Challenging Discrimination through Community Conversations; Season 1, 2020 – 2021

Challenging Discrimination through Community Conversations; Season 1, 2020 – 2021


Initiative Background

“Challenging Discrimination through Community Conversations” is an ongoing series of online moderated roundtables 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. 

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. Having and sharing these discussions provides one of many ways to challenge discrimination.

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

Previous Sessions:

Session 1: Anti-Black Racism in Canada 

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).

Session 2: Systemic and Institutional Racism in Canada

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 

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 Professor 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 

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 AlbertaTemitope 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

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

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

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 & Indigenous Communities in Alberta

In this roundtable, we discussed specific discrimination and challenges Indigenous communities face in Alberta. Our panellists were Lana Whiskeyjack (Assistant Professor, University of Alberta), Bernadette Ihatail (Executive Director, Creating Hope Society), and Jodi Stonehouse (Executive Director, Yellowhead Indigenous Education Foundation). They spoke to the issues of:

  • A colonial and post-colonial history
  • Politics in Alberta
  • Indigenous communities’ sense of belonging and experiences of discrimination, as well access to resources
  • Identifying and challenging discriminatory attitudes and behaviours in our practices.

You can watch the recording of this session here:

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

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, we hosted Mohammed Hashim (Executive Director, Canadian Race Relations Foundation) Sam Singh (Social innovator, Shift Lab) and Cam Stewart (Human Rights Commissioner).

Session 10: Anti-racism & Acts of Solidarity – Part 2

During this second session, 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). We discussed how to be an ally and acts of solidarity with racialized groups in Alberta and Canada.

Session 11: Impacts of Racism on Mental Health

In the 11th session of our Challenging Discrimination roundtable, we discussed the impacts of racism on mental health. Joining us were 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’s moderator was Soni Dasmohapatra (Consultant at the Edmonton Shift Lab).

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

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—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 we 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, included and can find their identities represented? Who gets to make decisions about representations and public narratives?

Our guest speakers included 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). Senator Paula Simons moderated this session.

Session 13: Discrimination in the Arts

We discussed specific challenges and discrimination artists from marginalized communities face in the Albertan and Canadian context. Our panellists were 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). They spoke on:

  • the ongoing impact of colonialism on artistic practices and how that may result in a loss of artistic identity
  • the lack of visibility in public spaces of artists from marginalized communities
  • the systemic and institutional barriers — making it difficult for newcomer artists to get established in the Canadian and Albertan context
  • the perceptions of art and artistic practices of marginalized artists concerning colonialism and Euro-centric concepts of art

Designer Paz Orellana-Fitzgerald moderated this roundtable conversation.

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

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. Sharon Yeo (Program Manager at Catholic Social Services) moderated this session.

Quite recently, several Asian-American individuals lost their lives during a shooting motivated by anti-Asian racism. This event underscores that racism exists on a continuum, starting with specific stereotypical beliefs on the one hand and outright violence on the other. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a disturbing increase in anti-Asian racism. Still, 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

This initiative is supported by Edmonton Community Foundation.