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