A Message From Our CEO Julia Blackburn

 

As we recognize the historic importance of Juneteenth, commemorating the official end of slavery in America on each June 19th since 1866, we also reflect on the recent tragedies which have deepened the long-standing traumas lived by our communities to the present day, stemming from systemic anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, and anti-Asian racism, colonialism and Islamophobia.

During these last few weeks, the remains of 215 Indigenous children were discovered by the Tk’emlups te Sekwepemc First Nation, buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School. This horrific discovery reflects a centuries-old system of colonial oppression that continues to devastate First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities. This also serves as an urgent reminder to all Canadian settlers to implement the Calls to Action issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in partnership with Indigenous communities.

Mere days after the discovery of the 215 children, four members of a Muslim-Canadian family in London, Ontario were killed in a terrorist attack fuelled by Islamophobia. This atrocity has inflicted profound grief and trauma upon our Muslim communities and all those denouncing such actions across Canada, and it has again underscored the importance of confronting and stopping Islamophobia in its overt and covert manifestations.

During the last year, we have also witnessed an increase in Anti-Asian racism, and we have also recently observed the one-year anniversary of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. There is much work that remains to be done to combat all forms of racism at the individual, institutional and systemic levels.

We mourn with our Indigenous, Muslim, Asian and Black communities, and through this grieving process, we commit ourselves to make concrete, tangible change.
Statements of allyship and solidarity must translate to actions.

NPower Canada is taking the following concrete actions now:

1. Sourcing and implementing anti-oppression training for all staff and program participants, including specific training for combatting all forms of racism and Islamophobia, and for advancing truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

2. Offering equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) coaching and guidance to NPower Canada employers interested in recruiting, retaining and growing talent from our diverse pool of graduates to help ensure that our alumni are safe, supported and thriving at work.

3. Having met the 50-30 challenge (50% female-identified representation; minimum 30% BIPOC representation on the board of directors and executive management team) within our senior management and overall staffing, NPower Canada is seeking to continue diversifying its board of directors within the next 12 months. Developing and monitoring the continued implementation of hiring and retention practices, compensation structures, leadership development and succession planning policies to achieve equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) goals.

4. Creating more safe spaces for participants and staff to share, honour and learn from each other’s lived experiences, facilitating empathy, mutual respect and allyship, and open dialogue.

5. Frequently and regularly reporting on concrete progress towards achieving EDI goals; agreeing to be held accountable by sharing findings with internal and external stakeholders.

We welcome feedback from our participants, staff, employers, community partners and other stakeholders on these action steps. As we celebrate Juneteenth and honour the great courage and sacrifices of those who have fought for centuries against oppression, we look forward to working with all of you to create meaningful and measurable change in partnership with our communities.