Monday, June 7, 2021

Empowering Indigenous youth in the workplace

Elements of an Indigenous ceremony including an eagle wing and bowls.

By Claire Francis. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

Over the past three years, Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars in Waterloo’s Industrial-Organizational Psychology program have been working with partners to explore and develop the qualities that make a workplace environment more equitable for Indigenous employees. Together they are contributing their findings to Indigenous Workways, a program that partners with companies and organizations to clear pathways for Indigenous employees and create safe and supportive space in organizations for Indigenous bodies and worldviews.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) final report had a strong hand in inspiring this work. Professor Wendi Adair, Indigenous Workways’ co-principal investigator and Interpersonal Trust Lead, explains. “Their report addressed how the treatment of Indigenous peoples and erasure of their culture by colonial settlers has led to the Indigenous population being less likely to attend post-secondary institutions and rise to upper-level management positions.”

Adair continues “The TRC report identified a population in Canada that is highly underrepresented in the workplace. There are a lot of barriers that account for that.”Her research in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology focuses on workplace behaviour. “That’s what my colleagues and I study — what leads to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, people wanting to do the job that they have.” The development of Indigenous Workways was a natural step in the evolution of the program.

Networks of trust

In 2018, Adair and her co-principal investigator Catherine Kwantes at the University of Windsor received a SSHRC (Social Science & Humanities Research Council) Insight Grant to fund “Indigenous Workways: Cultural Safety, Cultures of Trust, and Psychologically Safe Work Places” over three years. The team also won a significant Ontario Research Fund - Research Excellence Grant, one of only two awards given in the program’s first ever Social Science competition. Along with Waterloo and Windsor, Conestoga College and Wilfrid Laurier University are institutional partners on the project that focuses on Indigenous employees’ experiences with interpersonal trust, organizational trust, and networks of trust.

 Professor Wendi Adair, Lori Campbell (then Director of Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre) and others open a project meeting with a smudging ceremony. Photos courtesy of Indigenous Workways.

Left to right: Professor Wendi Adair, Lori Campbell (then Director of Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre) and others open a project meeting with a smudging ceremony. Photos courtesy of Indigenous Workways.

The project's work is centred within each institution’s Indigenous student centre and includes engaging with Indigenous alumni — an important part of the project, says Adair, for understanding their career experiences and providing mentorship to current Indigenous students.

At every step the team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous colleagues are committed to an authentic approach to their work. For instance, all project researchers take Indigenous research method courses and seminars and regularly consult with advisory circles, elders, knowledge keepers, and other community members. Jean Becker, Waterloo’s Senior Director of Indigenous Initiatives, has been advising the project since its inception. The research methodologies used allow Adair and her team to credibly investigate some of the positive aspects of relationships, space, and climate in organizations that help Indigenous employees thrive and rise.

Graduate student Jaydum Hunt, who is Bay of Quinte Mohawk from six nations and European ancestry, is completing her MA in I-O Psychology and has been a researcher on the project throughout her graduate studies. She emphasizes how Indigenous Workways prioritizes participatory research methods, which adhere to the principles of Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP) as they conduct their research with the consultation from and among members of the Indigenous community. “The incorporation of The First Nations Principles of OCAP protects Indigenous contributors, ensuring that they have complete agency over their information,” explains Hunt.

Participants help to direct the research

“Research has always been done on Indigenous people as opposed to with Indigenous people. And I think a big part of what is important—and what I like about this project — is that the people who are participating in the research are helping to direct it.”

In working with people from diverse backgrounds, some organizations attempt to solve potential issues by incorporating tactics such as “an anti-racist workshop that’s one day, or a few hours,” says Hunt. She recognizes that there are problems with taking a compartmentalized approach to equity issues. “I don’t think that that actually looks at changing the mindset of the people within the organization, because [the issues which have proven to be problematic] also stem from the mindset that the organization encourages.” Hunt believes that if a company wants to improve its approach to equity, it ought to analyse its whole structure, rather than merely its employees’ behaviours. 

At the same time Hunt notes that when employers indicate an interest in hiring Indigenous employees, they need to understand how they can authentically welcome them into their organization.

Appreciating different ways of thinking and working

“We can’t just hire one Indigenous person, and say, ‘We’ve got our Indigenous person…’ and not follow through with understanding what that means, and understanding how the person might think differently, or work differently, which is why you're bringing them to the table,” says Hunt. “You also need to be able to be open to what they're bringing, and not expect them to conform to your organizational ways, because that might not be the way that they work.” In short, it is important to let diverse employees’ differences be appreciated, and let that appreciation be genuine.

Indigenous Workways logo.The Indigenous Workways logo is designed by Métis artist Catherine Dallaire. It features a wild rose, a hardy flower that symbolizes resilience and beauty. The rose is supporting and lifting up the strawberry blossom, which symbolizes how project uses strong foundations to lift up and support Indigenous alumni and students.

Now, after three years of participatory research engaging approximately 60 members of Indigenous communities in Ontario, Adair acknowledges that the Indigenous Workways project is primed for growth. “We have developed enough organizational partners, and have some ongoing relationships, where we can continue to do this work, and make continued improvements in the workplace for Indigenous employees in the future.”

The researchers hope to see the program expand geographically. At the time of our interview, Adair was considering possible partnerships with institutions in Northern Ontario. And although Indigenous Workways’ initial funding covers their work only within Ontario, there is the possibility of expansion to other Canadian institutions, she says.

Adair also acknowledges that the challenges faced by Indigenous employees are also experienced by members of other racialized groups. Looking at their experiences is “an obvious next step.” Down the line the potential is there to develop programs to help build connections between employers and other marginalized groups.

The initiative has proven to be edifying for Adair. “Learning about Indigenous knowledge, Indigenous ways of knowing, and Indigenous research methods, has really opened my mind to an entire world of possibilities that I never knew existed before.” And those possibilities can only make an organization stronger.

Q and A with the experts: How the way we label a health crisis can fuel racism

Professor Hilary Bergsieker sits with a woman in a food court.

The University of Waterloo has a number of experts available for comment on various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Labels for the virus and its variants have incited xenophobia and other harms throughout the pandemic. Psychology professor Hilary Bergsieker, the lead author of an upcoming new study on the issue, offers insights into preventing this naming-and-blaming problem.

How did public discourse during the early days of the pandemic lead to expressions of hostility, xenophobia, and stigma?

Early pandemic media coverage focused on mounting death tolls and tracing the source or path of the virus abroad, fostering a climate of fear surrounding a “foreign” threat. As in prior pandemics, some responded by scapegoating “outsiders” – Chinese and Asian people. After Trump first tweeted “Chinese virus” on March 16, 2020, this term took off on Twitter and conservative media. #ChineseVirus tweets were significantly more likely to contain negative sentiments and racist hashtags, such as #YellowManFever, as well as more disgust and hostility. With anti-Asian attacks on the rise, limiting stigmatizing language that has the potential to incite violence is an urgent priority. 

What are other examples of word choices shaping public attitudes?

Prior research shows language shapes attitudes. For example, people report more support for “assistance to the poor” vs. “welfare,” “gay marriage” vs. “same-sex marriage,” “assisted dying” vs. “euthanasia.” Research demonstrating more positive attitudes toward “noncitizens” vs. “illegal aliens” recently led the U.S. government to revise its terminology in official policy and documents to avoid stigmatizing that people group. Using language that is respectful, clear, informative, and non-stigmatizing can help avoid a blame game, instead fostering a focus on resolving issues and decisions at hand.

What is the solution for avoiding negative or racist labels in a public health crisis?

One essential step is providing functional, group-neutral alternatives to problematic ethnic or geographic labels. Soon after the WHO proposed the term “COVID-19” describing the virus type and timing, most mainstream media and institutions (including UWaterloo) adopted this term consistently. Unfortunately, we still lack fluent, functional names for variants of concern: Terms such as “B.1.1.7” or “P.1” — though scientifically precise — are simply harder for non-experts to recall and repeat than (problematic) labels like the “British” or “Brazilian” variant. Providing even an arbitrary set of standardized variant labels, like those for hurricanes, could reduce the odds of scapegoating individuals from these regions.

Hilary Bergsieker is an Associate Professor in the Psychology department. Her research focuses on the interpersonal dynamics of intergroup interactions and relationships—probing impression management, strategic communication, nonverbal behaviour, affect, depletion, and trust—to understand when and why problems can arise even in the absence of animus.

Volunteer for International Week and other notes

International Week banner.

Get Involved in celebrating a Week of International Education at Waterloo: Every year, education institutions, governments, and not-for-profits join together to celebrate international education around the world for one full week. This week serves as a great opportunity to recognize and promote the value of education abroad and at home, while bringing global conversations to campus. The University of Waterloo plans to join stakeholders from over 100 different nations in celebrating this important week by showcasing the merits to international education through a variety of programs, events, collaborations, debates, discussions, and an array of activities for the University of Waterloo community.

"Waterloo International invites those who are interested in hosting an event during the weeklong celebration to attend a consultation meeting from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on June 28. This meeting will give you the opportunity to provide valuable input for this important campus-wide event," says a note from Waterloo International. "As planning continues to unfold, and we start to book events in celebration of international education please continue to check the Waterloo International – International Week webpage. For more information, contact Aisha Shibli."

If you are interested in attending the consultation meeting, please RSVP.

The Registrar's Office has announced that the spring 2021 final examination schedule is now available on the web. The Registrar's Office has also published guidelines for the examination period:

  • Online courses: Exams will only occur online; no in-person exams will be permitted;
  • On-campus courses: Exams may occur in-person, but would occur in classrooms rather than the Physical Activities Complex while adhering to appropriate physical distancing guidelines.

Link of the day

45 years ago: The Man Who Fell To Earth

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

Course templates are available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly.

The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information. Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

Stay informed about COVID cases on campus by consulting the COVID case tracker.

The Writing and Communication Centre has virtual services and programs to help undergrads, grad students, postdocs and faculty members with academic writing.

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action assists undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, faculty, and alumni through navigating career services that are right for them. You can attend a one-on-one appointment or same day drop-in session at the CCA for assistance with cover letter writing, career planning and much more. You can also book an appointment online or visit our Live Chat to connect with our Client Support Team. The CCA is here to help you.

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

The Library has published a resource guide on how to avoid information overload.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Indigenous Initiatives Office is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the university Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support  - MATES, Glow Centre, RAISE, Women’s Centre - Visit to book an appointment

Bike Centre – Open via Appointments and Rentals

Campus Response Team, ICSN, Off Campus Community and Co-op Connection all available online. Check for more details.

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Student Life Centre. If you have any questions please email us at

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at caps@wusa.caMore information is available.

WUSA Commissioners who can help in a variety of areas that students may be experiencing during this time:

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Healthy Warriors at Home (Online Fitness)

Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

Renison English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join your fellow Warriors, donate blood and help us win the Blood Battle against Laurier for a second year in a row. Set up a profile or add the PFL code: UNIV960995 to your account if you have a account already. Questions? Contact

Bike Month, Tuesday, June 1 to Wednesday, June 30.

Concept Intro Session: Conversing with Confidence, Tuesday, June 8, 5:30 p.m., virtual event.

W4: Waterloo Womxn + Nonbinary Wednesdays Workshops, Wednesday, June 9.

More Feet on the Ground Mental Health Training, Wednesday, June 9, 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon.

2Spirit, Queer & Trans Futures Panel, Wednesday, June 9, 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. 

Concept Working Session: Customer Validation Practice, Wednesday, June 9, 5:30 p.m., virtual event.

Conrad School, Part-time Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) Info.Session, “Meet the Part-time MBETs” Online information session and Q&A with current part-time MBET students and alumni, Wednesday, June 9, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Happy Pride: Steps towards creating and maintaining healthy queer positive relationships, Wednesday, June 9, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Lectures in Catholic Experience presents No Power Higher: 12-step Recovery without God, Friday, June 11, 7:30 p.m. featuring Zachary Munro, doctoral candidate, University of Waterloo / Researcher for Non-religion in a Complex Future.

PhD oral defences

School of Pharmacy. Paul MALIK,”Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic Modeling of Monoclonal Antibodies in Children.” Supervisor(s), Andrea Edginton. Thesis available by request from SGO – Oral defence Friday, June 11, 1:00 p.m.

Physics & Astronomy. Zujun XU,”Red-shifted Spectrum in Multi-frequency Raman Generation.” Supervisor(s), Donna Strickland. Thesis available by request from SGO – Oral defence Tuesday, June 15, 9:00 a.m.

Combinatorics and Optimization. Kazuhiro Nomoto, “Induced Binary Submatroids.” Supervisor, Peter Nelson. Thesis available from MGO – Oral defence Thursday, June 24, 9:00 a.m.

Biology. Ellen Cameron. “Spatiotemporal Shifts in Cyanobacterial Communities in a Northern Temperate Watershed – Applications of Next-Generation Sequencing and Implications for Monitoring and Climate Change Adaptation.” Supervisor(s), Kirsten Müller, Monica Emelko. Thesis available by request from SGO – Oral defence Thursday, June 24, 9:30 a.m.