"Words and Deeds Leadership Award"
President & Chief Executive Officer
Royal Bank of Canada
"Words and Deeds Leadership Award"
March 29, 2006
Thank you Brent and Chuck, and good evening
I am honoured to be the first recipient of the Words
and Deeds award and would like to thank the Canadian
Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy and the United Jewish
Appeal for this special tribute.
This award is described as "recognizing leaders who
make outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes and
to tolerance, inclusion and civil discourse in Canadian society".
To quote Winston Churchill, I am proud but also, I
must admit, awe-struck to be honoured. I do hope you are right.
I feel we are both running a considerable risk and that I
do not deserve it. But I shall have no misgivings if you have
This tribute certainly does not belong to me alone. For more
than 25 years, I have been fortunate to work for an organization
that values good deeds and good words, and has a proud history
of leadership in both. I am often reminded that wonderful
people, who are much more knowledgeable and involved in social
and civic issues than I, go unheard and sometimes unheralded
they are the real award winners.
But as CEO of RBC, I am privileged to have a platform from
which to speak and a position from which to contribute, and
to waste such an opportunity to make a difference would be
a disservice to my organization. So tonight, I would like
to accept this award on behalf of RBC and, in particular,
our employees who do so much for their communities.
I am also delighted to share this evening with my wife Janet.
I was recently at a function where someone thanked their spouse,
who they described as their silent partner. My
first reaction was how do you get one of those?.
But in truth, Janets words and deeds are a great influence
on me, and our three children and we are truly blessed.
It is a particular honour to receive recognition from the
Jewish community --- one that gives so much of themselves,
not only for Canada and Israel, but to the broader community.
When I chaired the United Way Campaign of Greater Toronto,
one of my rallying cries to our cabinet was the per capita
giving of the United Jewish Appeal. And many UJA supporters
are also leaders in the United Way Campaign. This is a generous
community that should take pride in its philanthropy
in fact, if you did a tour of our citys culture, medical
and educational infrastructure, you would not believe that
only one percent of Canadas population was Jewish.
It is also significant that the title of this award puts
words first because actions don't always speak
louder than words. Words can inspire and incite, persuade
and promote. Great leaders are known for their words. Churchill,
Lincoln, Mandela, Ben-Gurion, Gandhi, Luther-King, Kennedy
all used words to inspire actions that brought down the forces
of injustice and hate.
It is entirely fitting that CIJA and UJA use words to promote
the shared principles that Canadians are so proud of - tolerance,
diversity, inclusion, freedom of expression and the right
to be protected from hatred. No group has done more to promote
the values of tolerance and diversity, and to ensure that
Canada progresses as a caring, civil society than the community
that many of you represent.
The words and deeds of Jewish Canadians -- in public service,
science, business, and the arts have had a significant
impact on our country and culture. Writers and poets like
Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, Mordecai Richler; film makers
like Ivan Reitman; architects like Jack Diamond and Frank
Gehry; jurists like Bora Laskin, Rosie Abella, Morris Fish
and, now, Marshall Rothstein ; athletes like Bobbie Rosenfeld,
business leaders like the Bronfmans, Izzy Asper, Peter Munk,
Barry Sherman and tonights honourary chairs, Gerry Schwartz
and Larry Tanenbaum; politicians like Herb Gray, David Croll,
David and Stephen Lewis; and our mayors, Nathan Phillips,
Phil Givens and Mel Lastman.
If I were to list all the remarkable words and deeds emanating
from Canada's Jewish community, I would be here all evening.
Yet, despite these accomplishments, it is disappointing that
Canada, a country that prides itself on being a tolerant,
inclusive, multicultural society, needs a CIJA or a UJA to
advocate for our creative and generous Jewish community and
They exist, in part, because anti-Semitism is still a reality
in-spite of our laws that prohibit racism. Canadian Jews are
still victims of hate crimes - with the rash of anti-Semitic
incidents in Toronto and the burning of the Talmud Torah school
in Montreal the most recent examples.
Friends in the Jewish community (much to my ignorance and
disbelief) tell me of the subtle bias they still feel in Canadas
business community and even the fear they have for their children
and grandchildren, of a broad resurgence in anti-Semitism.
The challenge for all Canadians is to speak out against both
words and deeds of intolerance as people like Tony and Elizabeth
Comper have done against anti-Semitism by creating F.A.S.T.
(Fighting Anti-Semitism Together) or as organizations like
CIJA and UJA do with respect to advocating for tolerance,
inclusion and justice in all communities.
An issue that I have spoken on recently and I would like
to briefly comment on tonight is the broad issue of diversity
and workforce integration which is of great importance to
our country if we are going to compete in todays globally
competitive world. As a segue, I would like to tell a story
about my friend and colleague, Chuck Winograd.
When Chuck was appointed a vice-chairman of RBC a few years
ago, he said to me that he wished his father was alive because
he would never believe that a Jewish kid from Winnipeg could
be a vice-chairman of Royal Bank. I told Chuck that he was
both out of date and crazy.
And while I do not mean to compare the anti-Semitism that
has faced the Jewish community throughout the course of history
with the broad issue of diversity and integration, it does
highlight to me different perspectives that each of us have
and how important it is to try to put ourselves in the shoes
If that was the perception of a leading Canadian business
executive, just think how others with less history, less common
a culture or less comfortable communication capabilities must
feel as they attempt to maximize their potential in the workforce.
Whether new immigrants or visible minorities, our country
has a huge social and economic opportunity if we can maximize
the value of our diverse, multicultural society. But we have
to recognize the issues and challenges we face if we are to
capitalize on this opportunity.
A recent Canadian Values Poll asked what makes Canada
unique. Some people said our landscape -- others our
political and health care systems. But one answer stood, head
and shoulders above everything else diversity and multi-culturalism.
To put this in perspective, hockey ranked dead
To see diversity in the top spot of this poll
makes a strong statement about the way Canadians define ourselves.
And while we believe it, there is, in my view, a degree of
naiveté in this response, particularly, from people
like me (a white, anglo-saxon, unilingual, male) because many
observe a relatively well-functioning multi-cultural society
without recognizing the challenges of its different components.
Canadian politicians constantly brag about the success of
our multicultural society. Yet one has to question if that
makes for good politics or whether we are achieving the progress
that we so confidently espouse.
Hate crimes are up, segregation and poverty by postal code
is growing and immigrants are leaving Canada because they
continue to see a glass ceiling or better opportunities elsewhere.
Evidence suggests that today, immigrants are having a harder
time adjusting than previous generations and the lack of inclusion
of minorities and second generation immigrants is causing
social and economic issues.
Our country has an opportunity to lead the world in creating
an inclusive society and maximizing the value of our human
capital through diversity and immigration. But our success
will depend, not only on our ability to attract new immigrants,
but providing the environment where new Canadians and all
visible minorities can fully participate and maximize their
There is a global competition for human capital and given
all that our country has to offer, we can win and should be
able to compete for the skills and resources we need. But
we must recognize our challenges if we are going to capitalize
on our diversity and maximize that potential.
I dont believe many organizations in Canada are more
inclusive than RBC, in fact, and I chair our Diversity Council
which is the only committee at our company on which I sit
other than our Executive Committee. Yet when I question the
many talented visible minorities in our organization they
confirm the unintended and hidden barriers that they feel.
We are working hard to break down these barriers and have
established a number of specific programs.
According to research of the Public Policy Forum, Canadian
- overlook immigrants in their human resource planning
- dont hire immigrants at the level they were trained;
- face challenges integrating immigrants into the work
With an aging population and competition from other mature
countries, we cannot afford to miss this opportunity.
The challenge to corporate Canada, to all levels of government
and to each of us is to stop talking about how inclusive and
multi-cultural we are and start showing it.
I have spoken frequently on the importance of diversity and
immigration because I do believe it is critical to Canadas
future growth, a great economic opportunity and an area of
global competitive advantage. But that is if, and only if,
we collectively change our policies and practices to attract
the right skills and to live up to our values of integration,
tolerance and inclusion. There is a distance between lip and
cup that we must recognize and close.
Maximizing the potential of our diverse human capital is
not only a social imperative but it is a great economic opportunity.
I would conclude by once again thanking CIJA and UJA for
this wonderful honour. I had the thrill of visiting Israel
almost two years ago and what an experience it was. In addition
to great companionship, Gerry Schwartz, Rob Pritchard, Haim
Divon, Moshe Ronen and others that we connected with over
there, I knew this was a special trip the moment we left the
We flew over on Air Onex, and rather than arrive
at Ben Gurion Airport, we landed at the Tel Nof Air force
base where we were greeted by the Base Commander and Brigadier
General. We toured Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Golan Heights
and visited the borders of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
We traveled across Israel from the Sea of Galilee to the
Dead Sea from the Green Line to the Mediterranean.
We dined with Prime Ministers, Intelligence leaders, Academics,
Ambassadors and Palestinian leaders.
What a beautiful country and what a great experience.
Before going, I brushed up on my history and read books by
Friedman, Derkovitz and even Chomsky. But those books dont
really deal with history they only refer to the last few 100
years which to the Middle East is considered current events.
Honestly, I learned more in my short visit to this remarkable
and complex country than I had from books, newspapers or television.
More than anything, I learned how little I knew of its history,
geography, diversity or people. I marvelled at how a country
could have accomplished so much in such as short time under
such difficult circumstances. It was a special trip and I
look forward to visiting again.
Ladies and gentlemen, I cant thank you enough for being
here. I appreciate that CIJA and UJA would consider me worthy
and thank them for a memorable evening.