On February 24th, 2021 we held our first ever virtual Collaboratory event, bringing our North Island communities together around the theme Beyond Inclusion: Focusing on Equity/Equality and Leveling the Playing Field for Everyone to Thrive.

Our speaker, Dr. Moussa Magassa, UVic human rights educator, specialist in anti-racism education, equity, diversity, inclusion curriculum design and program development, provided expertise and resources on anti-racism and being an active participant in this work.

We also heard from two newcomers to our community who generously shared their immigration stories, highlighting the struggles that newcomers can face and sharing the ways that their communities and the Immigrant Welcome Centre supported them.

It was brought to our attention that we did not include Anti-Semitism as part of the examples we used during the presentations. Our intention is never to exclude anyone as our goal is to ensure inclusion. All are welcome here.

Following the presentations, we brainstormed in small groups, sharing our ideas around levelling the playing field in our own areas of influence and in our communities. Here are some ideas from our discussion below:

  • Research – conduct periodic audits or appraisals of policy & practices within organizations especially around racism.
  • Leading by Example - Encouraging leading organizations to do some inclusion work to model it for smaller organizations. This could include supporting for anti-racist hiring practices – e.g. blind resumes to avoid name biases.
  • Education - especially experiential workshops to develop empathy and create awareness – e.g. through Anti-Racism Response Training.
  • When restrictions allow, organize more varied cultural celebrations in our communities. These could be social and cultural events that include food, music, theatre, stories, art, music where stories and culture are heard and felt – both for immigrants and for our whole community. Specifically, non-commerce based therefore allowing equal access to public multi-generational gathering places.
  • Arts and Culture connective activities and/or Culture week: Learning about several cultures and heritage. There could also be the infusion of cultural component into festivals that already exist e.g., Filberg festivals, Global Fusion Fest, etc.
  • Give newcomers a platform and place to share their stories. This can be done by asking open ended questions - allowing a safe, non-biased conversational space for newcomers to share their experiences with you - not assuming what issues they may have experienced but connecting with them and allowing time to discuss the prejudices, and discrimination they have faced and/or felt.
  • Create a central updated information portal for government policies and all issues related to immigration.
  • Collaborate with community partners for a film project around anti-racism
  • Work to make forms and written materials more accessible to newcomers, and think about what kind of information could be made available in different languages.
  • Individually, be an active witness and be vocal when witnessing racism. Recognize and acknowledge racism when you see it.
  • More activities around connecting with newcomers socially and actively invite newcomers to events around the community.
  • Mini training for residents who are ready and interested in helping newcomers. Training around what to know (starting point).