On September 17th 2020, Sustainable Waterloo Region had the privilege to partner with Future Ancestors Services in presenting Anti-Racism & Sustainability in Waterloo Region: A Facilitated Discussion. This two hour event with Future Ancestors Founder, Larissa Crawford, offered past and present residents of Waterloo region an opportunity to come together for a facilitated discussion that explores racism, triumphs, and opportunities in our sustainability community.

This event was generously sponsored in part by The Co-operators Group through our membership in the Green Economy Canada network, allowing the community to attend at no cost. Participants were also given the option to  the African Community Wellness Initiative in lieu of admission. 

In her inspiring talk, Larissa shared with us the goal of her work in

anti-racism and restorative Practice. Future Ancestor’s seeks to address our accountability as future ancestors, and to examine history and our future through a lens of accestral accountability. 

This supports: 

  • The need for us to understand our own ancestors and how their actions have impacted the spaces we occupy. How have their in-actions impacted those spaces and realities of our lives today? 
  • As Future ancestors ourselves, we need to acknowledge and take accountability for the harm, that our actions have both positive and negative consequences. 

From there, she established a space for attendees not only to learn, but  to share and participate in a respectful and honest dialogue about barriers, racism, and opportunities in sustainability, specific to our community. After a presentation designed to foster confidence and capacity to move forward in more equitable and anti-racist ways., brave space was created for participants to engage.

An overview of her presentation, in her own words, is provided below for your consideration and reflection. Thank you to Larissa and Future Ancestors for your time with us and for sparking an inspiring discussion, thank you to The Co-operators Group for supporting our work, and a very special thank you to our community for joining us and sharing your stories.

Exploring the Racist Impacts in the Environmental Sector

How does ancestral and current bias impact the sustainability and environmental sector? Why is it important to examine the effects of racism & systemic privileging in this sector? 

Looking to the North

When we look to Northern Canada, we can see the impacts of how our personal bias can impact marginalized groups and policies within this sector. Despite their rich knowledge base, Northern Canada is frequently not considered in policy discussion and considerations for solutions. There is a biased lens in place that humans are separate from our ecosystems. 


  • Robin Bradasch, Member of Kluane First Nation, and Director of Governance for Crown Inigenous Relations & Northern Affairs. Robin’s experience highlighted:
    • The scientific community’s innate bias that the removal of a people from the land would not have an impact on that ecosystem, creating an imbalance. 
    • The permeating bias that humans are separate from nature or the construction of “wilderness.”
    • Devalued indigenous knowledge and view of the land, having white scientists dominate sustainability and sustainability work, elevating scientific knowledge above traditional. 

Addressing incidents of racism or the dominance of Whiteness is Waterloo Region’s environmental and sustainability community

What are the outcomes when we choose to address incidents of racism or white dominance in the sustainability community? 

  • Robin Bradasch felt frustration with the white dominance she experienced. To overcome this resistance she needed to  identify the cause of the barrier and target it. The outcome was: 
    • The creation of languages and approaches that supported cultural reintegration by doing the work of learning how best to support those who needed to understand why it was important.
  • How do we take this example and place it in the scope of our own experience? 
    • We need to examine whiteness and white fragility. To educate and practice the skills needed to have difficult conversations. 

Personal experiences of not “belonging” in Waterloo Region’s environmental & sustainability community

What happens when a space we enter lacks a sense of belonging? 

Our next steps…Moving beyond our facilitated dialogue? 

How can we in the Waterloo Region community take the next steps in anti-racism and systemic white privilege? Despite the time to examine the problem with the depth required, how can we bring critical thinking in ourselves and our teams? What do we take away from today’s questions and language? 

Anti-racism in the context of Equality, Equity, and Systemic barrier removal? 

Anti-racism requires a complex approach to avoid the danger of using it in an incorrect way. Language and support is essential to framing your work in anti-racism and moving forward. 

What about Quotas & Equity? 

  • To use quota’s successfully it requires an explanation to the community as to why it is in place and how it will change the fabric of the organization. This helps to dispel “free ride” thinking and the creation of belonging. 
  • What does a successful quota do? Good equity measures through quotas looks to holistically change the organization. 
  • Organizations that have been created with policies have laid the groundwork that remove systemic barriers within, as well as laying the foundation to better respond to racism and barriers occuring outside the organization. 

Anti-racism within the lense of diversity & multiculturalism

The problems of using diversity & multiculturalism interchangeably with anti-racism: 

  • Multiculturalism seeks to bring excluded groups into a dominant identity & culture which can be part of a racialized and single-culture lens. In addition, by only focusing on the positives, the barriers and experiences that are occurring cannot be overcome. 
  • Diversity & inclusion becomes problematic when policies are implemented without the anti-racism work being done. We miss the bigger picture of looking deeper into the cause.
  • Anti-racism requires us to take the next steps on our journey. To take responsibility for the harm that has been done before putting diversity and inclusion policies into place. Anti-racism asks us to unpack and talk about racism and address the problem as the first step.

Looking for opportunities to foster anti-racism in Waterloo Region’s environmental & sustainability community, our roles and responsibilities