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Ask Catherine 1 — Culture Sensitivity and the Unseen


Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee: Catherine Broomfield

Numbering: Issue 1: Inaugural Issue

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: Question Time

Web Domain:

Individual Publication Date: November 1, 2018

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 848

Keywords: Catherine Broomfield, iHuman Youth Society, young people.

Catherine Broomfield is the Executive Director of iHuman Youth Society. She loves the challenge and excitement of the job, especially with the diversity of the workplace and the people with non-profits. She has worked, in fact, in both the public and the private sectors. Here we open with iHuman Youth Society, cultural sensitivity, and the unseen populations of Canada.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You work through iHuman Youth Society. To start, what is your position? What are your tasks and responsibilities?

Catherine Broomfield: I’m Executive Director. My tasks are varied as I do the usual leadership, administrative and operational tasks of an ED like hiring, budget monitoring and forecasting, strategic planning, grant writing, working with the Board of Directors and advocacy with government or other stakeholders.

Atypically, but normal for a smaller organization, I also do front-line work with the youth such as responding to crises and critical incidents within our building or connecting with them about opportunities they want to pursue and seeing how iHuman can support those ideas. I’ve also been known to clean toilets, shovel snow. Basically whatever might need doing to support the agency I’m at the ready.

Jacobsen: How does cultural sensitivity build into the work with a diverse range of young people?

Broomfield: This is an important question. I’d like to start by differentiating between ‘cultural sensitivity’ and ‘cultural safety’. The former being sometimes used when the latter is intended or necessary.

Cultural sensitivity in my view is having an awareness to one’s interactions relative to cultural differences. Cultural sensitivity is often used in training or educational sessions with the intent that people will become more aware of their biases or stereotypes.

However, having a cultural sensitive approach doesn’t necessarily mean one will act, speak or behave in a safe way. And this is the distinction.

Cultural safety involves recognizing your privilege or positionality in relation to another and creating a space that is safe for communication in a holistic way, not just physically but emotionally, spiritually, intellectually.

Inherently then, you can appreciate that trauma awareness is embedded in practice that is cultural safe. I believe the term evolved from nursing practice in New Zealand and has been recognized for its value especially as it relates to working with Indigenous peoples and others who have experienced systemic trauma.

Therefore, cultural safety, is a key element of the relational approach iHuman takes when we work with marginalized and traumatized young people. Our youth practice, then, involves creating safe and trusting interactions that build into relationships where the young person can describe the barriers they face, express what they need, and how they’d like that support provided.

With this approach a young person is witnessed. Feels valued. On this foundation we can work towards our hoped-for outcomes of a young person who feels a sense of purpose, belonging, self-worth and identity.

Jacobsen: Why are many of these subpopulations in society, more or less, the unseen?

Broomfield: Well, if you’re someone who wouldn’t identify in a subpopulation perhaps the answer to this question would be pretty straightforward — because they [the unseen] are deviant in some way and therefore they deserve what they get, how they’re treated or what they experience.

For people who experience erasure, I would suggest this is a profoundly fundamental question about equity, justice and privilege. For myself, I believe this discrimination stems from human societies tend to privilege one class of people above others.

It’s a way to distribute abundance and resources to those deemed worthy of these means and control and withhold the same from those identified as the ‘nots’. Why this is the case is truly beyond my understanding.

I don’t get it and choose to live my life working to support and include people rather than exclude them. In the preceding question, I mentioned how at iHuman we ‘witness’ young people — this is actually in direct response to what you’re getting at in this question.

We co-create relationships that are precisely about seeing, honouring and valuing humanity in young people who often describe their sense of exclusion from society or community.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Catherine.

License and Copyright


In-Sight Publishing and Question Time by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and Question Time 2012-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and Question Time with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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