Category: Member News

Inclusivity In The Workplace – Chamber Members and Local MPs Weigh In

Recently, the Oakville Chamber had the opportunity to participate in a round-table on inclusivity with the federal government and local businesses in Oakville. Many inclusive employers encourage others to embrace becoming inclusive organizations because it can lead to greater work productivity and competitive advantages. 
We asked two Chamber members to share their thoughts on inclusivity and this is what they had to say.

Mandy Rennehan – CEO, Freshco

When and why did you decide to become an inclusive employer?

I can’t say it was a conscious decision. My business strategy has always been to lead with my heart and hiring is no different. I lovingly say I hire misfits — they are all unique and don’t fit into a stereotypical mould, and it works. My staff is from all walks of life, different ages and backgrounds. I firmly believe in hiring based on personality and bare potential, a resume is just a piece of paper and skills can be taught. I hire the right person for each job and it shows. My staff are happy, dedicated, and invested in the success of Freshco.

Would you encourage other businesses to become inclusive employers and why?

The richness of an inclusive team is the diversity of opinions and points of view. If everyone at Freshco came from a similar background and thought and acted the same way we wouldn’t evolve and grow as quickly as we have. The beauty is having team members raise their hands with fresh ideas, wicked-smart questions, and new challenges that continue to push Freshco to be #1 in the industry.

Julia Hanna – Ritorno

When and why did you decide to become an inclusive employer?

I have always been an inclusive employer. It felt like the right thing to do and proved to be beneficial to my business. From the very beginning, we were able to build successful employee/employer relationships through inclusive employment.

Would you encourage other businesses to become inclusive employers and why?

I would absolutely encourage all businesses to consider inclusive employment. I have found that there are numerous rewards. The employees that I have hired have been appreciative of the opportunity. They give 100% commitment to learning and often have been the most reliable employees.


Working collaboratively with government is important. Weighing in on the issue of inclusivity our local members of parliament had this to say.

MP Pam Damoff – MP Oakville North Burlington

What does inclusivity mean to you and why is it important?

Building inclusive communities means fostering fair and equal opportunities for every Canadian and ensuring that Canadians living with disabilities have the same opportunities to find good, well-paying jobs, make a contribution to their communities and the economy, and build a better life for themselves and their families.

A huge component of that is accessibility. We must remove the barriers – both physical or otherwise — that prevent individuals from participating fully in all facets of our community and ensure that persons living with disabilities have fair and equal access to workplaces. However, making workplaces accessible is just one part of the process.  We must also ensure that we are fostering inclusive workplaces by proactively reaching out to businesses and organizations to share the benefits of people living with disabilities, as well as reaching out to people with disabilities for work opportunities and recognizing the valuable contributions they can make to our workplaces and communities.

One of my goals is to make Halton the most inclusive community in Canada. To do that, we must encourage businesses to have an inclusive employment strategy and the accessibility to ensure that all persons who wish to do so can find and meaningful work and receive a competitive wage for that work. Accessibility is about getting through the door while inclusivity is about creating an atmosphere where everyone is welcome and belongs. 

Why do you think business should consider becoming an inclusive employer?

Having an inclusive employment strategy is also good for businesses. Business owners in my community who have made their workplace inclusive say that it created a positive atmosphere for their employees and the business and allowed their business to become more efficient. Inclusive employment benefits our economy, creates workplaces with higher group performance and profits, and a broad range of social and economic benefits from a community perspective. 

Yet, Canadians living with disabilities still face barriers in participating in the labour market. Having open and honest roundtable discussions about the barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities is an important first step in changing perceptions. We must offer meaningful job experiences to individuals of all skill levels. There are agencies who can assist businesses to both hire and accommodate those living with disabilities, and the Government of Canada has programs that can assist businesses be successful. We recently launched the Opportunities Fund (OF) which helps persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment or self-employment to increase their economic participation and independence. You can learn more at

MP John Oliver – MP Oakville

What does inclusivity mean to you as a politician and why is it important?

In order for everyone in Canada to succeed, we need to know the challenges and barriers that people of diverse communities face. We can only fix problems when we know that they exist in the first place – that’s why it’s so important for folks of all backgrounds to have a seat at the table. This is particularly important in politics, where hearing from diverse perspectives is essential for changing legislation for the better, and investing in the right projects to create meaningful change in our communities.

Why do you think business should consider becoming an inclusive employer?

Much like in politics, businesses can only benefit from having further diversity involved in making decisions. Many Canadians who require additional assistance to succeed in the workplace are not able to reach their full potential, simply because businesses lack the infrastructure to accommodate hiring employees with disabilities. The Government of Canada knows that hiring Canadians with disabilities is an important resource for businesses, which is why we support businesses looking to become more inclusive through the Enabling Accessibility Fund, Skills Link and the Opportunities Fund.

If you would like more information on becoming an inclusive employer please visit:

Community Living Oakville
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