Why Your Inclusion Strategy Must Include Truth and Reconciliation

Orange flag with the words Every Child Matters and two white feathers with black tips against a blue sky

Image ©  Chris Robert

September 30th marks the commemoration of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, also known as Orange Shirt Day. We at bci want to acknowledge the importance of this day and express our continued commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. We’re focused on advocating for decolonization and equity and inclusion for the Indigenous Peoples of this land we now call Canada.

It’s critical that we understand the importance of National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, as it rightfully highlights the ongoing oppression that Indigenous communities experience, including lives lost due to hate, violence and genocide. In the wake of this upcoming commemoration, many Canadians (myself included) have been reflecting on the shared responsibility we have as settlers to promote Truth and Reconciliation and healing work in the workplace. 

Those of us who are not Indigenous have a responsibility to call out the continued colonization, oppression, land theft and marginalization that Indigenous Peoples experience. We must work together — both as leaders ourselves but also call upon leaders across sectors — to do more to address the offensive systems that continue to oppress Indigenous Peoples.

At the individual level, each of us must commit to owning our roles in continuing to perpetuate the marginalization and racism that Indigenous Peoples experience. As it relates to DEI in the workplace, we must do more to prioritize inclusion for our Indigenous team members and colleagues, starting with addressing the dramatic systemic problems that prevent Indigenous professionals from accessing opportunities and from thriving.

5 Actions Leaders and Team Members can Take to Advance Indigenous Inclusion in the Workplace

  1. Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn about the historic and continued oppression that Indigenous communities face — and commit to disrupting these injustices through your actions and words

  2. Focus on Sponsorship: Focus on building pipelines for Indigenous team members. This can include initiatives such as pipeline programs, educational scholarships, internships, and mentoring programs

  3. Revamp Your Recruitment Policies: Actively start to recognize experience over education when vetting qualifications during the recruitment process — this is especially key for Indigenous communities, as recent statistics show that just 8.7% of Indigenous Canadians have a university degree. Our societies continue to emphasize education over experience, and we must call out how this preference is rooted in white supremacy

  4. Interrupt Your Biases: Do the work to identify the biases you may hold about Indigenous Peoples and actively work to interrupt them

  5. Commit to Allyship: Be an active ally to your Indigenous colleagues, team members and friends — which includes reaching out to check-in and offer your support during this difficult time

In this moment, it’s more important than ever that we ramp up our decolonization and DEI efforts for Indigenous communities. As always, at bci we actively advocate for these efforts and stand in solidarity with Indigenous communities across Canada and globally.

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Dr. Komal Bhasin, MSW, MHSc, DocSocSci

Komal is bci’s Senior DEI Consultant and Mental Health Expert-in-Residence and an accomplished DEI facilitator, coach, and strategist. Komal has over 20 years of experience in providing strategic and advisory guidance and program development across a range of sectors, with a particular concentration in mental health and racial inclusion. Komal is also the founder of Insayva Inc., a social enterprise focused on providing accessible DEI and health equity support to charities and non-profit organizations.

Komal has extensive experience in creating and delivering programming in a range of DEI areas, including unconscious bias, cultural competence, mental health inclusion, psychological safety, and allyship. She is passionate about driving transformational change in workplaces and has worked closely with bci clients — corporations, professional services firms, health care providers, and educational institutions — to embed cultures of DEI within their organizations.

Komal has provided one-on-one inclusion coaching to hundreds of senior leaders and brings a unique approach that is informed by her background as a therapist. She is able to expertly handle sensitive conversations and situations and works with leaders to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to advance racial/ethnocultural, gender, and mental health-related equity across teams and organizations. Komal also offers a performance coaching program designed specifically for BIPOC leaders. This program aims to help BIPOC leaders harness their place, position, and identity to thrive in the workplace and beyond. Komal is a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).

As bci’s Mental Health Expert-in-Residence, Komal offers tremendous expertise around workplace mental health. As a doctoral trained mental health clinician, certified health executive, and registered social worker, Komal has assisted organizations looking to advance employee mental health inclusion and well-being through offering programming on inclusive dialogue, anti-stigma, burnout prevention, psychological safety, resilience, and self-care. Komal is committed to advancing mental health and wellness across the life course; she currently serves on the board of the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario and previously served on the board of Children’s Mental Health Ontario and the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

When Komal is not working, you’ll find her painting, cooking or snuggling with her cat.