The work of the Anti-Racism Working Group (ARWG) at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is one of dedication, collaboration, and transformation, proving that when driven by a shared vision of a more equitable future, positive change is possible.
The ARWG was formed out of a profound recognition of the need for a fundamental shift in the health-care system. The group had its origins with likeminded individuals who shared values and beliefs walking alongside
Chee Mamuk (Indigenous Health team at BCCDC), following that group’s leadership and introduction of the
“Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action” report in a strategic planning session in 2017.
The ARWG formally coalesced in 2020, following the deaths of George Floyd and Joyce Echaquan, and the release of the
“In Plain Sight: Addressing Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care” report, which demonstrated for all of us that there is an extensive and widespread systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in health care, and that change is long overdue. The group also collaborated with the Decolonizing Practices and Structures Working Group (DPWG), which aims to address ongoing colonial practices and structures and advocate for change in colonized systems and practices in BCCDC. Together, both groups support education and awareness among BCCDC staff related to cultural safety and humility and Indigenous Health disparities.
"As an Indigenous Two-Spirit cis-gender presenting man, I am so honoured to be a part of the BCCDC team! Since 2017, BCCDC in all earnestness has been exploring how to be in better relations with Indigenous Peoples and then in 2020 BCCDC Antiracism Working Group was formally founded with the mission to address the impacts of colonialism, racism, and limited resources on health outcomes and the work environment," says Harlan Pruden, lead, Indigenous Knowledge Translation, Chee Mamuk, BCCDC.
“It is amazing to be a part of a work group that is working on strengthening workplace relationships and fostering new ways of collaboration through creating safe spaces for open dialogue, engaging in challenging conversations with leadership, as well as hosting center-wide events and developing resources for cultural heritage months. This makes my heart sing, as this will bring better tomorrows for many people!"
- Abdulaa Babili, projects and operations coordinator, BCCDC
- Amani Kafeety, leader, Quality, Safety & Accreditation, BCCDC
- Annelies Becu, public health manager, Population & Public Health, BCCDC
- Bushra Mahmood, health systems impact fellow, Population & Public Health, BCCDC
- Deana Kanagasingam, lead, Population and Public Health Initiatives, Clinical Prevention Services, BCCDC
- Devon Haag, project manager, Digital Public Health, Clinical Prevention Services, BCCDC
- Harlan Pruden, lead, Indigenous Knowledge Translation, Chee Mamuk, BCCDC
- Hayley Allan, operations coordinator, Public Health Response, BCCDC
- Keren Massey, lead, PPH Initiatives Innovation, Public Health Response, BCCDC
- Lynsey Hamilton, knowledge translation & exchange specialist, Population & Public Health, BCCDC
- Mandy Deresh, senior practice lead, Public Health Response, BCCDC
- Maryam Yasinian, Research Coordinator, Women’s Health Research Institute
- Melanie Kurrein, director of operations, Population & Public Health and Environmental Health Services, BCCDC
- Rene Perey, privacy officer, Info Management & Surveillance, BCCDC
- Shaila Jiwa, director, Professional Practice, BCCDC
- Sybila Valdivieso, executive director, Legal Services, BCCDC
- Victoria Cook, medical lead, Provincial TB Services, BCCDC
- William Turner, director of operations, Surveillance and Analytics, BCCDC
The group has facilitated dialogues and conversations about racism and oppression, established a Truth and Reconciliation Library, and supported a number of employee events and activities to learn about different races, cultures and their histories. They also worked with an external consulting firm to develop a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) survey across BCCDC. The survey provided valuable insights into staff identities and experiences, including questions about reconciliation and the support needed for staff on their journey.
"The ARWG is a unique and critically important working group that strives to create a cultural shift within the organization. It’s truly a movement that has come to fruition based on the commitment of motivated staff, support from senior leaders as well as the learnings, leadership, and wisdom exemplified by BCCDC’s Chee Mamuk team," says Shaila Jiwa, director, Professional Practice, BCCDC.
Congratulations to the Anti-Racism Working Group on their PHSA+ Award!
The PHSA+ Awards are part of an internal recognition program that celebrates teams and individuals who bring our PHSA values to life in the workplace. They go above and beyond to serve patients and families across B.C. Read about the other PHSA+ award recipients for 2023.