Join our allyship journey at our upcoming conference

2023 NSCSW conference: The ethics of allyship

Everyone is warmly invited to join us for our annual conference next month, May 12-13. We’ll be reflecting upon the ethics involved in allyship, in theory and in practice, and the ways that it is aligned with our evolution as a profession. The poem “Wanna be an ally” is serving as the foundation for this conference and a guide for the degree of awareness that we seek to build on this important issue.

We are grateful to our keynote speaker for joining us. Dr. Raven Sinclair will help frame this important conversation that is deeply needed for ethical social work practice in a world where colonialism, systemic injustice and internalized bias are pervasive and often unconscious.

Dr. Raven Sinclair is Nehiyaw/Cree, Young Dog Assiniboine, Crow, and Red River Métis. A member of George Gordon First Nation of Treaty #4, Saskatchewan, she was a full professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Regina from 2005-2022, and has 20 years of Indigenous research and research ethics experience in Indigenous child welfare, youth suicide, cultural identity, bullying, and community based research. Dr. Sinclair is an author, filmmaker, researcher, consultant and public speaker, and she facilitates workshops on communication, lateral violence intervention, and cultural competency.

In the keynote address, Dr. Sinclair will critiques the concept of allyship and how its loose definitions can lead to performativity when it comes to being an ally, unless there is an emphasis on the quality of support. Unless allyship demands personal investment and the transformation of inequitable interpersonal relations, it is not only meaningless, but perpetuates harm. Dr. Sinclair’s session draws upon Indigenous knowledge and ethics as a philosophical framework against which allyship can be critiqued and potentially transformed as an act of decolonization.

This opening keynote address for our conference will form the organizing framework for our other conference sessions and breakout groups. Dr. Sinclair will also return at the end of the conference to participate in a closing panel discussion on Saturday afternoon, to assist attendees in reflecting upon the themes raised during the conference. Last year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Sheri McConnell, RSW, will join us for that panel.

Between those two sessions we will feature an array of intersectional perspectives, to help us begin to think critically about how to translate the message of this conference into everything we do. This conference aims to provide opportunities for learning, integration, conversation and connection, as well as encourage unlearning and inspire advocacy.

  • Ethicist Moji Adurogbangba will join us from British Columbia to explore the ethical implications of allyship.
  • Dr. Margaret Robinson, a bisexual and two-spirit scholar from Eski’kewaq, Nova Scotia, and a member of the Lennox Island First Nation, will join NSCSW professional development committee member Dani Sherwood in reflecting upon the journey toward allyship.
  • Members of the NSCSW social justice committee will join community advocacy partners in reflecting upon the lessons learned from our recent Advocacy Day event, and how to translate theoretical conversations around allyship into concrete advocacy for systemic change.
  • Conference attendees will also have an opportunity to learn from community leader and advocate, Veronica Merryfield, whose courageous work in advocating for legislative change around gender-affirming care and justice for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community has meant experiencing threats of violence.

Becoming an ally is challenging, but it is a vital skill for ethical social work practice and conscientious living in a world that remains plagued by systemic violence.

For Nova Scotian social workers who attend the entire event, this conference will fulfil all of the mandatory topics for their 2023 professional development inventory, and support them in completing a significant proportion of their annual professional development expectations.

Most importantly, this conference will inform, inspire, challenge and encourage us all. We hope to see you there.