People Doing Cool Shit - Heather Campbell
For our second installment in our series about SophieGrace customers and the cool shit they’re up to, meet Heather Campbell.
We think Heather is the bomb. She’s an engineer and a dedicated volunteer to a wide range of causes, including the Calgary Police Commission, Arts Commons, the Advisory Council for Western Engineering, St. Stephen’s Anglican Church and Alberta’s Anti-Racism Advisory Council, which she was co-chair of until last month.
Our conversation with Heather spanned numerous topics, from racism as an economic issue to challenging existing rules about women’s wardrobes. This interview had been edited for length and clarity.
On her professional life
I work with TC Energy and I am team lead of the legal registry. It's corporate compliance work, but it's translating legal requirements for engineers. I am a professional engineer, and I have a Master of Laws in Energy Law and Policy, which is my work passion. I just really want Canada and Alberta to have good solid energy policy, and I mean energy with a capital ‘E’, so resource-based, alternatives, renewables, energy storage... the whole picture. We owe it to ourselves.
On joining the Calgary Police Commission last November
What drew me to that is something that started when I was a young woman. When I was 15 years old, a young man that I knew, by the name of Wade Lawson, was murdered by Peel Regional Police in Ontario. Wade was 17; he was the same age as my older brother. He was sitting in a stolen car and police put bullets in the back of his head. One of them was a hollow-point bullet, illegal at the time. So at 15 years old, as a young woman, as a young Black woman, I knew someone who had been murdered by the police. That case was the start of the Special Investigations Unit in Ontario.
Those issues around use of force and racism and all of that... they may be in the spotlight in the media recently, but these are not new issues, and they're certainly not new issues for me. I think what's different, for me personally, is that I have a seat at the table in helping to resolve those issues. And for that I'm extremely grateful.
On racism as an economic issue
When we look at systemic racism, the barriers that systemic racism puts in place result in a reduction of financial capacity. They result often in social losses, health discrimination and health losses, mental health challenges. The financial, the health, the social, the mental health, we capture all of that in our economic policy in this province. Racism is an economic issue.
People of colour and those from racialized communities should have the opportunity to thrive and prosper in the same manner or in a similar manner to what has been available — for hundreds, and in certain cases, thousands of years — for those that are not from a racialized community.
On what connects her varied volunteer commitments
These are things that are the core of who I am. I was raised with an expectation that volunteerism and giving back is a part of your daily obligation. And I do things in community that resonate with who I am. I am a Black woman. I am a woman of faith. I am an engineer. I have trained in the arts since I was three years old. These are opportunities for leadership that are straight to the core of who I am.
On her favourite SophieGrace piece
It’s the Ashley dress in Ivory. It's just not complicated; I don't have time for complicated clothes. I need to know that I can put on a dress, put some shoes in my backpack, get my butt to work, do what I need to do, make whatever decisions I need to make, then come home. And if I need to hit a dinner after, I can do that too. And you can put the dress in the washing machine.
On challenging the rules about what women should or shouldn’t wear
All of those rules about you could wear this and not that — no. I just think that's over. I think those kinds of rules were some of the barriers that prevented women and racialized women from being able to be in a myriad of positions.
You think about simple things, like as a teenager, I would save makeup for special occasions. I didn't want to use it all up because I had to pay extra to get foundation that was my colour. It’s things like that. A lot of those rules, about how you should wear this and that, for Black women, there’s nothing about our physical appearance that isn’t political, from the day we’re born. Everything about me, particularly in a business setting in Calgary, is political. Everything I wear, every choice I make with my hair, everything, it is all political.
Photo Credit - Phil Crozier