Community Connections | Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Citizen Engagement, Immigrant Newcomers

Action Dignity Society (formerly Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary)

ActionDignity is an umbrella organization of 76 culturally diverse organizations, with a mission to facilitate the collective voice of Calgary’s ethno-cultural communities towards full civic participation and integration through collaborative action.

Our Story

Why We Exist

My name is Dewan and I was quite an accomplished man before I moved to Canada in 2014. I take pride in my previous career as a United Nations employee and enjoyed frequent international travels. After my retirement, all I aspired for was to reunite with my children in Calgary. Moving to Canada was a life-changing moment for me. Having been a resident of a capital city with over 8.5 million people and warm sunny climate, coming to Calgary was a big change. I never realized how difficult it is for older adults like me to live and settle in Canada

I was very lonely at first, especially because I had to be on my own most of the time when my children had to work. I missed my relatives, friends, my own home, and my country of birth. So I decided to go out and look for new friends. I met Bangladeshi older adults who, like me, were experiencing similar difficulties connecting with people of their own age group. One day, I met a Bangla teacher who connected me to Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary (ECCC), an organization that provides leadership training to immigrants and refugees. What caught my interest was their training program that provides practical tools, skills, information and contacts that I can use to help me help others. I loved the fact that the training ends with an action plan that I can shape and implement to achieve my goal of helping immigrant and newcomer older adults help themselves through connections.

In between three training sessions that I attended, I went around contacting as many older adults that I could, learned about services available, improved my communication skills, and gained more confidence in talking to people whom I have never met.  I felt good about connecting my contacts to programs and services. I finally started to realize that as I was helping other people, I was also helping myself feel adjusted to life in Canada.

I didn’t want to stop. I attended more training sessions at ECCC and served as a community connector for older adults. Through the bi-weekly training sessions, I learned about services for older adults as well as provincial and federal benefits and services that I never imagined exist. With more knowledge, I was able to help more people. I also encouraged those from the Bangladeshi community to participate in events, overcome loneliness, and find friendship and support.

With support and encouragement from ECCC staff, I worked diligently with the Bangladeshi Community Centre to develop a Seniors’ Club which now meets twice a week. The club has been gradually attracting a larger group of older adults at every meeting. The club is not only helping older adults, but also adults who are transitioning to retirement.  The club helps people prepare ahead of time for their retirement, which I know will give them a sense of security and a happier life.

I am working hard with the Bangladeshi community to promote the club as a safe and welcoming group that provides genuine support to those who have to offer as well as to those in need.

Participating in ECCC’s leadership training program helped me fulfill my desire to support and improve the life of others. I have come to realize that a newcomer retiree like me who started with barely no contacts outside of my family, can make a huge difference in the community. I am so proud to say that I did not only get help for myself, but others too.

Our Impact

What We Do

The Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary came into existence in 2002 amidst the rise in racial tension following the events of September 11, 2001. From its inception, ECCC has been in the forefront of many initiatives addressing issues of diversity, human rights, racial inequities and public participation. It has built the leadership, presence and participation of diverse communities in civic activities, public consultations and policy making. The Council has also developed innovative approaches that strengthen the role of ethno-cultural communities in the design and delivery of social services, in domestic violence prevention and in neighbourhood strengthening. It has started important research on the impact of policy changes to Calgary’s immigrant population.

Vision – Calgary is a just and equitable society for all.

Mission – We facilitate the collective voice of Calgary’s ethno-cultural communities towards full civic participation and integration through collaborative action.

Approximately 1700 individuals participate annually in ECCC’s various programs and initiatives. Many participants go on to lead projects that benefit their own communities as well as the broader public.

For example, a group composed of Vietnamese-Canadian mothers who were moved by the impact of the Calgary floods on children and families put together a fundraising concert with volunteer artists that raised $6,000 for flood relief. In another example, members of several Somali groups  and partners came together to create a community assessment report of the Somali-Canadian Community in Calgary (Pathway to Belonging 2013) that is now spawning actions to address issues of isolation in the community.

Our key strategies are:

Leadership development and civic engagement as a cornerstone and constant element of all our work
A Community Broker Model that builds on the strengths of communities and help them engage larger systems
Community-based solutions to important issues, like prevention of domestic violence
Collaboration and social innovation that brings different sectors and groups together to develop new approaches
Combining research and community action to effect systems and policy change
ANNUAL REPORT Highlights 2014-2015:

The past year saw many ethno-cultural organizations grow their ability to play important roles in influencing change. These evidences of the growing capacity of ethno-cultural organizations to effect social change inspire ECCC and its 49 member organizations. They also are impetus for ECCC to continuously adapt to trends affecting our political, economic and social landscape to better support our member organizations and their communities.

We’ve been spurred to exert leadership and to further strengthen collaboration with our member organizations and communities to collectively respond to these developments. We have developed our Theory of Change around four strategic approaches:

community-led solutions;
community broker strategy;
civic engagement and mobilization; and,
public policy and systems change.
All our programs will integrate and connect under these pillars.

Program Results:

323 Leaders, Brokers, and Community Organizers trained
464 Volunteers were recruited who contributed 5,651 Volunteer hours
3 Publications and toolkits launched
Collaborated with 193 Organizations, community groups and agencies as partners and networks
Executive Director’s Report

There is growing recognition of ECCC’s unique role and contribution in providing ethno-cultural perspective to national initiatives and organizations. ECCC was invited as a panel presenter at the National Symposium of the Canadian Bar Association in 2014.

ECCC has demonstrated its ability to bring together different political parties to support our call for vigilance in protecting vulnerable populations from hate speech by preserving Section 3b of the Alberta Human Rights Act. We’ve proven our ability to put on the table the need for increased awareness of the changing immigration policies as well as cuts to services at three levels of government, and how these impact ethno-cultural communities.

We thank our funders, partners and individual donors, for their continuing confidence in ECCC, in the work that we do and in the importance of supporting ethno cultural communities to participate in the creation of an inclusive, vibrant, and just Canadian society.

Our Programs

How We Do It

We run programs in four areas of work: Leadership Training, Community Brokering, Healthy Relationships, and Research and Policy.

I. Leadership Training

We have developed, trained and engaged a pool of 342 leaders as of 2014, representing 61 ethno-cultural groups, who speak 39 languages and take on a variety of important roles – as organizers, connectors, brokers and facilitators.

We work on multiple levels to build community leaders’ capacity:

The neighbourhood level through Community Organizers
Individual and Community Organization capacity building
Policy and Civic Engagement training and public education
“We didn’t know our neighbours and we didn’t feel safe especially for our kids walking to and from school. So we knocked on our neighbour’s doors, invited families for tea, ballroom dancing, or barbecue to chat and come up with solutions that we can do together as neighbours. Now I have so many friends to rely on and help too!” Community Organizer for Cultural Engagement in the Neighbourhood

“Even if I’m a newcomer, I’ve always wanted to give back to Canada. As a result of my leadership training, I founded an organization of professional volunteers that trains immigrant elementary school children every year to creatively compose their own poems from their hearts, with a little help from mentors.” A community leader from Nigeria

II. Community Brokering

Community Brokers are trusted connectors embedded in the communities. We train Community Brokers to work on both the systems and individual level:

Supporting community members or families who are in need of information about community resources, translation, and connection to services
Acting as cultural resources and connectors between ethno-cultural communities and service providers to jointly transform services and public institutions to deliver more effective and efficient services in the areas of settlement, education, health care systems, social services and the justice system
We have trained the following:

80 Community Brokers who focus on connecting newcomers and helping improve newcomer services
10 Elder Brokers committed to connecting older adults in the following ethno-cultural communities: Eritrean and Ethiopian, Farsi/Persian, Filipino, Indian and Pakistani, Korean, Latin American/Latino, Middle Eastern/Arabic, Polish, Sudanese and Vietnamese
“I am a trained community broker. My role is to connect newcomers to community resources and to supports they need. I got a bag with a resource tool kit and a USB with updated resources in Calgary. I call this my bag of “tricks”. When newcomers from my community approach me for questions or problems, my bag comes in handy for “informed”, updated and verified answers. I have referred and helped more than 40 newcomers so far.” Community Broker, Building Bridges with Ethno-cultural Communities

“At 67 years of age, I am proud to work as an Elder Broker for my community. I can feel how seniors from my community trust me on issues such as abuse, isolation, and housing. Because of my training and connections, these seniors are connected to proper resources in a timely manner. I also enjoy meeting and learning from ten other Elder Brokers from different cultures like me.”

III. Healthy Relationships

Our primary prevention approach to domestic violence and building healthy relationships works on three levels:

Engaging men in domestic violence prevention and developing role models in healthy relationships
Working with young men and boys to create a new generation of men
Strengthening Community intervention to encourage healthy families and relationships
We create safe environments for men and boys to talk about how they are impacted by immigration, violence and abuse, and how they can overcome these cycles. We engage communities in conversations, sports activities, family get-togethers and gatherings that focus on values and discuss cultural practices that promote healthy relationships.

“My life as a father and husband changed immensely since I joined like-minded men committed to promote healthy and awesome relationships at home and among our young boys.” Member of Men’s Action Network- Calgary (MANC), a community initiative in collaboration with ECCC

IV. Research and Policy

We publish policy papers and tool kits that assist ethno-cultural community members to become informed and engaged in systems and policy change initiatives. Our research and policy briefs also inform policy makers of the needs of ethno-cultural communities.

Our research and policy work focuses on participatory research that engages community members and public education and community led action on systems and policy change. For example we:

Conduct research on the effects of changes to the family reunification program on Calgarians.
Produce a user friendly guide on changing immigration policies and provide public education presentations on the topic.
Engage with ethno-cultural communities around civic participation.
Produce educational policy briefs on issues of concern to ethno-cultural community members.

Our Requests

What You Can Do

An inclusive city needs the efforts and contributions of all members. If you want to help diversity thrive in our city, get involved with ECCC.


Whether it is providing funding toward one of our programs or sponsoring our annual gala event, every little bit helps ECCC reach ethno-cultural communities as they develop their full potentials and as they address their needs through community action, programs and support.


We are always looking for volunteers who are passionate about serving the community and creating a better Calgary for everyone. With our unique programs that support diverse groups, we offer a variety of ways for you to connect with your community.

Be a Champion and Advocate

You can help champion the cause for ethno-cultural communities. Be involved in promoting respect for diversity, participating in public policy initiatives that support ethno-cultural communities, and encouraging civic participation of immigrants, refugees and ethno-cultural communities.

Stay Connected


Anne Zabala

Executive Assistant

Charitable Number: 897859609RR0001

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Annual Report Financials