Event Recap: Listening to Understand


Indigenous Elders have told stories for generations. These stories are told not for the listener to respond, but for the listener to listen to understand. Listening to understand who the Elders are and where they come from; to teach the listener important teachings in life. 

This notion gives so much meaning to CPRS Vancouver’s recent event Listening to Understand: Advancing the Conversation about Anti-Racism in the PR and Communications Profession. Led and moderated by the esteemed Gail Strachan, CPRS National co-chair of the Equity and Inclusion Taskforce, panelists, Cher Lee, Vice President of Citizen Relations, and CPRS Vancouver board members Rashpal Rai, APR, and Sarah Thomas, shared their experiences of racism in the PR and Communications industry through their own lens. 

The event was a first for CPRS Vancouver--with a goal of bringing members together to listen to the lived experiences of the panelists. Through their stories and openness, event attendees were given an opportunity to really understand why it’s important to recognize that racism is still experienced among our colleagues every day. 

Through thoughtful sharing and storytelling, there were many teachings that came out of the dialogue with the panelists. The first being that as professional communicators, we are often in a position of leadership within our organizations. In our roles, we have the opportunity to influence change through our connections within our departments, through our client relationships, and by telling meaningful stories to the media. But as much as it’s important to speak up, we also need to listen to understand. We can then use those learnings to in turn, create more authenticity in our storytelling so that others can also listen. 

The attentiveness of those who attended Listening to Understand: Advancing the Conversation about Anti-Racism in the PR and Communications Profession in itself spoke volumes. Attendees were listening. A silent commitment to listen, learn and do better as professional communicators. 

We recognize that CPRS Vancouver is at the beginning of this listening and learning journey and we thank those who joined us for this event. We look forward to continuing these important conversations with our local members, as well as with CPRS National so the listening and dialogue can continue. Thank you to our panelists for being vulnerable, honest, and open--we appreciate your stories and your willingness to share them with us.

Please note that this first event was not recorded because of the sensitive and personal experiences shared by the panelists.

About the Author

Sarah is an influential Indigenous woman from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation who is paving the way for her people by connecting traditional teachings with the tools gained from her educational journey to advance priorities for the betterment of the future generations. Sarah worked for her own Nation for over a decade where she created a Communications department from the ground up while earning her Bachelor of Communications Degree from Capilano University. Her most recent educational accomplishment was earning her MBA with a special focus on Indigenous Business and Leadership from Simon Fraser University. This is not the end of her educational goals; she knows she is going to be a life-long learner and hopes to share her knowledge with her community. Sarah holds a number of leadership roles in the community, including on the board of CPRS Vancouver as the Director of Communications, the CPRS National Task force for EDIB, and the MCM National working group for EDIB.  She has an impressive CV spanning multiple organizations, including most recently with the Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping, where she is connecting Indigenous and western knowledge into her learning and work.