Leader’s of the Month

Profile of Lori Sigurdson MSW, RSW 

Professional Affairs Coordinator for the Alberta College of Social Workers

Why social justice is important to me.

I learned about fairness at an early age.  My parents would host meetings on social issues in our home.  Sometimes, at lunch on a school day, I would come home and see Grant Notley, the leader of the Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) from 1968 to 1984, sitting at our kitchen table. He was a stalwart champion of social justice.
I learned of inclusiveness, equality and the worth of all persons.  Sadly, too often I learned of these noble values by seeing their opposites: exclusion, inequality and discrimination.  I grew up in a small town in the Peace River Country of Alberta. It was an oil town and people came to get rich quick and then leave without investing in the community.  An Indian Reserve was close by. I saw how Aboriginal people were treated like second-class citizens and wondered why.

But besides the suffering I saw in my town, I also experienced this in my home.  My parents did the best they could, but were troubled by mental health and addiction issues.  These experiences awakened in me a desire to help.  I wanted the suffering to stop.

I decided to go to university to become a social worker, as I saw this as the best profession to stop the suffering.  It is now 20 years later: 20 years since I made this wise decision. I have had the privilege of working in many fields of practice to serve marginalized and vulnerable people and help them overcome barriers to successfully functioning in society.  At the same time, I have been frustrated and angry by systems too cumbersome and resources too limited to make real change.

I have worked with other like-minded individuals and organizations to advance the principles of social justice. These organizations include my employer the Alberta College of Social Workers, Public Interest Alberta, the Parkland Institute and the Greater Edmonton Alliance. Recently, I have decided to take another step in the hope of further advocating for a just society. I am running in the next provincial election for the NDP in Edmonton-Riverview.

All of my experiences have taught me that it really makes a difference when we stand up for the things we believe in, because we are the difference! As Mahatma Ghandi once said: You must be the change you wish to see in the world. That’s the only way social justice can be achieved.