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As part of the Zero Canada Project, The Globe and Mail asked some prominent Canadians to share their thoughts on the current crisis and the path forward for Canada.

David Johnston and Jennifer Lee

Pictonat Photography/Netflix

David Johnston is the former Governor General of Canada and current Chair of the Rideau Hall Foundation. Jennifer Lee is a Canadian Managing Partner, Growth Platforms, and the Global COVID Market Offerings Leader at Deloitte.

Living in Canada can be a blessing. Its values, institutions and people enable many of us to enjoy a rewarding life. Yet that experience is not shared by all Canadians. The pandemic brought this reality into even sharper relief by laying bare the inadequacies of our country, especially our failure to protect the most vulnerable among us. Trust in Canada is being called into question. We believe recovery is a human experience, and meeting the physical, emotional, and psychological, as well as financial and digital safety of our people, employees and communities is critical to establishing and reinforcing trust.

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The aftermath of this health crisis supplies Canadians with the moment to put right our failings — to build a better normal and not merely revert to the old one. Trust and empathy are the traits each of us must exhibit in this effort as we move from a state of recovery, to one where everyone can thrive.

From the basic courtesy of wearing a mask in public to fulfilling our promise of having Corporate Canada represent our population, we must practice trust and empathy in many ways to build our better normal. We need to acknowledge that ethnic groups, minorities, and women need to be represented in our organizations and institutions, especially in leadership roles. We need to raise up the voices of the elderly, of people of colour, of people with low incomes, and of Indigenous peoples, particularly women. Their vulnerability continues to be revealed as a result of this pandemic.

Let’s turn our empathy into action and reinforce trust. First, let’s put right our clearest failings by fixing how we attend to people in long-term care; removing the insecurity of people living at the poverty line; ending the discrimination against Black lives as a result of surveillance, policing and absence of health data; and following through on the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Finally, we need to protect Asians and Asian Canadians from being scapegoats for the pandemic — it is simply preposterous and offensive.

If we really meant it when we said we were all in this together, now is our chance to show it. We can be leaders in the world, tearing down our inadequate and exclusionary systems. Canada can show the rest of the world, we can create ethnic and minority role models in business and inspire the next generation to see themselves in leadership roles. We can turn empathy into action to build a smarter and more caring country — one that’s a blessing not just to some, but to every one of its people.

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