Diversity makes the world a better place

Pukaskwa National Park

By Hafi Sayed

Parks Canada Northern Ontario received funding this past year to staff a youth position focused on promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This program was created to increase employee awareness and knowledge on various diversity and inclusion topics and issues through activities, tools and resources.

Before talking about our initiatives, I think it is important to briefly outline what diversity and inclusion refer to based on some experiences from my role in that youth position. Diversity and inclusion does not have one set definition, since people have different interpretations as to what it may mean to them personally. For me, diversity refers to people working together despite our many differences, while inclusion refers to a workplace where everyone feels like they belong and their contributions matter.

One of the ways I promoted diversity and inclusion in the workplace was through bi-weekly lunch and learn meetings, supported by newsletters and presentations. In total, we held 13 lunch and learn sessions over a span of seven months. The topics varied, including cross cultural communication in the workplace, world holidays and cultural celebrations, ageism in the workplace, etc. In preparing for these events, I researched the topics on Parks Canada’s Intranet, and gathered Federal Public Service resources and external documents to help put together both the newsletter and presentation material. For example, prior to discussing racial discrimination in the workplace, I made sure to find relevant, lived experiences of those who have faced racial discrimination; include information about key terms such as equity and systemic racism; and learn about inclusive language in relation to racial discrimination.

For each lunch and learn event, we would review a case study by watching a video clip or news piece. After the presentation portion, we had a twenty-minute discussion to explore the topic in an inclusive fashion. I am very proud to say that the discussions were very thoughtful and inclusive, with participants feeling comfortable sharing their own personal lived experiences.

Another way I promoted diversity in my role was through membership in Diversity Thunder Bay. As the Parks Canada representative, my role was to assist, alongside other local organizations, in organizing, marketing, and hosting events open to the public. The goal of the event series was primarily to raise awareness of local Indigenous issues based on the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples. Some topics included the history of residential schools, prejudices against Indigenous peoples, and what we can do to fight against discrimination. Featured guest speakers included: Ma-Nee Chacaby, a local Indigenous Elder and vocal member of Thunder Bay’s Two-Spirit community; Dr. Jeffery Denis of McMaster University; and Georjann Morriseau, former Chief of Fort William First Nation. Parks Canada staff were encouraged to attend.

By learning about diversity and inclusion, we not only better our understanding of the issues affecting equity groups, but also help contribute to a more equitable and fair environment for all. By keeping these realities in mind, we can begin to build the necessary bridges between peoples.

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