Debbie Douglas

Photo credit: Toronto Metropolitan University

Thursday 25 January 2024

by Olivia Barrett, Editorial Associate

After decades of outstanding work as an advocate for migrants, Debbie Douglas was appointed to the Order of Canada. Through her work with a variety of non-government organizations and public institutions, including the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), Douglas has been a leading advocate in Canada for migrants. Her work highlights the issues of equity, anti-racism, gender, economic class and sexual orientation in the immigration system, largely through her role as the executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).

As a result of Douglas’ expertise on the issues that migrants face, she has served as a member of the Government of Ontario’s expert panel on immigration. This panel led to the Routes to Success report and resulted in Ontario’s first immigration legislation in 2015. She was also a member of the provincial government’s Income Security Reform Working Group which published the Income Security: A Roadmap for Change report in 2017. She is also a member of the Immigration and Refugee Advisory Committee of Legal Aid Ontario and the on the federal government’s National Settlement Council. More recently, Douglas was appointed as a member of Ontario’s roundtable on Violence Against Women and co-chairs the provincial Anti-Black Racism subcommittee.

In addition to being on these committees, Douglas is also the co-chair for the Newcomer Leadership Table at the City of Toronto and a member of the management board of Centre of Excellence for Research in Immigration and Settlement (CERIS).

Her work as an advocate is nothing new. In the early 1980s Douglas co-founded Zami, a political and support group for LGBTI Black and Caribbean individuals. Throughout her career, Douglas  also co-wrote and co-produced a variety of documentaries and papers. These include being the co-editor of Maka Juks: Writings by Queers of African Descent  and co-writing Canada’s first documentary drama about women and AIDS entitled AnOther Love Story. Douglas also produced a film on immigrant women and intimate partner violence titled Tama Ba, Tama Na: Enough is Enough.

Douglas has also received many awards for her dedication to her advocacy for migrants and other marginalized groups. These awards include the Women of Distinction from the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)  Toronto in 2004, the Amino Malko Award from the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture in 2008 and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations Anti-Racism Award in 2014.