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About the Institute

Dialogues in Diversity

About the webinar series

This multi-part series is a collaboration between the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto. Dialogues in Diversity offers multi-disciplinary perspectives on an eclectic range of issues pertinent to the EDI implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The series consists of expert-led, moderated panel discussions focused on five broad thematic areas in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Mental Health and Wellness
  2. Women, Gender and Sexual Diversity
  3. Health Inequity, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Allyship  
  4. Work and Accommodation
  5. Human Rights

Since the first COVID-19 diagnosis, the existence of privilege for some groups but not others, which has made the latter more susceptible to experiencing the burden of the disease’s effects more severely, has been brought into sharp focus.

Despite assertions that we’re all in this together, inequities - in access to affordable (reproductive) healthcare, safe and adequate housing, financial resources, technology, the facility to work from home, maintaining food security and the ability to practise effective social distancing - cannot be ignored.

This sharpened focus, on manifest and latent cultural and socio-economic inequities, has however presented an excellent opportunity to mount a robust response to the challenges of COVID-19, which considers invisibilized barriers to access and equity. It also provides a space for careful thought and meaningful dialogue around issues of equity, inclusion, human rights and social justice, which have the potential to create new paradigms of advocacy, action and sustainable social interventions for historically vulnerable populations.  

Dialogues in Diversity: Explorations of the EDI Implications of COVID-19 is a series of conversations among leading academics, EDI practitioners and social justice advocates, whose work reflects the realities of COVID-19 and the challenges we now face. It is intended to provide a space to engage in critical analysis and offer provocative ideas and thoughtful insight into how collective and unique COVID-19 challenges can be navigated in various ways across various communities.  

Seminar 1: Dialogues in Diversity: Setting the Context. The EDI Implications of COVID-19

Watch a recording of Seminar 1

  • Dr. Denise O'Neil Green, Ryerson University’s Vice-President, Equity and Community Inclusion (featured speaker)
  • Dr. Ronald Cohn, President and CEO,The Hospital for Sick Children
  • Dr. Jayne Danska, Associate Chief Faculty Development & Diversity, SickKids
  • Anita Balakrishna, Director, EDI Office of Inclusion & Diversity Faculty of Medicine, The University of Toronto 
  • Moderated by: Suzanne Charles-Watson, Program Manger, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office, SickKids


Seminar 2: Thinking Differently about COVID-19: Neurodiversity, Mental Health and Wellness

Watch a recording of Seminar 2

The webinar explored the range of psycho-social challenges and demands placed on individuals, families and communities by COVID-19. In addition to a discussion around mental health during the pandemic, the webinar heard from voices of the neuro-diverse community, who may be especially vulnerable at this time. The webinar will also provide insight for parents (particularly of neuro-diverse children) on instructional and pedagogical approaches that help children to adjust to home-schooling and the loss of social connections.

  • Dr. Andrew B. Campbell, Adjunct Lecturer OISE, The University of Toronto
  • Wanda K. Deschamps, Inclusivity and Neurodiversity Champion, Founder and Principal Liberty Co (Waterloo)
  • Dr. Yona Lunsky, Director Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre Director, Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD) Program CAMH
  • Suzanne Fani, Registered Psychotherapist and EMDR Internationally Certified therapist
  • Moderated by: Kelly McNaughton, Program Manager, Peer Support and Trauma Response, SickKids


Seminar 3: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women, Girls and Gender Considerations of a COVID-19 Response

Watch a recording of Seminar 3

The webinar explores the ways in which considerations of gender must be included in an adequate response to COVID-19.

  • Mercy Lilian Gichuki, Program Manager, The Salvation Army Honeychurch Family Life Resource Centre
  • Alicia Mondesire, International Development Consultant
  • Paulette Senior, CEO and President, Canadian Women’s Foundation
  • Farrah S. Khan, Gender Justice, Leadership and Inclusion Speaker Policy Advisor and Educator
  • Eva Simone, Trans Advocate and Performer
  • Moderated by: Suzanne Charles-Watson, Program Manger, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office, The Hospital for Sick Children


Seminar 4: Are We All in this Together?: Health Inequity, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Allyship during COVID-19 Part 1 (July 23, 2020)

Watch a recording of Seminar 4

At the best of times, structural discrimination worsens inequalities surrounding access to healthcare and treatment. In the COVID-19 context, disparities in access to privileges - such as affordable healthcare, safe and adequate housing, technology, food security and the ability to effective social distancing - have been sharpened. The webinar will examine how an effective response to COVID-19 must consider barriers to access and equity, generally; and how these inequities impact health outcomes, for various communities.

  • Dr. Anna Banerji, Director, Global and Indigenous Health at Continuing Professional Development Faculty of Medicine, The University of Toronto
  • Dr. Lily Cho, Associate Dean, Global and Community Engagement, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, York University
  • Dr. Melissa S. Creary, Assistant Professor, Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Dr. Roberta K. Timothy, Assistant Professor, Social & Behavioural Health Sciences Division Dalla Lana School of Public Health, The University of Toronto
  • Moderated by: Dr. Michael Salter, Chief of Research, Northbridge Chair in Paediatric Research, SickKids


Seminar 5: Are We All in this Together?: Health Inequity, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Allyship during COVID-19 Part 2 (July 30, 2020)

Watch a recording of Seminar 5

Despite outpourings of goodwill and communal responses occasioned by the current COVID-19 pandemic, the assertion that We’re All in This Together - though well-intentioned - inadvertently masks the very real inequities that exist between various groups; and the resilience each is able to enjoy in response to the challenges of the virus’ spread. Discussions in Part 2 will be focused on the experience of vulnerable communities during COVID-19.

  • Dr. Nikoli Attai, Provost's Postdoctoral Fellow in Women and Gender Studies, The University of Toronto
  • Avvy Go, Co-founder Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change Clinic Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
  • Dr. Indra Narang, Associate Chief Faculty Development and Diversity Department of Pediatrics, SickKids
  • Dr. Pamela Palmater, Chair for Indigenous Governance, Ryerson University
  • Moderated by: Karima Karmali, Director, Centre for Innovation & Excellence in Child- and Family-Centred Care, SickKids


Seminar 6: Working 9 to 5: Remote Work, Accommodations and Workplace Culture during COVID-19 (August 13, 2020)

Watch a recording of Seminar 6

COVID-19 has changed the way in which workplaces are constituted and operate. In many instances non-essential staff, aided by technology, have been working from home. Like every other aspect of COVID-19 however, the transition has not been without challenge, and raises issues of workplace culture as homes become offices. Designed to share employee and employer experiences and offer best practice strategies, this theme will explore the challenges of business continuity.

  • Dr. Wendy Cukier, Founder and Academic Director Diversity Institute; Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub; Future Skills Centre, Ryerson University
  • Susan O’Dowd, Vice President, Human Resources, SickKids
  • Dr. Simon Sharpe, Associate Chief, Research Training and Career Development, SickKids
  • Dr. Lisa Ross-Rodiguez, Director Strategic Evidence and Action Ministry of Labor and Immigration Government of Alberta
  • Moderated by: Ramune Pleinys,Executive Director, Research Operations, SickKids


Seminar 7: COVID-19, Rights and Responsibilities:Lessons Learned and the Way Forward (August 27, 2020)

Watch a recording of Seminar 7

Ultimately, any effective response to COVID-19 must be informed by a human rights-based approach (HRBA), in alignment with international rights treaties including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as with domestic law. Such an approach offers a unique opportunity to benefit all societies, both during the pandemic and for generations to come. The final webinar in the series will focus on the way forward out of the pandemic, and the establishment of a HRBA framework to guide future global crises.

  • Jodie Glean, Director, Anti-Racism & Cultural Diversity Office, The University of Toronto
  • Rita Samson, Public Education and Outreach Officer Policy, Education, Monitoring & Outreach, The Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • Nav K. Sing, Barrister and Solicitor, Tribunal Member and Adjudicator, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
  • Anita Balakrishna, Director, EDI Office of Inclusion & Diversity Faculty of Medicine, The University of Toronto
  • Moderated by: Suzanne Charles-Watson, Program Manger, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Office, The Hospital for Sick Children


This series is hosted by the SickKids Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Steering Committee, chaired by Dr. Jayne Danska and Dr. Indra Narang  which is mandated to provide leadership consistent with EDI best-practice, to raise awareness, build capacity and effect institutional change across the multiple constituents, audiences and stakeholders of the hospital.

The series is hosted in partnership with the Office of Inclusion & Diversity at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine chaired by Dr. Lisa Robinson, which is committed to the design of programs and policies that promote an equitable, inclusive and diverse environment, and makes inclusion and equity essential components of how excellence in scholarship, practice and health outcomes is defined.


Program Chairs and Logistics:

  • Suzanne M. Charles Watson (Lead)
    Program Manager, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
    SickKids Research Institute
  • Tamara Greaves
    Administrative Coordinator
    Faculty Development & Diversity
    SickKids Research Institute
  • Marta Guzik-Eldridge
    Lead Planner- Conference Management
    Post MD Education- Continuing Professional Development
    University of Toronto