Indigenous Perspectives Society

Category Archives: Blog

Canada’s Workforce Choice Awards Finalist

Indigenous Perspectives Society is a Canada’s Workforce Choice Awards finalist for the category of Indigenous Engagement! More information about the awards can be found at workforcechoiceawards.ca.

It takes strong leaders, wonderful staff, and engaged participants to make a make an excellent workplace. Thank you to everyone in our community for making IPS a fantastic place to be.

 

Why Cultural Competency is Critical in Intercultural Relations

 

Cultural Competency has often been referred to in many ways; cultural sensitivity, cultural intelligence, cultural agility, and cultural humility. Whatever the terminology, we are encouraged to consider our cultural competence especially when working with communities and groups who have historically and are contemporarily marginalized, colonized, racialized, and ostracized.

Cultural Competency is more than our ability to relate to others and more than being kind to others. Cultural Competency is the keen ability to recognize cultural cues, to be comfortable with new situations and cultural behaviours that we are unfamiliar with, it is about our appetite for growth when it pertains to social circles more diverse than our own, and our ability to challenge learned behaviour, stereotypes, and ideologies. Cultural Competence is not about tolerance, it is about embracing diversity. It is not about comparing, it is about appreciating difference, and including a multiplicity of perspectives.

It is no secret that cultural diversity has proven to enrich work environments both in social experience and productivity. Culturally diverse environments thrive for a variety of reasons which include more input, more ideas, more comprehensive decision making, and greater learning. With these benefits in mind, it is critical that leaders ensure their staff have had exposure and opportunity to grow their cultural competence. This is more than simply educating to increase cultural knowledge. It is about exposure, experience, and dialogue so that staff can build cross cultural skills. More importantly it is also about providing space and safe opportunities for staff to assess, reflect on, and talk about their successes and areas of needed growth. With these practices firmly in place, cultural competency becomes a standard and expectation in diverse environments.

Since its inception as Caring for First Nations Children Society more than 25 years ago, Indigenous Perspectives Society’s core function has been developing cultural competency within organizations working with Indigenous children and families. Out of the work we do to  train and support those working directly with families we have created effective and comprehensive training for developing cultural competence in professional organizations. Cultural Perspectives Training is transforming how people work with their colleagues and clients, and the results of that are new partnerships that are contributing to community resilience and organizational endurance both through throughout British Columbia where we work primarily, and thanks to our work with federal agencies, across Canada.

“It (Cultural Perspectives Training) was a perfect balance of info that touched many folks emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. I don’t know any other training where the content has been so comprehensive and offered with such thoughtfulness, grace and good humour.” – Candice MacDonald, Manager Supportive Housing, Victoria Cool Aid Society

Rachelle Dallaire, Executive Director, Indigenous Perspectives Society

Children’s Aid Foundation Foster Care Transition Kits

 

Each year, Indigenous Perspectives Society packs back pack transition kits for children in care. These back packs help children in care have a few things of their very own to help them get through a difficult time. This year MCFD Esquimalt, Lalum’utul’ Smun’eem Child and Family Services, Foster Family Support Services, Fraser Valley Aboriginal Child and Family Services, and Beecher Bay First Nation are partnering with us to help distribute 140 back packs to the children who need them.

Backpacks are assembled for a range of ages from 0-2, 3-5, 6-12, and 13-18. They include bibs, sippy cups, and toys for the little ones, tablets, mp3 players, books, puzzles and art supplies for the other age ranges. IPS would like to thank Gerry Denis and Tara Garnet from Staples on McCallum Road in Langford, British Columbia, who negotiated discounts on many items for the backpacks from their suppliers.

Launched in November 2013 through the leadership support of a private donor, the Children’s Aid Foundation’s Ted and Loretta Rogers Foster Care Transition Program aims to improve the experience of coming into care for children by providing items and resources that aid in their comfort, well-being, safety, and sense of security.

posted in Blog

The Impact of Language

 

Language, namely the words we use and how we use them, is a central feature for the foundations of our relationships. Yoga gurus claim that language effects our brains, provides us the ability to heal, and also helps us determine how we perceive our world. Social service practitioners will often say that how we say things and how we use language can create and/or deter positive social responses. Our grandmothers have repeatedly told us to consider our words before we speak them.

The commonality between our ancestors and professionals in the fields of relationships is that language does matter. And it matters most in Indigenous communities where language has often been used to harm or oppress. Worse yet, the aggressor alleges that the Indigenous party is “simply oversensitive”.

The truth is, our words are conduits of powerful messages that indicate whether our intentions are good and what our values are. Individuals acting as allies must take great care to avoid language such as “running on Indian time” or “lowest man on the totem pole”. For Indigenous communities and individuals, these micro aggressions have great impact. For non Indigenous communities these statements may be a reference point that have been learned, but the meaning behind the words creates greater divide between themselves, Indigenous peoples, and their true allies. Words do matter. In fact, the words we speak will convey messages to our listeners of who we are, what we stand for, what we will not tolerate, and what our core beliefs are.

Be the leader who carefully considers their words and avoids use of words and phrases that convey culturally relevant connotations which may be offensive. When uncertain, refrain from using clichés or learned phrases that you do not know the historical origin or significance of. Better yet, find safe and respectful spaces where meaningful conversation can be had that addresses micro aggressions and their impact in Indigenous communities.

Rachelle Dallaire, Executive Director, Indigenous Perspectives Society

What does Indigenous look and sound like?

 

With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and both the governments of Canada and British Columbia adopting the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, more people are wanting to ‘Indigenize’ their work with images and voices to reflect the new way of seeing presented through reconciliation efforts. Considering the diversity of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, this process has raised the question, “What does Indigenous look and sound like?”

In my position at Indigenous Perspectives Society (IPS), I have interviewed many individuals, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. When interviewing Indigenous applicants, it has been my experience that they come from a range of cultural backgrounds and immersion. Some have been raised in traditional families with cultural teachings, values, and experiences. For others, many have been displaced from family and cultural rearing by the child welfare system, and some never taught their culture out of shame instilled by the dominant mainstream society and colonization.  The gift offered by these varied experiences is a diversity in the stories shared by applicants.

In one interview, an Indigenous applicant in her introduction of herself shared the words “I know I don’t look Indigenous.” While I did not say anything in the moment, at the end of the interview when I provided her feedback I shared with her that when she identifies as an Indigenous woman, to do so with pride and unapologetically. Having said this, it did get me to thinking that this was not my first experience with an Indigenous candidate who felt the need to explain why they did not look a certain way. I hold the Canadian government, our mainstream stereotypes, as well lateral violence in Indigenous communities responsible for this.

With the implementation of the Indian Act in Canada, the Canadian government exploited Indigenous identities by dictating that the government and the government alone was the only body that could confirm whether an individual was in fact an Indigenous person. With this colonial exercise came mainstream and societal expectations and the stereotypical practice that an Indigenous person ought to look a certain way so that they could be easily identifiable.

Worse yet, these societal stereotypes found their way into Indigenous communities whereby community members then resented their counterparts who didn’t quite look like them. Skin being dark enough, hair straight enough and linguistic patterns became a way to separate and divide Indigenous communities.

We know that Indigenous looks and sounds differently depending which nation, group, or community you are part of. We also know that heritage and blood lines contribute to what Indigenous looks like. In the spirit of reconciliation, I encourage non-Indigenous allies to honour self-identification and to remember that Indigenous can look and sound as diverse as anyone in the world.

Rachelle Dallaire, Executive Director, Indigenous Perspectives Society