DIVERSEtalks: Conversations for Change

A panel and speakers’ series presented by DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society

We need meaningful connection today more than ever. Let’s amplify different perspectives, ignite conversation and have transformative dialogue on issues important to our diverse community in Canada.

Our DIVERSEtalks series is moderated by DIVERSEcity’s leaders, including Neelam Sahota, CEO, and Garrison Duke, COO, and welcome guest panellists who bring different perspectives and expertise to the table.

Want to attend an upcoming event? DIVERSEtalks are free to community members, stakeholders and guests, as well as DIVERSEcity staff.

Upcoming DIVERSEtalks 2023

We’re working on some ideas for Fall 2023.  Check back soon for news of upcoming DIVERSEtalks!

Watch our videos of these past dialogue topics:

Past DIVERSEtalks

Advancing Women in Leadership

A part of our DIVERSEcity X Minerva Women’s Leadership Forum, we held a live DIVERSEtalks panel.

“Advancing Women in Leadership”
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Anvil Centre, New Westminster BC
10:30–11:45 am

Moderated by Neelam Sahota, CEO, DIVERSEcity, our panellists included:

Cyndi McLeod is CEO, Global University Systems Canada; Chair of the Board, University Canada West. Throughout her career, Cyndi has been involved in various aspects of international education and has held senior leadership roles in the Canadian public education system. She was Associate Vice-President, International & CEO, Global Operations at Thompson Rivers University (TRU World) and prior to that was Executive Director, International.

Prem Gill is CEO of Creative BC. The organization is designated by the Province of British Columbia to focus on uniting, sustaining and growing British Columbia’s dynamic and diverse creative sector including motion picture, music and sound recording, interactive and digital media, and magazine and book publishing. Prem has been named one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women, Vancouver Magazine’s “Power 50” and received the Community Catalyst award from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. She brings more than 20 years of experience from the digital media and entertainment industries to her current role as CEO, where she is responsible for delivering a wide range of programs and services that will expand B.C.’s creative economy to reach its economic, social and creative potential both at home and globally.

Shalyma Cambridge is Director, Client Solutions, HRx, an executive coach, facilitator, and frequent speaker, passionate about the development of courageous leadership, inclusive practices, and demonstrated commitment to diversity. She brings a deep understanding of complex organizations and over a decade of experience executing communication and change management strategies; developing and facilitating training; and coaching in a variety of settings.

Diane Dou is Chief Experience Officer at BlueShore Financial. Diane is an innovative and transformative senior business leader with commercial and governance acumen and over 20 years’ experience in financial services. Her expertise also includes designing and managing large-scale human-digital integrated business models. She was most recently the Managing Director for EY Canada, where she led Financial Services for Western Canada. She has served in a number of C-suite roles with leading global and regional financial institutions, including HSBC Investment Funds Canada, HSBC Personal Banking and Wealth Management Canada and Prospera Credit Union. Diane also serves on a number of Boards including the Terry Fox Foundation, Abbotsford Airport Authority, Atira Women’s Resource Society and is a former Board member of the BC Real Estate Association.

Efe Fruci is the Founder, Coach & Consultant, The Coaching Element and the Odihi Foundation. Efe is a globally recognized career and confidence coach, TEDx speaker, consultant, serial entrepreneur, and author of Faith Over Fear. She is dedicated to building confidence and helping others unleash their potential with their talents, voice, and skills, especially women. With an extensive background in female empowerment, her decade-long career expands over several industries, including hospitality and management, science, and biotechnology.

Supporting Black Excellence for an Equitable Future

A part of our Black in BC event:

“Supporting Black Excellence for an Equitable Future”
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Surrey City Hall (13450 104 Avenue, Surrey, BC)
Time of full event: 4–8 pm, with DIVERSEtalks panel starting at 6:15 pm in the theatre

Moderated by Garrison Duke, COO, DIVERSEcity, our panellists included:

Dr. Yabome Gilpin-Jackson (she/her/hers) is a multi-award winning scholar-practitioner in human and organization development with research awards and professional recognitions in Canada, UK and the United States including the prestigious Harry Jerome Award given in recognition of Black-Canadian achievements. She is an executive leader, consultant and educator in academia and across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Dr Gilpin-Jackson holds a Ph.D. in Human Development from Fielding Graduate University where she is a post-doctoral Institute for Social Innovation Scholar. In addition to being Founder and Principal at SLD consulting, she has served in Executive Leadership roles within the British Columbia Public Sector and is Simon Fraser University’s first Vice-President, People, Equity and Inclusion. Her publications include, Transformation After Trauma, The Power of Resonance, co-editor for the 2022 Palgrave Handbook of Learning for Transformation, the We Will Lead Africa book series and  short story collections about global African experiences: Identities, Ancestries, Destinies.  She was the 2021 Chair and is the 2022 Co-Chair of the Organization Development Network. When asked about her work in the world, Yabome describes it as “developing our human capacity to be, think and do things differently and better.” If you ask what she is best known for, she will tell you, her wicked laugh!

Jonathan Cauri is Development Director for Umoja Operation, a 20-year-old charity which provides settlement support to Surrey newcomers, but primarily those of refugee background. He has a background in business communications, client relations, organizational development and has a passion for community engagement. He is originally from Nairobi, Kenya and has lived in Canada since 2002.


Anthonia Ogundele is Founder and Executive Director of Ethós Lab, a non-profit STEM and culture-focused Innovation Academy for youth ages 13-18 that provides access to emerging technologies, culture, and a community of innovators.  Previously, she was with VanCity Credit Union as Manager, Environmental Sustainability, Business Continuity and Emergency Planning.  She continues to consult as a resilience professional with the World Bank. Ms. Ogundele has a passion for community.  In 2016, she founded the Hogan’s Alley Land Trust (adjacent to Northeast False Creek), which evolved into the Hogan’s Alley Society through a merger with the Hogan’s Alley Memorial Project.  Ms. Ogundele was former Chair of the Coal Harbour Residents Association. In 2016, she founded the Cheeky Proletariat gallery, an accessible and inclusive space for the free expression of all people. She holds a Bachelor of Social Science and a certificate in Governance and Public Policy from the University of Ottawa and a Masters of Environmental Studies, Urban Planning from the University of Waterloo. Ms. Ogundele was recently honoured with the City of Vancouver’s Black History Month Community Leader Award.

Working with Purpose in Social Services 

Moderated by Neelam Sahota, CEO, DIVERSEcity
Wednesday, January 25, 2023, 10:30 am – 11:30 am
Online via Zoom

This panel discussed the opportunities, challenges and approaches of working in the social services sector. What impact can we have by working in non-profit organizations and social services? What are some best practices in approaching our work? And what’s the role of this sector in nationbuilding in Canada? We explored ways that we can make a difference in the world with our work.

Our panel:

Sobhana Jaya-Madhavan worked with the Government of British Columbia serving in front-line child welfare and senior management positions for nearly two decades. In 2015, she was appointed as the first Executive Director of BC’s Provincial Office of Domestic Violence. She is now Associate Vice President, External Relations, and Adjunct & Visiting Professor at Simon Fraser University.


Tina Balachandran is Manager, Adult Employment Programs at DIVERSEcity, helping to develop and implement employment programs for internationally trained professionals and underemployed jobseekers. She also has a background as a facilitator, journalist and storyteller.



Jonathan Cauri is Development Director for Umoja Operation, a 20-year-old charity which provides settlement support to Surrey newcomers, but primarily those of refugee background. He has a background in business communications, client relations, organizational development and has a passion for community engagement. He is originally from Nairobi, Kenya and has lived in Canada since 2002.


Trang Nguyen is the Senior Operations Manager at WorkBC Centre Vancouver South, operated by YWCA Metro Vancouver. She has close to 15 years of diverse experience in career development, accounting and customer service. Working intensively in the social services sector for the last seven years, Trang has developed a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities as well as challenges professionals face in the field.



Reimagining Belonging: What does Belonging Mean to You? 

Moderated by Neelam Sahota, CEO, DIVERSEcity
Tuesday, November 22, 2022, 10:30 am – 12 pm

This panel discussed the topic of belonging around issues of identity, reconciliation and building connected, equitable communities for the future. Belonging is a fundamental human need for everyone, among family, community and the  workplace.  But what does it mean to belong as an immigrant or settler on unceded territory? What does belonging mean in a society that’s divided, transforming and trying to rebuild post-pandemic?

Our panel:

Chantelle Krish is Executive Director, Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland. She is an award-winning executive with 15 years of progressive leadership experience creating impact through advocacy, programming, fundraising and stakeholder engagement. In 2018, Chantelle received a Business in Vancouver Forty under 40 award.


Lisa Paull is Director of Programs and Services, New Relationship Trust. She is a direct descendant from the Squamish nation and she resides in the village of eshl7han and is a mother to three children, she aunty, cousin and sister to many. She comes from a long line of traditional medicine, songs and ceremony that are strongly connected to her roots of who she is and where shew comes from. Her connection to the land is part of her own healing journey and where she finds her strength.

Upkar Singh Tatlay
is Board Chair, DIVERSEcity, in addition to holding many other community leadership positions. He is the Chief Technology Officer at Oxus Machine Works Inc., where he oversees the development of health care innovations and experimental development biotech projects related to the overdose crisis, homelessness, food security and mental health. See his full bio.


+  Special Guest Ancel Xiaoyu Zhu, who is part of Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House’s Waacus Salee Frog Spirit Initiative Team that helps to lead the Belonging in Unceded Territory project, in collaboration with the UBC Centre for Migration Studies, AMSSA and ISSofBC.


Supporting Newcomers in Navigating the Canadian Labour Market

Moderated by Garrison Duke, Director, DIVERSEcity
Thursday, July 14, 2022, 11–12:30 pm

We are expecting approximately 432,000 newcomers in 2022 and more in future years. Immigration is predominantly driven by labour market needs and this will be true more than ever going forward, with many industries facing staffing shortages across Canada. Despite coming to Canada with a world of experience and credentials, newcomers and skilled immigrants continue to face barriers in entering their field in Canada.

Many immigrants look for educational opportunities or relicensing in Canada to help them get back into their field, and in the last couple of years micro-credentials have taken centre stage as an important part of bridging  immigrants into relevant work faster. In this DIVERSEtalks event, our panel discussion will raise ideas and awareness on how we can better support newcomers through these short-term, training and certifications, while making a positive impact on Canada’s economy and labour market at the same time.

Our panel:

Nick Noorani is a social entrepreneur, motivational speaker, consultant and founder of Immigrant Networks, a community built by immigrants to help newcomers find and keep a job. He is also the founder of Canadian Immigrant magazine and Prepare for Canada, a best-selling author and a motivational speaker.


Michael Yue is Interim Director, Partnership Development Office at Vancouver Community College.



Juan Azmitia  is a faculty member and part-time studies academic coordinator at BCIT.



Vandna Joshi is a Senior Manager with DIVERSEcity, serving the Employment Programs team for many years before recently moving to the People & Culture department.



Voices Out of Violence: Working Together to Support Survivors Across Cultures

In honour of Victims and Survivors of Crime Week 2022
Thursday, May 19, 2022, 11:30 am to 12:30 pm

A panel discussion on the issues around supporting survivors of violence, especially women and children from across cultures, through a lens of cultural safety, compassion and respect. Let’s discuss how can we meet them where they are , while helping them access support and find healing, while supporting service providers delivering services to them.

Our panel:

Richa Karkee is Manager, Violence Prevention Services, at DIVERSEcity. She oversees programs that support women and children facing domestic violence with programs such as Stopping the Violence, PEACE and It Happens Here Too…, all delivered from the culturally safe Roots of Safety framework.



Shahnaz Rahman is the Executive Director at the Surrey Women’s Centre. She has over 30 years of combined experience as an educator, advocate, author, front line counsellor, workshop facilitator, provincial coordinator of counselling programs for women and children and as a community liaison. (Samantha Grey, Program Director/Human Trafficking Project Lead, at Surrey Women’s Centre will be taking Shahnaz’s place.)


Syma Nehal is the Regional Manager for Nisa Homes Vancouver, a transition home for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. She has been with Nisa Homes for three years in several roles within the organization. Syma is currently serving the position of Board Director for the BC Society of Transition Homes.



With over 27 years of front-line experience working within the anti-violence field supporting self-identified girls, women and femmes who have experienced gender-based violence, Rosa Elena Arteaga is currently the Director of Clinical practice and Direct Services with Battered Women’s Support Services. Through an intersectional feminist, anti-oppression and decolonizing approach Rosa Elena has created and implemented programs and facilitated numerous workshops on violence prevention and intervention locally, nationally and internationally.


Zainab Ibrahim is an Iraqi born who has been living on the ancestral, traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples for the past 13 years. Zainab is a graduate student enrolled in the master of social work program at the University of Victoria. Zainab has worked with different non-profit organizations supporting abuse survivors for the past seven years.



An International Women’s Day Event: Women Leading to #BreaktheBias

Moderated by Neelam Sahota, Chief Executive Officer, DIVERSEcity
Monday, March 7, 2022, 11 am to 12:30 pm

A panel discussion on women’s equity in the workplace and beyond in today’s new normal.

Our panel:

Parliamentary Secretary Rachna Singh was first elected as MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers in May 2017. She was the convener of the Special Committee to Appoint a Police Complaint Commissioner and the Special Committee to Appoint a Conflict of Interest Commissioner.  She has worked as a drug and alcohol counsellor, a support worker for women facing domestic violence, and a community activist. She is the Parliamentary Secretary on Anti-Racism Initiatives.


Trish Mandewo is a Coquitlam City Councillor and CEO, Synergy Executive & Boards Consulting Group. An accomplished award-winning serial entrepreneur and diversity and inclusion strategist, Trish is an advocate for social change through various initiatives that champion and empower outsider groups. Trish has successfully built four businesses and two non-profits. She currently sits on several boards including Union of BC municipalities (UBCM) and Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) and rhe Coquitlam Foundation.


Sobhana Jaya-Madhavan, MSW, AVP, External Relations, Simon Fraser University. immigrated to Canada in 1995 after completing her education and working in Asia. She worked with the Government of British Columbia serving in front-line child welfare and senior management positions for nearly two decades. In 2015, she was appointed as the first Executive Director of BC’s Provincial Office of Domestic Violence. She joined Simon Fraser University (SFU) as Associate Vice President, External Relations in 2017. She engages with all levels of government and diverse organizations and communities to strengthen relationships and partnerships.

Robin Gill is currently Vice President with Talk Shop Media. Talk Shop Media is a national media relations company. Prior to joining TSM, Robin was a journalist for 27 years. She  most recently was a national anchor and correspondent for Global National — covering the pandemic, countless federal and provincial elections, the BC floods and fires, and the list goes on. Robin also gives her time to various causes in Vancouver including the VGH Gala Committee.


Annual Donation Announcement

During this DIVERSEtalks event, DIVERSEcity  also presented its annual donation to a women’s organization in honour of International Women’s Day, co-sponsored by Pacific Community Resources Society. This year’s recipient is Pacific Association of First Nations Women.

Co-sponsored by:

In Honour of Black History Month
Move Beyond Allyship: Practical Tips in Becoming a Co-conspirator

Guest Speaker: Moussa Magassa, PhD, IDI.QA
February 24, 2022, 11 am – 12 pm

Prejudice and discrimination, whether in their form of racism, ethnocentrism, religious bigotry, gender-based, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, are prevalent in Canadian societies. Systemic racism does not only kill, but it also hinders BIPOC people’s capability to effectively and equitably contribute to a healthy, sustainable and inclusive institutions and society. Therefore, it is not only crucial to engage in courageous conversations that denounce racism but also to go beyond being an ally to becoming a co-conspirator.

Dr. Moussa Magassa, PhD, IDI.QA, is the University of Victoria’s Principal Strategist, Community Engagement, JEDI and Anti-racism Education. Dr. Magassa is also an associate faculty in the UVic Social Justice Diploma program and diploma program in intercultural studies and practice. He is also associate faculty in Royal Roads University M.A in Global Leadership program. For nearly two decades, Dr. Magassa has also been teaching at the UBC Centre for Intercultural Communication, as well as serves as the CEO of consulting company, the Intercultural Capacity Building Inc.