Submitted, with thanks, by Enrique Romo, OCISO’s Senior Counsellor from 1978-80, Executive Director from 1981-86.
It was a time of change, of imaginative ways of doing social work. The 70s and 80s were such a world. Racial and cultural minorities were not conceived the way they are now, hence social services were conceived and designed with a different optic.
It was in such a time that OCISO was created, and its very foundations had to be revised given the challenges it had to face in a rapidly changing environment.
The South East Asian “Boat People” were the catalyst. Immigration policy had to be revised, assistance programs had to be made adequate to the needs that the SEA Boat People brought with them.
The Boat People were the victims of a conflict that was completely out of their control and could only flee from the final outcome.
After the fall of Saigon, they looked death in the face in making their way here, but once here, they added new cultural grace to this community as well as finer shades of meaning to the nascent engagement in race relations and policies on inclusion that are the norm in today’s Canada.
They also came to meet the labour needs of a rapidly developing high tech industry that was stretching the boundaries of what had been a small, quiet town until then.
They also displayed a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit that has contributed greatly to redefining this city – together with hundreds of other racial and cultural minorities – as a cosmopolitan centre with a redefined nature in this rather lovely and welcoming environment.
To have been a professional called to deal with this world in flux was a fascinating experience. To have been a senior Counsellor and then Executive Director was a huge privilege that bound me to a community and individuals that became an intimate and lasting part of my world, marked by friendship (that lasts to this day), loyalty and open discussions about the society Canada was to become.
OCISO became a service organization in the fullest sense of the word, and the individuals that served in it, were ready and disposed to do everything that was necessary to help solve a vast range of problems, but most importantly, help individuals and families become valuable and valued human beings, who in realizing their dreams and aspirations, were also helping make Canada an even better land of opportunity and hope for people from all over the world.