A Jamaican-born human rights specialist has been appointed Wilfrid Laurier University’s first senior advisor responsible for dispute resolutions and support.
Joyce Parkes Burpee assumed her role on December 5 in the newly-established office within the university’s secretariat.
“I applied in the summer for the position after realizing the requirements were consistent with everything I have done in the past,” said Parkes Burpee. “I have been given an opportunity to take hold of this office and implement the university’s needs which is all about promoting a culture that encourages the effective resolution of disputes.
“The university wanted to have an office responsible for solving human rights complaints and issues of general personal harassment, among other things. The functions were previously done through various persons but the university thought it best to have a dedicated office on campus to resolve conflicts.
“Racism, sexism and harassment are difficult conversations for people to have and that’s what I have done in my career working in the public and private sectors and with community organizations in the last three decades. My goal is to develop a link with community organizations in the Waterloo region so that there can be more conversations with people affected by these issues. Through the creation of this office, the university is saying it cares and its doors are open.”
Migrating to Canada from Jamaica in 1965 after spending a few years in England, Parkes Burpee has conducted a number of workplace discrimination and harassment investigations pursuant to internal organizational policies. She has also provided workplace restoration services for many large and multi-faceted organizations and worked to ensure that programs to advance human rights and inclusion are implemented with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness of organizations serving diverse stakeholders.
“The Office of Dispute Resolution and Support is an important initiative for Laurier that will help all members of the university community effectively address conflict,” said the university’s secretary and general counsel, Shereen Rowe. “Joyce has extensive experience in human rights and social justice and has demonstrated leadership in finding effective solutions to complex issues.”
In the new role, Parkes Burpee will provide advice and support to students, faculty and staff members seeking dispute resolution on matters pertaining to harassment and discrimination. She will also work closely with departments and services at Laurier to provide proactive education and awareness about these issues as well as conflict resolution.
“This position is an ideal fit for me at this time in my career,” she said. “In addition, there is a lot of energy on this campus and I sense there is a real commitment to change. I like the feel of that. I think I can honestly say that this is the first time that all my skills, education and abilities will be fully tapped…I look forward to working with students, staff and faculty to build an equitable and inclusive environment.”
Parkes Burpee graduated from York University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and the University of Toronto with a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology. She also has an MBA from Simmons College in Boston.
Last summer, she worked as an investigator with the MIT Global Consulting Group investigating human rights complaints in Ontario.
Previously, Parkes Burpee held the positions of senior human resources consultant of Equity Diversity and Human Rights with the City of Toronto; chief human rights specialist with the City of London; diversity and organizational development consultant with Parkes Burpee and Associates; vice president responsible for equity programs with Northwestern General Hospital; employee equity consultant with Watson Wyatt International; chief of staff and policy adviser to the minister in the province’s Ministry of Revenue and as a community human rights investigator with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
By Ron Fanfair