January 19, 2016 – A panel addressing racism in Vancouver introduced two important ideas into the diversity framework – “holding space” and “cultural curiosity”.
Musqueam elder, Shane Point, opened an important conversation on racism in Vancouver last night with a Welcome to unceded Coast Salish territory, “Diversity is a great strength and we are all a community of knowledge-keepers.”
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation, in partnership with the City of Vancouver, the Laurier Institution, Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, and the Vancouver Foundation, organized the event.
Point’s opening welcome set the tone for a panel of representatives involved in issues connected to diversity and inclusion in Vancouver.
SFU’s Centre for Dialogue director, Shauna Sylvester, introduced the idea of creating and “holding space”, as acknowledging the place that we are in, engaging fully and enabling people to come to terms with issues based on their own set of values.
“Find places to meet with people that are conducive to the places where they want to meet … Fully show up as the people that we are in all of our diversity.”
Moderator Kory Wilson, who is Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach, agreed and added recognition of the ancestry that created the circumstances in which we can gather to have conversations such as the roundtable, “We are all rich beneficiaries of being hosted on these unceded lands.”
Vi Nguyen of the Vancouver Foundation emphasized the importance of validating the knowledge that all of us bring to Canada, and the responsibility that each of us holds to be brokers of relationships. She leads the Foundation’s Fresh Voices initiative and is known for work with newcomer and Aboriginal youth and families. She asked that people always consider, “How do we keep youth voices at the forefront?”
Jennifer Reddy, a youth coordinator with the Vancouver School Board, agreed that young people must be part of these conversations. She came with a group of young people. One young man shared his personal experience of racism, and asked, “How do we address discrimination between immigrants and immigrants?”
Journalist Douglas Todd affirmed that discrimination happens amongst all groups. “We aren’t always going to agree, we don’t have to. “Cultural curiosity” is important because it starts something important – a dialogue, “I admire that young man brought it up, that’s what it is all about.”
Reddy emphasized the importance of working on initiatives that are “Putting the power to address and stop something like that in the hands of youth, so you change it right then and there.”
Participants engaged in an open Q&A that questioned, “What are the boundaries of difference?” Wilson remarked, “Our Canadian identity is our family, friends, where we live. The key thing is, there are differences that we have to consider, whether they are visible or internal.”
SFU Diversity and Innovation Fellow, Robert Daum, reflected on this, highlighting that sometimes the barriers that divide us from people are invisible. “If we maintain space for difficult conversations then we can have this dialogue. Imagine that the challenge ahead is to engage differences, and pool our collective wisdom.”
CRRF Roundtables bring together people who are engaged in the ongoing dialogue about race relations and multiculturalism in Canada. Chairperson Albert Lo emphasized that every individual can make a difference, referencing Raoul Wallenberg Day (January 18) and Lincoln Alexander Day (January 21).
Laurier Institution host, Farid Rohani, closed the proceedings by reminding us that we must not only talk about diversity, but about unity, which can bring us together.
Click here to view the program.
Vancouver is the fourth in a CRRF six-city series that celebrates the individual and collective success of Canadian cities as hubs of diversity and models of inclusion, while exploring issues that remain unsolved and identifying emerging challenges.