Academic Success Centre launches in-class diversity training during Truth and Reconciliation Week

By Carson Fijal

Last week, Red River College Polytechnic rolled out a new suite of workshops to complement its diversity training programs.

The college’s Academic Success Centre (ASC)  introduced anti-racism training for students on Sept. 27—just days before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The training ranges from lessons on the framework of systemic racism to sharing past and present stories about the lived experiences of it. Diversity trainers from the ASC deliver the program in classrooms at the request of instructors.

Nora Sobel, the diversity initiatives coordinator of the Academic Success Centre, emphasized the importance of enhancing students’ understanding of racism.

The window of the Students’ Association, displaying orange hands signed by students./CARSON FIJAL

“You may hear phrases such as ‘We don’t have racism in Canada,’ or ‘I’m not a racist, I would never say anything mean to anyone,’ but racism is not that simple,” Sobel said. “Society has been designed to lift up certain people and exclude other people.”

On June 3, the federal government introduced Bill-C5, officially cementing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a statutory holiday.

Publicly commemorating the history and impact of residential schools is a vital component of the reconciliation process and the day honours the children and survivors of residential schools, their families, and communities, reads a statement on the Government of Canada website.

The new anti-racism workshops join the ranks of similar programs at the college, including intercultural competence training and gender and sexual diversity training.

“Authentic learning about social justice and participation in anti-racism training often includes difficult conversations, feeling uncomfortable, and navigating strong emotions through this learning journey,” Sobel said.

“It is our intent to allow for time and space to process our thoughts and emotions as we share this journey with our students together.”

Opening slide of the Anti-Racism Training./Submitted by Nora Sobel

“I think there’s definitely an opportunity to learn from each other, from your peers. I think that’s the best way you can learn.” said Austin Burtniak, vice president of external affairs for the RRC Polytech’s Students’ Association (SA).

The college introduced this training program as part of its third annual Truth and Reconciliation Week, during which the SA offered orange paper hands for students to sign as a show of solidarity with the survivors of residential schools. The college also hosted a series of talks from Indigenous voices within the community.

As an additional resource, library and Academic Services staff put together an anti-racism learning toolkit containing curated videos and readings on the subject.