Department of National Defence
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) micro-mission fellow, Salisa Bose (she/her/hers), is passionate about building a stronger culture of inclusion in the workplace. She joined the D&I micro-mission in part to further her vision of a workplace where all employees feel a sense of belonging and are equally accepted, treated and valued. Her goal is to promote an enduring shift within DND's workplace culture by connecting and collaborating with like-minded people.
Immigrating to Canada from Guyana, a country comprising a multiplicity of cultures, she learned first-hand the importance of encouraging an inclusive environment that encourages expression, clears barriers and appreciates cultural uniqueness. Her cultural identity remains heavily influenced by her formative years and she is very proud of her Indo-Guyanese roots.
“In Guyana I experienced an indelible sense of belonging to a wider community, one that is richly diverse, accepting and respectful,” she recalls. “It really was the kindness, charity and compassion demonstrated by my grandmother that instilled those same qualities in me.”
As a visible minority, Salisa’s personal experiences with discrimination inspired her to raise awareness on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusivity.
“It’s important to use these experiences to cast a light on racism and how it is deeply ingrained, not only the fabric of the society we live in, but in the corporate culture of our own government departments. As leaders we always strive to do a better job at raising awareness and pushing for positive change in behaviours and attitudes.”
She believes that collaboration is key to promoting an environment of inclusivity. “By engaging in conversations with colleagues in ways that encourage perspective-shifting conversations, while acknowledging any biases, we can create a work environment where diversity is openly embraced.”
In her own workplace, Salisa never misses an opportunity to share her rich heritage with colleagues. That might include offering recipes or sharing stories about her culture, and introducing them to a different way of life.
“For me it’s not a difficult task. Everything about Guyana, from its diverse people to its varied culinary offerings, forms part of a rich cultural mosaic.”
With a melange of cultures, the cuisine is deliciously varied with endless choices from Creole, East Indian, African, Portuguese, Amerindian, Chinese and European dishes. Some of Salisa's personal favorites include shrimp curry, served with dhal sauce and roti, a type of flatbread; pepperpot, a dish of indigenous origin, which is also a Christmas tradition in many non-Indigenous households; and Jerk chicken, a perennial favourite throughout the Caribbean region.
“In many ways, Guyanese food also acts as a symbol of sharing, sociability and collectivism, bringing people together from all walks of life, particularly through weddings, parties, festivals, and other celebrations.”
In Guyana, important religious holidays and festivals are celebrated collectively as a nation, irrespective of ethnicity, allowing everyone to embrace, rejoice and enjoy our compatriot’s' customs, traditions and cuisines. Some of her fondest memories growing up in Guyana involved attending holidays and festivals with her grandmother. “Holi, was always one of my favourites, a festival in the Hindu religion, where revellers throw colourful powder on each other and enjoy delectable feasts.”
Salisa sums up her philosophy in one simple phrase: “We all deserve to belong.”