Empowering underrepresented voices and prioritizing initiatives that lead to tangible outcomes is the focus of Selkirk College’s freshly released Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Action Plan.

A living document that captures the college’s commitment to advancing vital equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work both within the institution and throughout the region, the 10 page plan provides a vision that will be carried forward towards broad goals that touch all areas of the post-secondary institution. The result of several years of dedicated work, the plan aims to grow understanding and spur action that will benefit students, employees and community stakeholders.

“I’m proud of Selkirk College for making this a priority and the leadership shown to get us to this point,” says Marissa Carrasco, the chair of the college’s EDI Advisory Committee. “To me, equity, diversity and inclusion involves an ongoing process of reflection. As individuals, we need to recognize that we all have existing biases and as an institution we need to identify systemic barriers. This reflection is vital in advancing our values and commitments.” A document that aligns with the Government of Canada’s Dimensions Charter, the Selkirk College action plan is fundamental to identifying and addressing systematic barriers experienced by underrepresented groups including women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minority/racialized groups and those in the 2SLGBTQ+ communities. There was significant work required to move the process along. The college hired renowned consultant HRx to undertake an audit and provide a structure for moving forward. The groundwork led to the formation of the college’s EDI Advisory Committee in 2021, a group of 12 employees that was assembled to provide advice, guidance and support based on their diverse lived experiences and perspectives. 

“I don’t have a degree in this area,” says Carrasco, who became the chair of the committee of her dedicated peers. “What I have is my lived experience, a commitment to continue learning, and my ability to hear and have empathy for other people. I feel a greater responsibility to speak up because I feel it a bit more in my life. I know what it feels like to face racism and that means I might be heard a bit better because I am a person of colour.”

Core authors in the recently released plan, the advisory committee worked diligently to lay out the lenses that must be applied to the college as a whole, including the allocation of resources to the implementation and expansion of equitable practices. It provides the groundwork for the work of advancing EDI that will prioritized through policy development, programming and other initiatives.

With the action plan now complete, President Maggie Matear and the college’s leadership team are committed to the ongoing work. Taking the reins from Graeme a year ago, the new president shares the same passion for ensuring the goals are met by allocating resources and implementing EDI tactics college wide. 

Though the plan is broad in scope, Carrasco says a lot of the work will boil down to individuals having brave conversations that create more understanding by all involved. A culture of considered openness is what ultimately produces the outcomes set out in the action plan. “It’s about momentum,” says Carrasco, who is now the chair of the School of Academic Upgrading & Development. “Once it starts happening and people see the benefits, then most everyone will at least start to slowly move towards what we are trying to accomplish with being a more respectful and understanding community. We’re all afraid to make mistakes and say the wrong thing, but ultimately it’s okay. Humility goes a long way and both sides of a conversation need to know that everyone is trying to do better. This is how we learn and get better, because if we don’t then we will stay stuck in this same place.”

Selkirk College