Staying Warm: A Guide to Allyship in Action with Naheyawin

April 21, 2021 – Staying Warm – A Guide to Allyship in Action presented Jacqueline and Hunter Cardinal of Nayeyawin and sponsored by TD Canada Trust and On Site Placement

On behalf of the Edmonton Business Diversity Network, thank you all for making our 2020/21 season an incredible experience. We managed to adapt to the new way of operating and thanks to some very special speakers we were able to partake in some meaningful conversations.

We had the privilege of wrapping this year’s educational session series with a special presentation from Jacqueline Cardinal, Founder & Managing Director and Hunter Cardinal, Founder & Director of Naheyawin. Naheyawin offers sustainable, practical and indigenous-based solutions for the improvement of diversity and inclusion in business and organizations through education and storytelling.

Using these tools they took us on a knowledge journey, which was just the tip of the iceberg of what exists about Indigenous people and the way we navitate and experience past, present and future. Although we weren’t face to face, we approached the session as if in a sitting circle.

The summary below is just a snapshot of the knowledge that was shared.

We kicked off the session with an Opening Circle where participants were invited to share who they were, where their family is from, and where they make their home today.

Worldviews and language

Our journey started with Indigenous worldviews and language

  • Indigenous people have resided on Turtle Island as far back as we can remember.
  • Sakihtuk: The nehiyaw first sacred teaching to love one another. It comes directly from our understanding of how the earth shows its love by allowing things to sprout or grow.
  • The connection to land is key to understanding the complex and dynamic relationality that underpins the worldviews of Indigenous people.
  • Additionally, language comes from the land – and by speaking a language indigenous to a place is taking part in singing the songs of the world.  Many Indigenous languages  are very diverse and others are similar to each other and many Indigenous languages have a written form. 


We were taken on a trip through history and explored the formation of governance.

  • Jacqueline and Hunter shared that because Indigenous peoples understand all things and beings as connected to the land, we understand ourselves as connected to each other.
  • This belief influenced the creation of complex and varied governance models, many of which include a strong spiritual element at their core.
  • Perspectives were illustrated using the example of a tree: we can all be standing around a tree, looking at the exact same tree, but each of us will bring a different perspective to what we are seeing. When we take the time to share that perspective from the lens through which we are viewing the tree, together we are able to create an understanding of the whole.


  • Western treaties are written after a conflict (Treaty of Versaille, World War 1) and draw a line in the sand as a means to set the stage for peace.
  • Most indigenous treaty processes were created in kinship where the participants determined what was needed to coexist in a good way and the treaty was written as they moved forward.
  • Examples of this include the Dish With One Spoon wampum, which was made between the Anishinaabe and the Haudenosaunee in 1142 CE.
  • On Turtle Island, the first relationship agreement between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people followed Indigenous legal traditions. One of the earliest was the Two Row Wampum Treaty: made in 1613 between the Dutch and Haudenosaunee.
  • Effective governance led for a very active Turtle Island. The example that was shared was two rows of blue separated by three rows of white. Each of the blue rows represented a culture and the white – peace, friendship and understanding. It was agreed that if they had these values guiding their actions they could continue down this river, maintaining the uniqueness of each culture, accepting a change in a process in being and becoming with each other. 

Contemporary Allyship

How does the work started by our ancestors influence or guide how we stand with or for each other in a way that is supportive and meaningful?

  • Self- Location: We need to know where we are in order to understand our relationships and identities. 
  • Real Accountability: Expectation that we should be able to tell the story about our place in the larger set of stories we’re a part of.
  • Calling In Culture: instead of calling out culture.  This is built on respect and maintained by returning to clear values. 
  • Sustainable commitment: aim to build on small successes rather than big wins.

Ethical Space: when applied to the analogy of the vessels- we are not the same, we are equal, we are not the same, we are different – doesn’t mean we can’t explore but we need to respect and protect difference, diverse, vibrancy – take action to maintain our own vessels – more inclusive for indigenous people to enter.

Conversation cafe roundup

In March we hosted a Conversation Cafe, hosted by Richa Singh, Events Coordinator. Our initial topic for discussion was: Variation and effects of COVID 19 on diverse groups (indigenous, different age groups, etc.). Below is a summary of the items the Network discussed:

  • Eye opening discussion on anti-Asian racism experiences of colleagues.
  • Mental health issues for disability sector. Long holds for calls. Providing peer to peer support on job searches.
  • What are we doing for self-care? Being inclusive, talking to everyone, providing mental health days off, celebrating accomplishments, etc.
  • Indigenous sector – APS, school boards were quick to respond to virtual learning in schools. Indigenous schools had separate experience. Quick spread of COVID because of high population. Happy to see vaccines are coming.
  • Not in favor of the term Journeyman. Preference for Journeyperson for gender neutral term. Language is important – Insurance companies working on gender identification.
  • How do we make recruitment inclusive to bring in diverse candidates?
  • Bringing in diverse candidates together to change the culture (example of bringing in 10 women interns who changed the culture).
  • Making it a safe environment for that one person.
  • Giving/promoting tour of plants for women.
  • Mindful of who are our internal ally’s / what is the reality inside the organization?
  • Organizations struggling with D&I vision. Does not have basic development. Afraid of changes and uncertainty prevailing.
  • We have to step back in our D&I journey and look at our facilities and culture. We learned we didn’t have appropriate washrooms for women.

Resources shared – Psychological workplace safety course “From tormentor to mentor” on under “courses”. And also the podcast “Culture and Leadership Connections” amazing stories about belonging, identity and the influence of groups in our lives.

With thanks to Doug Piquette

Image Doug

At our January Event we bid farewell to Doug Piquette (Founding Member) as he stepped down from the Board.  Doug is the Executive Director of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council. At ERIEC Doug is involved in establishing, managing and advancing the strategic priorities and direction of this Edmonton based organization. Doug brings a breadth of diverse experience to ERIEC previously working for over 20 years in project design and management in the community economic development field. Doug also spent several years project managing community economic development projects in South America. Doug is a graduate from the University of Victoria (B.Sc.) and the University of Waterloo (Economic Development).  Doug will continue to attend EBDN Network Events and will always be an EBDN Ambassador.

Below is a picture of Doug accepting his scepter of appreciation and a copy of his farewell message, which was read by Fred Paquette, Membership Officer.

doug farewell

farewell to Doug


EBDN Event: Intergenerational Trauma: A First Nations Perspective, presented by Ruby Littlechild. May 13, 2020

Ruby opened by sharing her Cree name with us.  It is Kihew Pihesiew Iskwew, which means Eagle Thunderblood woman

Ruby gave an honest and informative presentation, referencing events and patterns of our past to understand the focus for healing and growth in our present.  She spoke of her desire to instill empathy, not sympathy, quoting Dr. Anne Anderson, “You don’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you came from.

Ruby spoke from her own experience of the many barriers faced by Indigenous peoples, including:

  • Lack of literacy and education
  • Cultural differences/identities
  • Racism, Discrimination, Stereotypes, Stigmas
  • Lack of Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Self Esteem (Not sure how to heal)
  • Poverty, poor housing, transportation
  • Lack of adequate child care

She spoke with vulnerability and honesty about oppression and the harm that comes from victimization that becomes part of our identity.  She spoke of internalized oppression, the process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the group.  Quoting Michael Denneny, “We hate ourselves because we grew up and live in a society that hates us”.

Part of addressing Truth and Reconciliation is over-turning myths and misconceptions that continue to distort perspectives of Indigenous peoples in Canada.  See resources for a video on stereotypes of Indigenous people.

Ruby talked specifically on a number of topics relevant to First Nations and intergenerational trauma:

  • The profound impact of Residential Schools on a spiritual people who weren’t allowed to pray, to sing, to dance, creating a craving for spirituality and the place that people are hungry for healing.  This emptiness is what addictions are trying to fill.
  • Intergenerational Trauma is known by losses, loss of meaning, family, childhood, feeling desensitised, loss of culture, identity and ceremonies.
  • Truth & Reconciliation – Ruby shared a link to a video on What is Reconciliation to support us to understand the context of what coming from these past patterns means.
  • Health & Wellness – In speaking to health, wellness and balance, Ruby spoke about resilience, the ability to bounce back and grow and thrive during stress, challenge and change.  She shared the Medicine Wheel with four aspects to our nature – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual as a way to participate in something greater than yourself to develop yourself as a healthy, well-balanced individual through the development and use of volition.
  • Decolonization – She also described Decolonization as a movement towards spirituality, wholeness, wellness, serenity, balance, equality, respect, empowerment, and communication.  Decolonization is a process to re-evaluate what we have internalized and the systemic change in our society.

Making a Difference

How can workplaces support Indigenous employees in a positive way who have been traumatized and how can Indigenous employees find that support?

  1. For Indigenous employees, if you develop self-awareness, to know who you are you are no longer the person who is bullied – this takes away the power of lateral violence in the workplace, takes away its power over you.
  2. Provide flexible work hours, work at home policies to help when things come up from trauma history/recovery.
  3. Find champions/allies – stay close to them.

To be a change agent as a Cree woman, Ruby learned to find champions, walk with them, learn and grow.  To question different approaches to leadership.


Ruby shared a variety of resources with us throughout her presentation including:

CBC video on the 60s Scoop –

What is Reconciliation –

Wab Kinew on stereotypes of Indigenous peoples. I’m not sure I understand the go away from convo with their old beliefs. Can you explain this? TIA

_Assigned to Cheryl Whitelaw_

EBDN Event: Resistance to Diversity and Inclusion with Cheryl Whitelaw, Kind Power

Thank you to everyone who joined our first virtual EBDN event last week.  We persevered through some technology hiccups and distractions from those working at home.

Cheryl opened by posing the question: Why do we still face resistance to Diversity and Inclusion?

She offered one lens to look at resistance and how we as Diversity and Inclusion practitioners can approach people who resist.

This presentation comes out of an acknowledgement that people are rarely changed when someone tells them they need to change.  Cheryl acknowledged the vulnerability of looking at the place where what we are doing as D & I practitioners isn’t working.

Look At/Look As lens

We can “Look AT” them – viewing people who resist D & I from our own lenses.  Looking at people who resist brings in a structural distance Me over here and them over there.  A form of othering.

We can “Look As” them – this is taking their perspective, bringing curiosity, imagination, empathy.

People who resist D and I have different perspectives than we tend to have as supporters of D & I.  And they are also responding to what they feel from us.

This kind of perspective taking is a known skill for D and I practitioners.  So why don’t we do it with people who resist?

Cheryl shared a couple of possibilities which could explain this:

  1. Looking at this topic is also looking at the space where what we do in our D and I work doesn’t work. This could change our state – how we feel (e.g. shame, desire to blame others for resisting).
  2. It is harder to use our abilities for empathy, for curiosity when we encounter opposition. Harder to use the power we have in the face of opposition.
  3. We can feel outrage – outrage is good for spreading a message on social media, to energize, galvanize action, social movements, political change. The limits of outrage – create space where the people we want to influence tune us out.  What conversations are we not having while we are outraged?

Relationships move at the speed of trust.  Social change moves at the speed of relationships. (An Invitation to Brave Space, Jennifer Bailey and Lemon Flowers).

Cheryl also provided a strategy to deal with this – shifting from Calling Out to Calling In.   While there are contexts that Calling Out is appropriate, Calling In offers an opportunity to stay in relationship with the person while discussing the issue, the behavior, the situation in question.   What is key in having Calling In work is self-composure, knowing your why, assessing when you can have this conversation.

Resources on Calling In are included in the resource list below.

Cheryl closed with a video using Aikido, a Japanese martial art, to illustrate the kind of power, centeredness, groundedness quality that is helpful to maintain connection with your own values, beliefs and perspectives while in conflict with someone who opposes you.

Senshin Center

In watching the first 4 minutes of the video, watch the person with a black top.  Does he look grounded? Strong?  Who is controlling this interaction?  Who is the attacker?

It is this quality of internal strength, power and integrity that is needed to humanize interactions with people who resist D and I.

2020-04 Cheryl Zoom

Resistance to Diversity and Inclusion – Resources

Befriending Radical Disagreement


Calling In

Looking at people who resist diversity and inclusion

Why Unconscious Bias Training Doesn’t Work

Inclusion Continuum

Hot/Cold Empathy Gap





EBDN Event: Difficult Conversations with Dr. Wanda Costen

Thank you to everyone who braved the cold and joined EBDN to kick off our 2020 series of workshops, on January 8. A special thanks to our event sponsors, Patricia Pasemko, On Site Placement and Aaron Spink, TD Wealth.

Dr. Wanda Costen, Dean of the MacEwan School of Business energetically shared insightful and practical strategies to help reduce procrastination when engaging with difficult conversations.

Dr. Costen’s proposed a Difficult Conversation self – checklist to help you define the purpose of the conversation before you begin:

    • Is it about me, my emotional response, my ego?
    • What is the best and the worst thing that can happen? If the worst thing that can happen seriously outweighs the best thing, it is probably not a conversation that you need to have.
    • What is my role in the situation?
    • Which of my buttons is being pushed?
    • Am I calling someone out because I need them to know they are wrong? Or am I helping them be more self-aware about their impact on others?

Reasons for holding a difficult conversation

Good reasons to have a difficult conversation include asking someone to change behavior or sharing bad news. Procrastinating on difficult conversations often makes things worse, situations can escalate, behavior can worsen and relationships become more emotionally charged over time.

Tips & Tricks for Managing Difficult Conversations:

  • Focus on solving the problem to achieve a win-win relationship.
    • Be specific about what the issue is.
  • Acknowledge the emotional content of the conversation.
    • Allow for timeouts for both parties as and when needed.
  • Be aware of your verbal and body language.
    • Both contribute to how we are perceived. For example – if your arms are crossed, the other party may perceive that you aren’t invested in the discussion and may result in unnecessary escalation.
  • Be an Active Listener – Hear and acknowledge the other person’s perspective.
    • If you can move from certainty (I know I’m right) to curiosity, you will create an environment in which others feel safe to openly share differing views.
  • Seek to Understand
    • The different interpretations individuals have means you will be able to check your assumptions and adapt to the other parties perspective.

The most important lesson to remember of Dr. Costen’s presentation is that mastering the art of difficult conversation is a skill that comes with time, and that we will always have more learning to do in order to be competent.

Dr Costen ended the presentation with a review of how the Dimensions of Diversity will impact all the difficult conversations that you have. You need to understand and recognize how others view the world in the context of the conversations you need to have.

Many thanks to Dr. Wanda Costen for her generosity in supporting the EBDN community!

About the EBDN

We look forward to continuing this discussion at a future session and more immediately online. Do you have questions, thoughts, ideas on this topic? If so take it to our Linkedin page (  and let’s take the discussion further.

If you are not yet a member, please review our Membership page and submit a request to join .  A member of our team will be in touch.

If you are interested in speaking at an event or hosting an event, please email

Our next event will be held on 11 March 2020 at Finning and will include a presentation by Cheryl Whitelaw from Kind Power Coaching and Consulting on “Dealing with resistance to D&I efforts.”. 

Conversation Cafe

On 10 December we held our first conversation café outside the downtown core.  Thanks to Argus Machine for hosting!

The topic for the day was the intersectionality of diversity &inclusion and the world of professional sports. We had the following articles/references to help in preparation for the discussion:

We talked about the universal language of sport and how it can be a great leveller when you change the conversation from differences (gender, disability etc.) to ability in the sport itself.  The importance of role models was discussed and we asked “what are the possibilities to help teach everyone through sports?”

We learnt about the Motion Ball initiative in high schools, which provides safe spaces to educate and integrate through social and sporting events in support of the Special Olympics.  We talked about the importance of seeing the ability rather than the disability, which is what Brad’s parents did for him (Made by Brad).

The value of sports for fun rather than for competition was discussed.  Moving away from the need to win at all costs in sports including and celebrating those who aren’t the strongest; how parents are pulling kids from teams that only have the winning focus as the community aspect is more important for them.  One attendee is a coach who has had to speak to other parents, working to change the conversation and explain that winning isn’t his only focus.

We acknowledged that Millenials have the advantage of being raised in an inclusive environment, while older members in society have more relearning to do.  It’s important to embrace this learning rather than use age as an excuse to get away with unacceptable behaviour.  At this point we talked through the Don Cherry situation, where the network have encouraged Don to behave in a certain way as it gets them ratings; however, at the same time this isn’t acceptable and he should have been reined in years ago.

The conversation then moved onto sports in schools, and memories we all have of ‘school yard picks’ – not wanting to be the last chosen to be in a team and the potential damage that can do to a child as the weakest is usually left to the last if we follow the culture of winning. Does this action have a long term impact on a person’s life?  A participant shared that they had recently had an employee engagement event where they asked attendees to get into teams themselves, which she wondered could have had the same impact.

We touched on a grassroots program ( which provides programming on explaining the strong connection of mind and body and how we need to nuture both, from a mixed and girl-specific approach

That led us to finish with discussions on childhood and intergenerational trauma and how we can accommodate people in the workplace, the importance of understanding mental health and looking at the individual when each situation arises.  The goal being to set people up for success where we can; acknowledging we also have a business to run and it’s a balancing act.  Will employees tell us the circumstances they need to be the best employee they can be?

EBDN Event: How to be an Ally

On September 11, 2019 the group met together after a summer break. The room vibrated with chatter and energy as members filtered in and mingled with connections new and old. September often feels like a new start and a new year – and our event was no different. The focus was on taking action.

“The word ally is a verb – saying you’re an ally is not enough, you have to do the work.” 

Our very own Erin Davis and Jill Chesley, Current and Past Chairs of EBDN, shared learnings and led a very practical conversation on how to be an ally.

We started with looking inward – it starts with “me”. How do we experience the world? What privileges or benefits do I get as a result of who I am that I never asked for? They expertly closed the table discussions and sharing noting that we don’t need to apologize for having privilege – it’s about what we do or don’t do with it.

So what is an ally? An ally is someone who is not a member of an underrepresented or marginalized group but takes action to support that group. What that action might look like, will be different for each of us.

How can we show up as allies?

  • Do no harm – get to know people, listen and learn, jump in with respectful curiosity
  • Advocate in small ways – intervene, hold space for others to speak, take away the spotlight for marginalized groups to advocate for themselves
  • Create a big change – take action + jump all in

Below are links to both the videos that were shared with tips on how to be an ally. Where will you be sharing them?

Thank you to the City of Edmonton, TD Bank and Argus Machine Co. Ltd. for sponsoring this event.

2019-09 how to be an ally

Jill Chesley and Erin Davis presenting to EBDN Members on how to be an Ally.

EBDN Event: Revisiting Reconciliation – Recommitting to Reconciliation

On May 8, 2019 we wrapped up our 2019 season with an thought-provoking and educational  presentation from our guest speaker – Miranda Jimmy, Co-Founder of Reconciliation in Solidarity Edmonton (RISE) on the impact of residential schools on survivors, the mandate of TRC and the subsequent 94 Calls to Action,  and the need to keep the conversation alive and on the minds of all Canadians and the Federal Government.

She shared many stories and quotes from residential school survivors regarding their experience and had participants read their quotes within their groups. The room was silent and the emotion palpable. By engaging us in the experience and with the words of the survivors, we were encouraged to no longer sit silent, to bear witness and carry the story – to watch, listen, show and respect those stories of experience.

We were then encouraged to write three things we would do to bear witness or to change in our practice and acknowledgment of reconciliation which she would take and mail back to us in three months to track participants progress.

Key Takeaways

  • The last residential school operated by the Canadian government, Gordon Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan, was closed in 1996.
  • The impact of residential schools doesn’t end with the closure of schools, it is felt through generations and only together can we heal, recover and rebuild
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed in 2008 with a mandate to create a historical account of residential schools, help people to heal, and encourage reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.
  • The Commission conducted hundreds of interviews and events throughout Canada to document the impact and legacy of the residential school system
  • A report was produced in 2015 containing 94 Calls to Action were made, including:
    • Overrepresentation of Indigenous children in government care.
    • High rates of violence in Indigenous households.
    • National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

Below are some links for further reading:


What will you do to bear witness and recommit to reconciliation?

About the EBDN

We look forward to continuing this discussion at a future session and more immediately online. Do you have questions, thoughts, ideas on this topic? If so take it to our Linkedin page (  and let’s take the discussion further.

If you are not yet a member, please review our Membership page and submit a request to join .  A member of our team will be in touch.

If you are interested in speaking at an event or hosting an event, please email

Our next event will be held on 11 September 2019 and will include a presentation from Jill Chesley (City of Edmonton: Senior Diversity and Inclusion Consultant) and Erin Davis (Stantec: Director, Global Talent Engagement) on “How to be an Ally.”