Challenging Discrimination through Community Conversations

Initiative Background

“Challenging Discrimination through Community Conversations” is an ongoing series of online moderated round-tables with guest speakers from diverse communities, organizations, academia and the general public, which seeks to understand and address experiences of discrimination and exclusion in the Canadian context. By shining the spotlight on different forms of discrimination, such as anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, and discrimination against Asian Communities among other topics, we hope to encourage solidarity among groups and individuals interested in promoting social inclusion and equity. 

Each conversation focuses on a major theme with respect to the lived experiences and realities of specific communities. We aim to highlight the very specific challenges of different communities, explore the overarching issues, and discuss strategies for education, intervention and ally-ship. 

Through engagement with guest speakers, we are hoping to create a space of learning where we practice compassion, active listening, respect and humility.

This is a community-based initiative which encourages everyone to share their ideas for topics, questions, and suggestions. Please share your thoughts with Mansoureh ( and Myriam ( We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Session 1: Anti-Black Racism in Canada 

Thursday, June 18th, 2020// 12:00-1:00 pm (MT)

Racism is a reality in Canada, and recent demonstrations across the country raise the importance of addressing racial inequalities that affect the lives of Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities. We hosted a conversation moderated by Aurelia Uarsama with our guest speakers Jeanne Lehman, (the Executive Director of Black Canadian Women in Action), Sharif Haji, (the Executive Director of Africa Centre), and Brandon Wint, (performance poet and public educator). You can watch the recording of that roundtable here:

Session 2: Systemic and Institutional Racism in Canada

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020// 12:00-1:30 pm (MT)

Watch our online roundtable on systemic and institutional racism in conversation with our guest speakers Noelle Jaipaul, (Multicultural Liaison with the city of Edmonton), Monetta Bailey, (Assistant Professor of Sociology at Ambrose University), and Philomina Okeke-Iherjirika, (Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at University of Alberta). Aurelia Uarsama moderated the session.

Session 3: The Media and Racism 

Tuesday, August 18th, 2020 // 1:30-2:30pm (MST)

View our online roundtable on the media and racism in conversation with our guest speakers Anita Li, (co-founder of Canadian Journalists of Colour), Oumar Salifou, (previous Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway), Kalyani Thurairajah, (Associate Professer of Sociology at Grant MacEwan University)  and  Kyle Muzyka (CBC Journalist). Gurvinder Bhatia was the moderator for this session.

Session 4: Experiences of Racism and Discrimination Among Black Communities in Alberta 

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020 // 1:oo-2:15pm (MST)

Join our online roundtable on the experiences of racism and discrimination among Black communities in Alberta with our guest speakers Bukola Salami, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta, Temitope Oriola, (Associate Professor at the University of Alberta and recipient of the Governor General of Canada Academic Gold Medal), and Tigist Dafla, (Settlement counselor and outreach worker).


Session 5: Exploring the Impacts of the Pandemic on Immigrant Communities

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020// 1:00-2:30 pm (MT)

Watch our online roundtable event presented in collaboration with the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society on the impact of COVID-19 on immigrants in Alberta. We discuss with our guest speakers: Ricardo Morales, (Director of Community Development and Integration Services & Southern Alberta Rural Initiatives), Sinela Jurkova, (Diversity Services Coordinator at Calgary Catholic Immigration Society), and Jingzhou Liu, (researcher and journalist) the effects Covid-19 and the pandemic at large has had on the immigrant community.

Session 6: Enhancing African Canadian Capacity to Advance Human Rights and Equality

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020// 1:00-2:30 pm (MST)

In the past three years,  The Africa Centre has undertaken circles of conversation on racism and race relations across the province. The project included facilitating community dialogues to create a platform that enables healthy conversations about racism and experiences of discrimination. A series of Community dialogues were convened in Calgary, Edmonton, and Fort McMurray, and the intent of this series was to create awareness raising, both among the black communities and the mainstream at large. Africa Centre and CFRAC have partnered in this roundtable to inform the public about race relations and present some of the community experiences that have been collected throughout this project.

Watch our online roundtable as we discuss the results of this project with our guest speakers Dunia Nur, (President of the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council), Susan Cambridge, (CEO of CAS Events Consultancy Ltd.), and Sharif Haji, (Executive Director of the Africa Centre). Mansoureh Modarres moderated the session.

Session 7: The Effects of COVID-19 on Visible Minority Groups in Canada

Monday, October 5th, 2020 // 2:00 – 3:30 pm (MST)

In this session, we investigate issues that have been affecting the lives of community groups in Canada. Watch this online roundtable where we engage in conversation with guest speakers Lynn Barr-Telford, Assistant Chief Statistician of the Social, Health and Labour Statistics Field at Statistics Canada and Cheryl Whiskeyjack, the Director of Bent Arrow Healing Society. This conversation investigates the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on different ethno-cultural communities in Canada. The following topics are discussed:

  • High poverty rates pre-COVID-19 among most visible minority groups made them vulnerable to the financial impact of the economic shutdown.
  • Among those employed prior to the shutdown, white people and most visible minority groups reported similar rates of job loss or reduced work hours; however, the rates were higher among Filipinos and West Asians.
  • The pandemic generally had a stronger impact on visible minority participants’ ability to meet financial obligations or essential needs than white participants. This held true even when differences in job loss, immigrant status, education and other sociodemographic characteristics were accounted for.

Session 8: Systemic Racism and Indigenous Communities in Alberta

Wednesday, October 21st 2020 // 1:00 – 2:30 pm (MST)

In this roundtable as part of our Challenging Discrimination through Community Conversation series, we discuss specific challenges and discriminations Indigenous communities face in Alberta. Our panelists, Lana Whiskeyjack (Assistant Professor, University of Alberta), Bernadette Ihatail (Executive Director, Creating Hope Society) and Jodi Stonehouse (Executive Director, Yellowhead Indigenous Education Foundation) speak to the issues of colonial and post-colonial history and identity politics in Alberta, Indigenous communities’ sense of belonging and experiences of discrimination, as well as access to resources. In this session, we also look at different ways to identify and challenge discriminatory attitudes and behaviours in our practices.

Session 9: Anti-racism and Acts of Solidarity-Part 1

Thursday, November 12th 2020 // 1:00 – 2:30 pm (MST)

In the first part of this 2-part session of the roundtable series, we will engage in a conversation with our speakers on what it means to be allies and how we can find ways to take part in acts of solidarity with racialized groups in our community. During this session (12 November), we hosted Mohammed Hashim (Executive Director, Canadian Race Relations Foundation) and Sam Singh (Social innovator, Shift Lab) and Cam Stewart (Human Rights Commissioner).

Session 10: Anti-racism and Acts of Solidarity-Part 2

Wednesday, November 25th 2020 // 1:00 – 2:30 pm (MST)

During the second session (25 November), we joined a conversation with Samya Hassan (Executive Director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians), Sarosh Rizvi (Executive Director, Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies), Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah (Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity), and Parker Johnson(Founder, This is Table Talk). To discuss how to be an ally and acts of solidarity with racialized groups in Alberta and Canada.

Session 11: Impacts of Racism on Mental Health

Wednesday, December 9th 2020 // 1:00 – 2:30 pm (MST)

In the 11th Session of our Challenging Discrimination roundtable we discuss the impacts of racism on mental health as we are joined by guest speakers, Elliott Young (Indigenous Community Engagement Advisor at Norquest College), Lucy Lu (Art therapist, counselling therapist, and artist), and David Prodan (Director, Housing and Mental Health services at e4c). This session was moderated by Soni Dasmohapatra (Consultant at the Edmonton Shift Lab).

Session 12: Renaming and Removal: Public Memory in Public Spaces

Wednesday, January 20th 2021 // 5:00 – 6:30 pm (MST)

Join us for our 12th Session of the Challenging Discrimination Through Community Conversations Series! For our first session of 2021 prominent leaders and thinkers explored the complex issues around renaming public space in the city.

Public conversations about the politics of naming and heritage in Edmonton –– from the Edmonton Eskimos to the Oliver Community to the Winston Churchill statue–– recently have resurfaced and gained traction like never before. Many public buildings, institutions and monuments recognize people once celebrated as heroes but are now understood to be problematic.. As difficult truths about our past come to light, how do reconcile the people and places we’ve long commemorated? Do we knock these statues down or rename these buildings? Or does this inadvertently whitewash history and absolve us of the parts of our past that are shameful? How do we build cities where all citizens feel welcome and included, and can find their identities represented? Who gets to make decisions about representations and public narratives?

We were joined by Dan Rose, (Chair, Edmonton Historical Board), Deborah Dobbins, (President and CEO, Shiloh Centre for Multicultural Roots), Rob Houle, (Researcher), and Shannon Stunden Bower, (Assistant Professor, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta). This session was moderated by Senator Paula Simons.

Session 13: Discrimination in the Arts

Wednesday, February 17th 2021 // 1:00 – 2:30 pm (MST)

In this roundtable as part of our Challenging Discrimination through Community Conversation series, we discussed specific challenges and discrimination artists from marginalized communities face in the Albertan and Canadian context. Our panelists Alethe Kabore (owner of Kyn Apparel, fashion/textile artist), Nisha Patel (Edmonton’s Poet Laureate) and Gomathi Boorada (Artistic Director of the Shivamanohari School of Performing Arts) speak to the ongoing impact of colonialism on artistic practices, which may result in loss of artistic identity; lack of visibility of artists of marginalized communities in public spaces, systemic and institutional barriers which make it difficult for newcomer artists to get established in the Canadian and Albertan context, and perceptions of art and artistic practices of marginalized artists in relation to colonialism and Euro-centric concepts of art. This roundtable conversation was moderated by designer Paz Orellana-Fitzgerald.


March 21st: Rise Up! : Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racism

Wednesday, March 24th 2021 // 12:00 – 3:45 pm (MST)

The Centre for Race and Culture was pleased to bring together scholars, artists and community leaders to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In this half-day event, we hosted conversations on racism and building collective capacity to achieve equity and social justice in the Canadian context. 


In part 1, we hosted a Roundtable discussion in conversation with Dr. Jennifer Long, (Assistant Professor in Cultural Anthropology, MacEwan University) Irfan Chaudhry, (Director, Office of Human Rights, Diversity, and Equity, MacEwan University) and Kyle Muzyka (Journalist, Associate Producer for CBC Unreserved) regarding racism and building collective capacity to achieve equity and social justice in the Canadian Context. This session was moderated by our Executive Director, Elli Dehnavi

The second part of our March 21st event was “Past, Present, Future: Looking into Our Past to Imagine a New Approach to Anti-racism Work in Canada.” In this facilitated keynote and Q&A with Dr. Christopher Stuart Taylor, (Department of History and the Arts First Program) we were lead on a journey of the history of race and racism, settler colonialism, exclusion, and xenophobia in Canada. He left us with some “food for thought” on the present-day realities of racism experienced by Black newcomers and Canadians. This action-oriented talk challenges us to confront and challenge white supremacy in our society.

Rise Up! Part 3 consisted of a Roundtable discussion of what it means to use art for social justice and change as well as how the perspective of art can be used when confronting racism in the Canadian and American contexts. Our 3 artists Dawn Marie Marchand, (Artist, Owner and Curator of Blue Horse Gallery and Studio) Paul Roberts, (Filmmaker) and Abdul Malik, (Photo journalist and Filmmaker) discuss how art can be a platform for racial equity and anti-racism work. This session was moderated by Mansoureh Modarres.

We concluded our half-day event with part 4, “Art Talk Addressing Racism Through Art.” We were joined by Dr. Shiva Zarezadeh to learn more about art therapy and its benefits. While also learning how it can help address social issues. Dr. Shiva guided us through one art therapy activity online while we practiced reflecting and witnessing the entire process. This session was moderated by Samantha Louie-Poon (Doctoral student and CFRAC Board Member). 


Session 14: Anti-Asian Racism: History and the Present in Canada

Wednesday, April 21st 2021 // 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm (MST)

In this Roundtable, we joined Vivian Kwan, (Coordinator, planning and engagement, Homeward Trust Edmonton) Samantha Louie-Poon,  (Doctoral Student) and Jingfeng Wu (Programs and Services Designer, Diversecities) to learn more about the discrimination targeted towards the Asian community. This session was moderated by Sharon Yeo (Program Manager at Catholic Social Services).

Quite recently, several Asian-American individuals were killed during a shooting motivated by anti-Asian racism. This event underscores that racism exists on a continuum, starting with specific stereotypical believes on the one hand and outright violence on the other. In the context of the COVID pandemic, we have seen a disturbing increase in anti-Asian racism, but deep-seated and longstanding anti-Asian racism has always been prevalent in Canadian society. While there is overlap between types of racism (such as anti-Black racism or anti-Indigenous racism) each population also experiences discreet and specific forms of discrimination.

Initiative Funders