Creating spaces to advance anti-racism and anti-oppression

28 February 2022

Outline of a head with smaller heads with shades of brown filling the space.

What is allyship? The Calgary Foundation says it’s “about disrupting oppressive spaces by educating others on the realities and histories of marginalized people.”

Why is this work important for VCC? Systemic racism, ageism, sexism and exclusion make it more difficult for many Calgarians, including Indigenous peoples, new Canadians, LGBTQTS+ people, visible minorities, people living with disabilities and aging populations, to access jobs and services, and to feel welcome and supported in the community.

VCC has been exploring allyship over the last year and we continued the journey with our Champions this week. The discussion delved into what allyship is, how it is part of Calgary’s Enough for All strategy and finally solid actions that can advance the work.

VCC’s Hagir Sail guided the discussion offering some tools like echoing the voices of lived experience, and tips for speaking up when you see something wrong. Attendees also discussed actions that can advance anti-racism and anti-oppression work, including things like purposefully incorporating the voices of lived experience in your workplaces and on boards.

“Allyship is difficult. There have been situations where a blatantly racist comment is said and no one speaks up, but then I receive emails after the meeting saying, ‘I can’t believe they said that’ or ‘I’m so sorry.’ In a meeting if there are barriers for people, speak up. I know it’s uncomfortable, but discomfort is necessary. Don’t tell me you’re an ally, show me through your actions,” said Hagir.

"Don't tell me you're an ally, show me through your actions."

Hagir emphasized this work takes time. “As agencies that serve the community, it’s important that all facets of the community are represented in leadership and at the table. Look around the table. Does your staff and leadership look like the community you serve? Are the voices of lived experience there? Considering things through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens can be challenging and add time, but it’s important that efficiency shouldn’t come at the cost of dignity.”

The session closed with actions individuals and organizations can take.

  • Start by expanding your knowledge and asking the tough questions. How are our systems holding racism in place?
  • Does your staff, network, working group, or collaborative represent the people in the community? If it doesn’t, work to make it better. If there is resistance to making it better, ask if your continued attendance enables this behavior.
  • When you solicit feedback and representation from diverse groups (Indigenous Elders and voices of lived experience), compensate them appropriately and incorporate their feedback as intended.
  • Reflect on your governance and leadership.
  • When asked to speak (panels, media), assess the diversity of perspectives and give up your seat or encourage diversity where there is none. Where there is resistance to change, evaluate your participation.
  • Decolonize your policies (HR, Governance, and otherwise).
  • Review your strategies through a diversity, equity and inclusion plus lens.

At VCC, we’re committed to providing tools and resources to help our Champions, staff, leadership and the community advance their knowledge and practice of allyship. Visit Principles in Action: Allyship tools & resources for more information.

A group of people meeting. The picture focus is on their hands.

Principles in Action

For resources that can help with advancing the work of anti-oppression and anti-racism