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Diversify Dietetics Canadian Chapter

June 8, 2020

Guest Post written by Gurneet K. Dhami, BASc., MSc(c) and Safura Syed, MAHN, MSc(c), the Diversity Dietetics Canada Community (& BIPOC Group) Adminstrators

Dear Dietetic Professionals in Canada,

We stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous and racialized communities against racism. As settlers of South Asian descent, we acknowledge our privileges and role as treaty people in Kanata (Canada).

The unjust deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Caleb Tubila Njoko and Chantel Moore in Canada have sparked conversations concerning around police brutality, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, we do condemn. We also condemn the violent deaths and police brutality of Black communities in America, where Diversify Dietetics originates from.

Racism is and has always been present in Canada with colonial roots. Systemic and institutionalized racism perpetuates our society from the food we eat to members in the dietetic profession. We cannot afford to ignore race and racism as it not only hurts the diverse groups, we serve but also the dietetic profession. The #AmplifyMelanatedVoicesChallenge by mental health therapist Alishia McCullough, along with dietitian and activist, Jessica Wilson last week showcased the need and possibility of racially diverse conversations that are missing in the spotlight. It is not the sole responsibility and burden for members of racialized communities, and we hope self-education as simple as searching “anti-racism resources in Canada” can be a place to start. We call on White allies to take part in discomfort and reflect on terms such as White privilege, White supremacy, White fragility and Whiteness. Learn the terms, name your intentions and support community within your capacity to do so (ex. political, social, financial, etc.).

This is just the start, and we hope you all can take part in paving anti-racist approaches to learning, education and practice in the field of dietetics and our everyday lives as humans.

In Service and Solidarity,

Gurneet K. Dhami, BASc., MSc(c) & Safura Syed, MAHN, MSc(c)

What is Diversify Dietetics?

Diversify Dietetics is an organization in United States founded by Registered Dietitians, Tamara Melton and Deanna Belleny. It is a community for students, professionals and educators dedicated to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in the nutrition and dietetics profession. The mission of Diversify Dietetics, as the name suggests, is to increase diversity in the field of dietetics by empowering individuals from under-represented minority groups.

Noticing a Gap in Canada – Creation of Diversify Dietetics Canadian Chapter

Gurneet K. Dhami and Safura Syed met while working towards their Masters in Applied Human Nutrition at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was from their initial conversations around the lack of racial diversity and mutual interest that led the two to collaborate as administrators for Diversify Dietetics Canadian Chapter and the Diversify Dietetics Canada BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Colour) Group.

Noticing the gap in racial diversity led to the development of Gurneet and Safura’s Master’s thesis research. Gurneet is exploring the experiences of racialized dietitians in Canadian dietetics while Safura is looking at the role of culture on meal satisfaction among senior and elderly first-generation immigrants’ food and mealtime practices in long term care facilities. While on the journey of becoming dietetics professionals, Gurneet and Safura realized how the profession is predominantly composed of White, middle class women with very little representation from racialized groups. This sent them on a mission to search for ways to help amplify voices of existing BIPOC dietitians and support racialized students in their journey of becoming dietitians.

Gurneet was initially introduced to Diversify Dietetics founders Deanna and Tamara through her thesis supervisor, Jennifer Brady, RD, PhD. She later became involved in their mentorship program that connected her with Vincci Tsui, RD. Vincci provided vital support to Gurneet throughout her dietetics education which was highlighted in their blog titled Dietetic Diversity: From Mentorship to Practice. This made Gurneet realize the importance of diversity-oriented mentorship in the profession for racialized individuals. Soon (with Deanna and Tamara’s blessings) Gurneet and Safura were given the opportunity to host the first ever in-person Diversify Dietetics meet-up in Halifax, funded by Critical Dietetics in October 2019 and more recently, a virtual meet-up last month in May 2020.

Currently, there are two online Facebook communities – Diversify Dietetics BIPOC and Diversify Dietetics Canada. The BIPOC group was suggested by Gurneet and created after a need for a private space for racialized members to discuss their lived experience was identified by participants at the initial Diversify Dietetics meet-up. The Diversify Dietetics Canada group was created most recently to include all members, beyond racialized dietitians and students, who all support this organization’s mission to work towards racial inclusivity with the dietetics profession.

Future of Diversify Dietetics Canada

Since the inception of Diversify Dietetics in Canada, there have been over 300 members who have joined. A special thanks to the behind the scene support from fellow racialized dietitians, Candace Aqui and Rosie Mensah for their time and ideas in transforming dietetic diversity in Canada. As for Gurneet and Safura, the hope is for this organization to lead conversations on anti-Black racism and anti-racism in the field of Canadian Dietetics, create a supportive space for curiosity and engagement in critical discussions on race, diversity and allyship.

To support Diversity Dietetics Canada, please complete the survey linked below. We appreciate your cooperation and support. Feel to reach out directly to info@diversifydietetics.org for any further input.

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