Can compassionate and collaborative leadership combat racism?

January 11, 2021 | Society
This month Amarjeet Sohi will teach a new course designed to help senior leaders use compassion and collaboration to tackle systemic issues, including racism.

“COVID has exposed many vulnerabilities in our society – homelessness, poverty, seniors in care and issues of racism and discrimination,” said the former member of parliament for Edmonton Mill Woods in an interview on CBC Radio Active. “I also think it has highlighted something very beautiful in us – compassion and caring.”

Sohi will explore the potential of those characteristics with participants in Compassionate, Collaborative and Inclusive Leadership: Anti-Racism Capacity-Building, a new course from MacEwan University’s School of Continuing Education that begins on January 13. Over the course of 12 weeks, participants will look at bias and offer insight into how to practice compassion, engage in uncomfortable – but productive – conversations, identify discriminatory policies and practices, and change organizational culture.

The solutions lie in community knowledge. That is what we want to explore.
—Amarjeet Sohi

Sohi, who has led an active public life for over a decade, said that while racism is woven into Canada’s culture and history, Canadians are very decent people and that he has greatly benefited from compassion and care.

“The institutions we have inherited have qualities that are racist and exclusionary,” he said, adding that addressing the societal issues we face will require people to work together. “The solutions lie in community knowledge. That is what we want to explore.”

Two students in the course taught by Sohi will receive a new #MakeItAwkward Bursary created through a generous donation by Jesse Lipscombe, a community activist and actor who initiated the #MakeItAwkward campaign. The bursary covers full tuition for two individuals who self-identify as a member of the BIPOC community and seek to build a more inclusive community.

The course is part of the IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility) programming, which also includes a course on unconscious bias being taught by Irfan Chaudhry that begins on January 19. The courses, says Ewa Wasniewski, assistant dean in the School of Continuing Education, offer learning opportunities that build on collective strengths and tap into the potential of humanity. “This can only happen when everyone has the opportunity to thrive, and that requires us to celebrate diversity.”



Fighting racism in hockey

"It's a problem when racial discrimination limits someone's ability to be involved [in sports]," says Irfan Chaudhry, director of MacEwan's Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity. A federal grant will fund an initiative that aims to address the issue.

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