New DVMAG co-chair aims to keep effecting change at CFB Halifax
By Joanie Veitch,
After experiencing racism during a recent boarding party course, S2 Saif Morsy took action, sharing his concerns with his chain of command and senior leadership with the hope of effecting change. The result not only made a difference in that course going forward, it led S2 Morsy to volunteer with the MARLANT Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG) where — just one year on — he was recently named as the new co-chair of the group.
On June 4, 2021, during an online meeting held to mark the occasion, S2 Morsy was named MARLANT’s DVMAG military co-chair, taking over from LCdr Paul Smith. René Gannon, interim Base Employment Equity Officer, is the civilian co-chair.
“This is the first time I’ve been involved in something like this. I experienced racism growing up but I never felt before that I had an avenue to effectively deal with it… when I found DVMAG and learned about the opportunity to to get involved I took it on,” S2 Morsy said, acknowledging the encouragement and support he received from both the CFB Halifax Base Commander and the DVMAG co-chairs along the way.
S2 Morsy, who has Egyptian heritage, says he dealt with racism growing up in Oakville, Ontario, but not since joining the Navy in 2017 as a Weapons Engineering Technician, until the eye-opening incident last year.
As a result of S2 Morsy’s efforts, all Naval Tactical Operation Group Naval Boarding Party courses now include racial bias briefings.
Taking that situation up the chain of command in the hopes of resolution has taught him a lot about how personal stories can become a vehicle for effective change — lessons he plans to bring to his role as co-chair.
“I want to help encourage others to have the agency to take care of situations that either they personally go through or have witnessed,” he said. “The more avenues you can provide people to deal with situations, the better it will be for everyone.”
DVMAG civilian co-chair René Gannon said she’s looking forward to working with her new co-chair. Having volunteered with the group for six years, she said she has learned to celebrate “wins” and commended S2 Morsy for his tenacity in effecting change.
“At DVMAG, many of the issues we deal with are systemic and not easily resolved, so at times it can look like there isn’t much progress,” she said. “Saif brought an issue to us and he had a solution as well. We have been so impressed by him. I’m excited to work with him as co-chair.”
Under the umbrella of MARLANT Defence Advisory Groups, DVMAG is a volunteer group with a mandate to provide advice to DND/CAF leadership on issues affecting visible minorities — especially in the effective implementation of employment equity — by assisting in policy development related to recruitment, retention and training, identifying systemic employment barriers and recommending concrete solutions.
CFB Halifax Base Commander Capt(N) Sean Williams is the Champion of the MARLANT DVMAG.
While the past year has been a challenging one in many ways, Gannon said, the increased awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing discussion of Indigenous issues has brought focused attention to the reality of racial discrimination and the need for anti-racist action.
To that end, DVMAG initiated a town hall last fall to create a platform for military members and civilians “who have lived experiences of racism” to share their personal stories, Gannon said.
“The meeting was in person and online but we made sure to make it a safe space for people to tell their own stories of racism and how it has affected them both personally and in their work,” she explained, adding that the group has discussed plans to host a similar event, but one that asks people to share their solutions to problems they see and ideas for change.
“That’s how change happens… person to person and taking the time to listen to each other,” she said.
This year – for the first time at CFB Halifax – the Pan-African flag was raised during morning colours on July 30 to commemorate the newly designated Emancipation Day, August 1.
“In some ways it’s a small thing… but it’s an important step and it will be good to see,” Gannon said.
DVMAG is open to all Defence team members. To find out more email: Halifax.DVMAG@forces.gc.ca