger companies and corporate funding began to decrease, he said.

The CCD’s decision to cease operations “is the culmination of that evolution, where people really came together to make Canada a much more equitable and open society.”

Though the CCCJ earlier ended as an organization, interfaith dialogue continued in other forums: there are Christian-Jewish dialogue groups in Toronto and Montreal, while the Canadian Interfaith Conversation attracts other faith groups, he said.

For her part, O’Born believes there is a still a crying need for the CCD to foster inclusiveness and oppose discrimination. She’s hoping another charity will take on its programming. “I really don’t see a difference… I feel we really haven’t come very far,” she said.