‘Get off the fence’ on racism

Dr. Lisa Gunderson on racism

Dr. Lisa Gunderson

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer — When tackling racism and racial discrimination in the workplace, Dr. Lisa Gunderson advises members of the Defence Team to pull no punches.

“You are either engaging in your thoughts, actions, and behaviors in trying to advocate for racial equity in the workplace, being anti-racist, disrupting or dismantling racist systems spaces, or perpetuating it,” said Gunderson. “There is no in-between.”

On Apr. 25, Dr. Gunderson held a Q&A session as a follow-up to her first presentation, Micro-interventions, held on March 16 in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, part of the MARPAC Health and Wellness Strategy Speakers Series.

Dr. Gunderson encourages military members, Department of National Defence civilian staff and others not to sit on the fence when it comes to confronting those who are perpetuating racialized violence or racist policies. The alternative is much worse, she explains, because it adds fuel to the fire and may make others assume you condone or accept racism.

During the Q&A session, Dr. Gunderson shared her insights on how to confront racism in the workplace and provided advice for department managers setting up workplace training on racism.

“I think my presentations went very well because there are so many people on the Defence Team who are already invested in fighting racism and sexism in their many forms,” she said. “Not only did the presentation provide a platform for people who want to hear these discussions and get involved, for others I think there was some learning going on.”

Andrew Au, Budget Manager for MARPAC HQ and the Civilian Co-chair of the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG), believes the popularity of Dr. Gunderson’s presentation provides further evidence that the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Armed Forces and its membership are evolving.

“An important point raised by Dr. Gunderson was that if an organization’s culture has truly changed, people will attend events like this without being asked,” said Au. “That was the case here.”

Dr. Lisa Gunderson is a psychologist, educator, community speaker, organizer, leader, equity consultant and trainer for various institutions in Canada and the United States. Her business One Love Consulting focuses on issues that impact IBPoC (Indigenous, Black, People of Color] populations, especially on racialized violence and mental wellness.

Born and educated in the United States, Dr. Gunderson is a registered clinical counsellor in Canada and an inactive licensed psychologist in California. She has some familiarity with the military and its structure as her husband Allen Gunderson, served in the U.S. Marines during the first Persian Gulf War.

She has taught at Camosun College, the Justice Institute of B.C. and Vancouver Island University.

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