Meet Germaine Chazou-Essindi, the NAC’s first Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Germaine story
Germaine Chazou-Essindi, Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Christopher Deacon, President and CEO of the NAC just announced the appointment of Germaine Chazou-Essindi to the new position of Director of Diversity and Inclusion, effective May 3, 2021.

Prior to joining the NAC, Germaine was the Director of National Policy, Programs and Partnerships at the Department of Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE), responsible for more than 150 complex national projects involving diverse communities, including Indigenous women, Black women and women of colour (IBPOC), the LGBTQ2A+ community, as well as other vulnerable groups. Germaine Chazou-Essindi is an accomplished leader and brings more than 15 years of experience managing grant and contribution programs within the federal government.

“In its Strategic Plan, the NAC has committed to eliminating any inequities within our own structures, said Christopher Deacon. “We are also seeing collective action to address the systemic racism that Indigenous people, Black people and people of colour face in our institutions, both as individuals and as communities. We must act to make our stages and spaces more diverse, accessible, equitable and inclusive. Germaine Chazou-Essindi’s extensive experience, interpersonal skills and extensive knowledge of diversity will help us create a more welcoming and respectful space for all.”

We spoke to Germaine Chazou-Essindi at the time of her nomination.

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Q. How do you feel right now?

I’m excited about this nomination. It takes me out of my comfort zone because, for many years, I’ve worked in granting programs that are easily measurable. But I see this as a wonderful challenge. It’s a sign of confidence in my skills and years of experience in the field of diversity and inclusion.

Q. Where do you think society is at on matters of diversity and inclusion?

The controversy surrounding the deaths of George Floyd in the U.S. and Joyce Echaquan here in Canada have awakened many people to the impact of racism in our society. We even saw our Prime Minister take a knee at a rally against racism on Parliament Hill. It’s clear that action is needed. That’s why we’re seeing many institutions, like the NAC, create these diversity and inclusion positions, as well working groups to address issues affecting, among others, Black, Indigenous, Asian, and LGBTQ2A+ communities.

Q. What motivates you in your work?

Last year, a young Afro-American named Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by two white men who wrongly believed he was a thief. This left a big knot in my heart. I am the mother of two teenage boys. Since the pandemic began, they’ve been keeping fit by going out jogging, like Arbery did. Could this tragedy have happened to my boys here in Canada? When they were very young, I began to tell them all the time: “If the police stop you, you do as they say!” Those are words spoken every day by Black mothers in communities across this country. What motivates me in my work is the idea of promoting a more inclusive society that is free from racism, or any other form of discrimination. A society in which we respect, appreciate, understand and celebrate diversity. My wish is that one day, Black mothers won’t need to have that conversation with their sons.

Q. What will be your first move at the NAC?

I will take the time to go to meet people at the NAC and listen to them, because diversity and inclusion is a team effort. I will take stock of the policies and the practices in place. Eventually, the goal will be to develop an operational plan with an intersectionality lens. I’ve noted that the NAC has already publicly committed to improve its diversity and inclusion practices through its most recent Strategic Plan. We’re not starting from scratch.

Q. What do you want to accomplish at the NAC?

Many of the children who come to student matinées at the NAC are from diverse communities. My wish would be that they come to see the NAC as a place that really looks like them, where diversity is celebrated every day. Those communities are an integral part of the NAC’s organizational makeup. That would be my way of contributing to a more inclusive Canada.

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