Shed More Light on Handling Racism

By: SaskCulture Staff January, 2019

Cultural Areas



AR - 2019

Holding safe conversations about racism is hard – but possible. In 2018, SaskCulture partnered with the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, Common Weal Community Arts and the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild to host an event that focused on how to hold these kinds of conversations.

The event Let’s Talk: Navigating Safe Discussions on Racism is part of a conversation series that brings together different voices in the spirit of creating dialogue about racism in the province.  The first Let’s Talk, held in 2017, was about cultural appropriation.

This year’s event featured two conversations: one between Sheelah McLean and Kristen Enns-Kavanagh, and another between Janelle Pewapsconias and Zoey Roy. Both focused on how to talk about racism with colleagues, family and friends.

“Diversity and inclusion are vital to creating positive communities. Racism is one of the biggest barriers to that unity of place,” says Dominga Robinson, SaskCulture Outreach Consultant, adding that Saskatchewan is home to so many diverse cultures and everyone deserves to feel safe and welcome. Robinson says that SaskCulture is committed to working with its partners to hold discussions such as Let’s Talk Racism because it would challenge the ideologies that prevent unity and a positive community. 

Janelle Pewapsconias, social innovator and spoken word poet, says the topic of racism has been evolving since she was a child but also acknowledges there has been changes over the years, with several groups and institutions willing to make changes in the work that they do.

Pewapsconias adds that racism is more than the actions of an individual and that it is going to be a life-long journey of packing, unpacking and unlearning things picked up through experiences.

“It is the personal approach that we pick to overcoming racism and confronting it and unlearning it and challenging narratives. Remembering that we are all human beings, and to be tough on systems, but soft on people,” she says.

Kristin Enns-Kavanagh, executive director, Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, says it is important to talk about racism in order to have a peaceful society, and to dismantle structures of power that have been around for a very long time.

“We all have internalized racism. If we imagine that we don't, we get into trouble and we can end up doing things that are harmful because we are not aware of our own internal biases,” she says.

The event took place at Station 20 West in Saskatoon and was also live-streamed in Regina, Yorkton, Prince Albert and Red Deer. It was recorded and can be watched on SaskCulture’s YouTube channel.