Connecting with Community
A profile on 2013-14 DiverseCity Fellow Ruby Latif.
It’s rare to find someone who harnesses the power of connecting with community as masterfully as Ruby Latif—the driving force behind meaningful community relations for some of Ontario’s most high profile political campaigns.
Ruby started engaging with her community from a young age. While she was growing up in Guelph, Ruby’s parents made an effort to reach out and connect with various community groups, attending a myriad of events at synagogues, Mosques and churches. Her family often supported soup kitchens during the holidays a tradition that she maintains till today.
These multicultural experiences opened Ruby’s eyes to the importance of inclusion and inspired her to give back. As a high school student, Ruby organized food drives, toy drives, supported United Way campaigns, and carved pumpkins to bring to senior homes and hospitals for her fellow students, earning her the Zonta Young Women in Public Affairs Award and the YWCA Young Women of Distinction Award.
Soon politics came knocking. Ruby’s volunteering achievements caught the eye of her local M.P. who recruited her to work in their local office after she graduated high school. In 2001, as a result, Ruby found herself with the unique opportunity to influence policy makers in the wake of 9/11 from her desk in the M.P.’s office.
The day after 9/11, Ruby had her first encounter with real, direct racism. A constituent visited the office and unleashed an anti-Muslim rant to the M.P. It was in that moment Ruby realized she had an opportunity to step up and show that something should be done to fight such racist and hateful rhetoric. So she got to work, mobilizing her M.P. and local community to submit amendments to change the terrorism act and help change anti-Muslim attitudes.
Although Ruby knew many communities like hers don’t have access to political power, she has always believed that when people are connected and work together they can make positive change. This drove Ruby to spend her next 15 years as a political staffer ensuring that the voices of community organizations and religious groups were heard.
Since then, Ruby has worked for many senior and political leaders in a a variety of senior leadership positions including: Senior Advisor of Community Relations for former Premier Dalton McGuinty and as the Director of Community Relations for Mayor John Tory’s 2014 mayoral campaign. The latter experience earned her the title of “John Tory’s Secret Weapon” from the National Post.
Through all of her work, Ruby has found that most people are happy to make new connections, especially when people are genuinely open to learning and connecting. “It’s okay to ask questions and engage with people. People are usually happy to tell you about themselves, their experiences or their community,” says Ruby. “The worst thing you can do is to assume you know what their experience is like.”
Ruby’s latest endeavour has seen her switch gears from politics to academics. Currently working towards her Doctorate in Social Sciences at Royal Roads University, her research focuses on reducing barriers for underrepresented groups in leadership positions and recognizing the intersectionality of different identities in the workplace.
Ruby also helped create the Leadership Series for Young Professional Women, a non-profit that brings together young professional women and provides a networking forum for them to express ideas and opportunities. In 2018, the organization hosted a leadership symposium for young women leaders featuring guests Mayor John Tory and the Honourable Harinder Malhi, former Ontario Minister of the Status of Women.
But after all these experiences, Ruby’s secret to community engagement still remains straightforward.
“Just reach out. If you’re trying to connect, place that phone call, show up to a community celebration and learn more by going directly to their community.”
Want to connect with Ruby or collaborate on an interesting project? Just send her an email and she’d love to chat!