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As published by Lacombe Online

Written by: Kalisha Mendonsa, March 6, 2020 

Earlier this week, employers and employees came together to recognize, define and encourage diversity and inclusion in workplaces.

The Workplace Inclusion Forum was organized by the Local Immigrant Partnership of Red Deer, which works to develop safe and inclusive community policies for under-represented groups.

Program Coordinator for Red Deer LIP Ezgi Sariglou said this event is part of a larger project the partnership is working on, which is to develop a charter to address the needs of those marginalized groups.

“We’re going to be developing 20 commitments that are going to address the workplace needs of under-represented populations. Employers will commit to a number of those recommendations, depending on their capacity,” Sariglou explained, saying that RDLIP will support the organizations throughout the company’s implementation of the new policies. 

Sariglou explained that support will be in the form of tools, resources, and connections to help create more inclusive, diverse, and thoughtful workplaces. 

“This event is part of that effort, to give them the tools and help them remove barriers while creating and maintaining diverse and inclusive workplaces,” they said. 

LIP has identified various groups of under-represented people that include newcomers, Indigenous people, LGBTQ2s+, people over 50, those with mental health concerns and persons with disabilities. 

Sariglou explained that sometimes employers have unconscious biases that keep them from hiring or actively including people in these groups. 

“To me, inclusion comes when you have a diverse workplace and look to make sure everyone feels respected, and that their needs are being met,” they said. 

“Equality is very different than inclusion, I think, because we all have different needs.”

They continued, saying that inclusivity means ensuring that those diverse people are represented and that they feel safe in expressing their needs and that employers will work to address the needs expressed. 

Red Deer’s Local Immigrant Partnership is one of 77 adjoining organizations across Canada. Rather than providing direct settlement services to immigrants, the partnerships look at institutions, community organizations and community members to identify underlying issues immigrant people experience. 

“Research is a big part of what we do to figure out what the gaps are. Once we identify that, we build a strategic plan with the people around our table – that’s why it’s a partnership. The issues are very complex,” Sariglou said, continuing, “We have multiple sectors sitting with us at the table, and the decision-making mechanism is also together and we implement together, as well.”

There are three main areas of focus for the partnership to address: workplace inclusion, community inclusion and engagement and the health care needs of immigrant people. 

To explain what the health issue entails, Sariglou said, “There are specific needs for immigrants and it’s not always addressed in the most culturally aware way by service providers, so we’re trying to get that to our service providers and have them consider what it means to be culturally aware as they provide their services.”

They explained that recently, a woman had sought psychiatric support and care from a hospital centre, but they were asked to remove their headscarf in order to stay at the facility.

“She couldn’t wear it while she was staying there. So those service providers did not understand the meaning and importance of it for that woman, while she’s already suffering from mental health issues. The fact that she can’t fulfill what she believes in is an added mental stress for her. That’s a disconnect between culturally aware services or not,” Sariglou explained. 

They added that the local partnership is always looking to broaden their alliance membership and people who would like to be involved through an organization, employer or personal level can contact the RDLIP at their website, rdlip.ca. 

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