What does a courageous conversation about racism look like? Why should “Black Lives Matter” dominate over “All Lives Matter” in this conversation? These were among the topics that human rights educator Dr. Moussa Magassa challenged ISSofBC staff to reflect on during his talk at the ISSofBC All-Staff Meeting last week.

Moussa, a former ISSofBC staff who’s now a Specialist in Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Partnerships at the University of Victoria, acknowledged that it’s “not easy” to talk about racism, but urged his former colleagues to “do the work” and address the issue with “kindness, respect and humanity.” “Do it with the goal of changing things, and not to demonize each other,” he advised.

“We need to take responsibility for ourselves in this,” said ISSofBC CEO Patricia Woroch, stressing the need to bring accountability at the personal as well as the systemic level when it comes to anti-racism work. “It’s a complex, complicated issue that requires depth and thoughtfulness (to address),” added Patricia.

Moussa’s talk, followed by an animated question-and-answer session among the over 250 staff attending the annual meeting online, was organized by the ISSofBC Anti-Racism Advisory Group comprising staff appointed from different divisions and levels of the organization: Rahila Ansari, Elmir Ismayilov, Lily Lim, Siyad Maalim, Tamala Mwandemere, and Jennifer York.

The talk preceded the presentation of long-service awards to 20 employees who had completed five, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years of service.

ISSofBC Settlement Manager in Burnaby Thea-Lynne Fiddick led this year’s service awardees being honoured. “It’s the people here, the clients we serve, the work we do which makes it different, interesting and never boring,” Thea said, adding, “If someone says it’s crazy that you can work somewhere for 30 years, it’s because they never worked at ISSofBC!”

Dorcas Mendez, Volunteer and Community Connections Worker, addressing her former supervisor after listening to Thea’s award acceptance remarks, said, “I remember how passionate you were! Even now (you) talk with the same passion….it’s so you!”

View photo gallery of all awardees and a group photo of staff attending.