Community Connections | Citizen Engagement, Immigrant Newcomers, Neighbourhoods

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

Everyone is worth of dignity and respect. Action Dignity works to enhance the voices of ethno-cultural communities in Calgary and ensure we all experience the right of equality. Help us build a future we can all be proud of.

How do you make a strange new place home? How do you help someone feel like they belong?

Our Story

Why We Exist

I was an accomplished man before I moved to Canada in 2014. I take pride in my career working for the United Nations.  After my retirement, all I wanted was to reunite with my children in Calgary. Moving to Canada was life-changing for me, I got to be with my children but after living for most of my life in a large city with over 8.5 million people and warm sunny climate, coming to Calgary was a big change. I didn’t realize how difficult it is for older adults like me to live and settle in Canada until I experienced it.

I was very lonely at first. I had to be on my own most of the time when my children had to work. I missed everything, my relatives, friends, my own home, and my country of birth.

I knew I had to do something. I had to find new friends. I met Bangladeshi older adults who, like me, were also having a hard time connecting with people of their own age group and feeling lonely and isolated.

One day, I met a Bangla teacher and that connection changed my life. She connected me to Action Dignity, an organization that provides leadership training to immigrants and refugees. What caught my interest was their training program which provides practical tools, skills, information and contacts that I can use to help me and help others. I loved the fact that the training ends with an action plan that I could 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 as I could, learning about services available, improving my communication skills, and gaining 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 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 Action Dignity’s 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.

Participating in Action Dignity’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

We are a country steeped in indigenous histories and fused together in a mosaic of cultures. We pride ourselves in being a nation who respects and values differences. We see equality as a right but as it is with many of our rights, we must fight for it. We must never take it for granted and always remind each other of its importance. We exist to ensure all of us experience this right. That we never forget how our differences make us stronger and how our conviction of being a fair and just community is always upheld.

Each one of us is responsible for the quality of the community we live in. We all play a role in building our community and our future. We must act for our rights and our beliefs. We can all demonstrate our support and the value and respect we have for each other, with every interaction and at every moment.

It’s our choice what kind of future we build. Our actions define us. Help us build a future we can all be proud of.

Action Dignity (formerly Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary) was established in 2002 amidst the rise in racial tension following the events of September 11, 2001. From its inception, Action Dignity 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. We 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. We have started important research on the impact of policy changes to Calgary’s immigrant population.

Our vision is for Calgary to always be a just and equitable society for all.

We’re on a mission to facilitate the collective voice of Calgary’s ethno-cultural communities towards full and equitable civic participation and integration through collaborative action.

Over 11,000 people participate annually in Action Dignity’s various programs and initiatives. Many participants go on to lead projects that benefit their own communities as well as the broader public.

What we do:
• Increase public awareness, knowledge and skills for issues important to ethno-cultural communities
• Engage ethno-cultural community members and organizations to create a collective voice on key issues
• Work towards social inclusion of individuals, families and communities, foster natural supports, identify and build on community strengths, bridge between cultures and service providers, and support community-led actions for positive change
• Conduct and share research on the experiences of ethno-cultural community members to inform decision-making and change within public policy, institutions, service systems and communities
• Bridge ethno-cultural community members and organizations with academia, public institutions and national organizations to provide an ethno-cultural perspective on important initiatives through the Broker Strategy
• Strengthen the capacity of ethno-cultural community organizations for community building, cross-community collaboration and civic participation
• Support community-led initiatives that address challenges and concerns


Our Programs

How We Do It

We run programs in six areas of work:

1. Leadership and Systems Change Work
Our programs promote racial equity, inclusion and cultural awareness in public policies and systems and policies. It aims to address systemic inequities in public institutions, government and service systems so members of ethno-cultural communities can fully participate in economic, social and civic life.  We will implement this using a three-part strategy:
·      Community engagement/organizing
·      Capacity building
·      Public policy and Systems change work
·      LEAD for Change (Leadership Engagement, Action & Development)
·      We All Belong

2. 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.
·      Sustaining Healthy and Awesome Relationships (SHARE)
·      North Star Initiative (Northeast Constellation for Healthy Families and Communities)

3. Community Connector
We build resident and community capacity for change in the Greater Forest Lawn Area by connecting residents, groups and organizations together to identify community-based assets, opportunities and issues and collectively address these. The initiative supports residents and local organizations to take the lead in creating a resident-driven network of formal and informal supports for individuals, children, families and the community as a whole, including ethno-cultural and indigenous communities. Through the Broker Strategy, residents are trained to become connectors and bridge between neighbours, groups, community organizations, and service providers.
Program: Greater Forest Lawn Community Connector Initiative

4. Youth Engagement
We engage racialized youth to inform, create, incubate and implement approaches to address the systemic and day-to-day barriers that they face. This will be a 3-year national collaborative project with the following priority themes:
·      work toward the elimination of discrimination, racism and prejudice;
·      provide opportunities for youth community engagement and involvement; and
·      bring people together through art, culture, and/or sport.
In celebration of Action Dignity’s 15th Anniversary and Canada’s 150th, we engaged over 50 youth in expressing their experiences, challenges and aspirations for a welcoming society through poetry, spoken word, rap and dance. This culminated in a performance of Our Canada, Our Story at the Jack Singer Concert Hall attended by almost 700.
Program: Youth PLACE (Platform for Learning, Action & Community Engagement)

5. Advancing Fairness and Equity
We will bring together community networks, organizations and individuals in Calgary to collaboratively address issues of discrimination, inequity and racism.  Community engagement, leadership support, resource mobilization and capacity building are integral to this project.  This is part of a province-wide initiative that involves collaboratives in Calgary, Wood Buffalo, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Edmonton.
·      People’s CAFÉ (Coalition to Advance Fairness and Equity)
·      INDIE (INitiative for Diversity, Inclusion & Equity) for Alberta Nonprofits

6. 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 focus 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 impacting concern to ethno-cultural community members.


Our Requests

What You Can Do

Pursuing the vision of a just and equitable society for all is complex work but with your help we can achieve it.

There are many ways you can help, here are a few:

  • Donate: Your contribution is more than a donation; your support enables us to continue building strong communities and cross-cultural connections so that we achieve a more respectful, inclusive and welcoming society for all.
  • Volunteer: 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.




Anne Zabala

Human Resources & Executive Office Coordinator

Charitable Number: 897859609RR0001

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Annual Operating Budget: