Difficult but necessary conversations

Devika Pandey believes that constant conversations about anti-racism are the key to a more equitable future for marginalized communities in Canada. She says the events of 2020, such as the murder of George Floyd and the inequities related to COVID-19, thrust the discourse about race firmly into the spotlight. A manager with the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI), Pandey is dedicated to pushing anti-racist dialogues and initiatives into Canada’s institutions.

“Individual communities are starting to reevaluate and determine what they want to see in their society,” says Pandey, who believes the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new normal with regards to how racism is perceived and how anti-racism is taught.

Pandey works for the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI), a Canadian non-profit seeking to educate Canadians on the value of diversity and inclusion. In partnership with Simon Fraser University (SFU), the CCDI is hosting a webinar titled The Difference Between Racism, Not Racist, and Anti-Racist on May 13. Pandey is the webinar’s main facilitator.

Uncomfortable conversations

“Meaningful transformation never happens overnight. It starts with those uncomfortable conversations in safe spaces,” explains Pandey.

COVID-19 has brought structural inequities faced by Canada’s marginalized communities into the spotlight says Devika Pandey.| Photo courtesy of Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion

Certified as an administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), Pandey is also the manager of learning and knowledge solutions at the CCDI.

“Because these conversations are very difficult, it was a struggle initially, but, as we have them more and more, we’re seeing that change more and more,”
she says.

Pandey believes it is necessary for educators to be part of the change to make public education fully anti-racist.

“I spent my post-secondary education in Canada. Conversations around racism were often difficult and uncomfortable, but, to make impactful change, having those conversations is essential,” she says.

She is optimistic for the future and believes there is change already occurring in Canada’s public education system.

“The goal for the education system is to move towards being anti-racist and I see many K-12 schools putting in that effort to add anti-racist education to their curriculums,” says Pandey.

Last summer, the B.C. Ministry of Education publicly re-committed to anti-racism. Furthermore, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation provides a list of anti-racist teaching resources for educators to use in their classes.

“To make impactful change, having those conversations is essential,” says Pandey.

Inequities and COVID-19

“Immigrants are disproportionately represented in jobs with greater exposure to COVID-19 or are employed in industries affected first by the pandemic,” says Pandey.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2018, accommodation and food services accounted for the largest share of jobs held by immigrants in Canada. COVID-related restrictions and lockdowns have caused a massive loss of jobs in both of those sectors. Immigrants have also been more severely affected by employment disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the pandemic, the normal we all knew has been shattered and we have been given the term ‘the new normal,’” says Pandey.

With the conversations surrounding Black Lives Matter and the responses to anti-Asian racism in Canada, Pandey thinks that how society and the education system approaches race will change in the so-called ‘new normal.’

“COVID-19 has brought structural inequities faced by Canada’s marginalized communities into the spotlight,” says Pandey.

She also believes that these communities are beginning to rethink what they expect from society, especially in the area of mental health, which has been severely affected by COVID-19.

Conversations and strategies with regards to anti-racism have not been without controversy, however. Pandey believes there is more potential for unity rather than division.

“We are seeing more polarization, but we are also seeing people come together because of these conversations and raising their voices to bring these inequities to light,” says Pandey.

She states that none of these conversations are new. They have simply been given a new spotlight because of the events of 2020.

“Conversations around race and racism have always been happening. The events of last year have amplified the spotlight on inequities and ramped up the conversations we are having,” explains Pandey

She adds that modern technology like social media is greatly beneficial in helping these developments. The CCDI has an active Twitter account that routinely shares stories from marginalized communities with their audience.

“CCDI is trying to build on this momentum and to create safe spaces to have these conversations and ultimately move towards being anti-racist everyday,” says Pandey.

The CCDI webinar with SFU will be the latest platform for these dialogues.

For more information visit www.ccdi.ca/our-people/our-team/devika-pandey

For more information about The Difference Between Racism, Not Racist, and Anti-Racist, visit