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Community Members Challenged to Address Racism in Winnipeg

July 25, 2016 — 
Intergroup dialogue training program facilitators and participants

Intergroup dialogue training program facilitators and participants with Rochelle Squires, minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage and Pamela Rebello, executive director, India School of Dance, Music & Theatre Inc. at celebratory dinner. // Photo courtesy of Cathy Rocke

It has now been over a year since a controversial Maclean’s article put the spotlight on racism in Winnipeg.  Since then, practical ways of addressing racism have been a topic of conversation.

In an effort to find solutions, assistant professors, Cathy Rocke, Faculty of Social Work, and Maureen Flaherty, Peace and Conflict Studies, Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice, partnered with the India School of Dance, Music & Theatre, Inc. to launch an intensive training program for community intergroup dialogue facilitators.

“How do we as a community move forward and confront the issue of racism in Winnipeg?” That’s the question they asked several community members to answer using intergroup dialogue.

Intergroup dialogue (sustained group conversations guided by facilitators) aims to decrease conflict and create peace between different groups that have stereotyped one another. During this process, intergroup dialogues go beyond basic discussion, encouraging participants to collectively make society a better place for all groups. Intergroup dialogue enables participants to:

– learn about different cultures in a safe environment,

– share ways of addressing social justice, and

– gain a better understanding of different social identity groups through discussion.

During May and June, Rocke, Flaherty and Métis community member Kim Gray, an experienced facilitator, delivered intensive training sessions to 12 participants representing the Métis, Filipino, Nigerian, Venezuelan, Korean, Senegalese, Syrian, Nepalese and Euro-Canadian communities.

At a celebratory dinner marking the conclusion of the sessions, facilitators and participants were joined by Rochelle Squires, minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage, and Pamela Rebello, executive director, India School of Dance, Music & Theatre Inc., who learned more about the impact of the program.

“Participants enthusiastically shared with the special guests about how the training had taught them so much about themselves. Both Minister Squires and Ms. Rebello were struck by how the words ‘trust’ and ‘empowerment’ were repeatedly used by the participants to describe their experience,” noted Rocke.

During the dinner, participants expressed their positive experience with intergroup dialogue stating that this form of interaction has the capacity to create real and authentic change and the process has the potential to create a peaceful and just society.

Plans are currently underway for the participants to utilize their facilitator skills within a variety of different programs beginning this fall. Rocke and Flaherty are also completing research on the efficacy of this model within Canada with hopes that this research will inform the development of robust intergroup dialogues within in several contexts in Manitoba.

This project received funding from the Multiculturalism Secretariat, Manitoba Multiculturalism and Literacy, Province of Manitoba. The Winnipeg Public Library, (Louis Riel, Cornish and St. Boniface locations) donated space for the recruitment and training sessions.


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