On July 8, 2020 Pride at Work Canada partnered with the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum (CAF) to present a panel on LGBTQ2+ Inclusion in the Skilled Trades, emceed by Pride at Work Canada’s Manager of Programs Jade Pichette. Here are some of the highlights:

“We have to recognize that Indigenous people face a lot of barriers; accessing education, opportunities for apprenticeships.” – T. Sharp Dopler

T. Sharp Dopler, a Two-Spirit who uses all pronouns, opened the session with remarks. Sharp is considered a Traditional Knowledge Keeper and Carrier of Ceremony in the Ottawa community and has been an educator, community worker and activist there for over 20 years. Sharp spoke to the interesting place Pride holds in Indigenous communities, remarking that some people must choose between their Indigeneity and their queerness. They encouraged attendees to consider putting the “2S” first in the acronym they use to describe queer and trans communities, in acknowledgement that Indigenous people literally “came first.” Sharp concluded their remarks by embracing the rich legacy left by generations of Indigenous people and encouraging the rejection of negative stereotypes. “If you look at cities like New York, Indigenous people built that city” they said. “Tell me again how ‘lazy’ we are.”

Unfortunately, Julie Green, an MLA for Yellowknife Centre, had technical issues, and she couldn’t continue her remarks. We appreciate Julie’s time and effort to participate in our session.

France Daviault provided remarks on behalf of CAF. She remarked that the event was the beginning of a very important conversation for CAF, of which she is the Executive Director. She then encouraged three distinguished speakers on the panel to introduce themselves:

  • Dr. Suzanne Mills, Associate Professor at McMaster University
  • Phil Gillies, Executive Director of the Ontario Construction Consortium
  • Jove Nazatul, Cabinetmaker and Restorer

Dr. Mills has done work on large resource development projects in the North and has been performing research on LGBTQ2+ workers in Sudbury and Windsor. She promoted a report on her research that has since been made available online. She opened the conversation by explaining the concept of hegemonic masculinity, a practice that creates environments in which people who present and behave in a stereotypically masculine way succeed more than anyone else. She pointed to statistics from her research that show one of the damaging effects of these environments: less access to good-paying jobs for LGBTQ2+ people, with significantly worse employment outcomes for those who are also racialized.

“Some people might have the choice to hide their identity and some do not.” – Dr. Suzanne Mills

Phil Gillies is a former Ontario MPP and provincial cabinet minister who fought successfully to have sexual orientation added as a protected ground in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1986. Given his current role, he provided insight into the construction industry within the context of his work in government. He pointed out that understanding of human rights legislation and messages of inclusion need to reach both large and small companies in construction, since big businesses leading projects often work with a network of subcontractors.

Jove Nazatul remarked on the barriers present for LGBTQ2+ in the skilled trades, such as broad misunderstanding of the community’s needs. They spoke personally about being misgendered by supervisors and the lack of inclusive facilities in work environments. Nazatul urged solutions that have been proven to increase inclusion outcomes in other workplaces: gender neutral washrooms, forms that reflect the lived genders of more employees as well as education and training beyond just those working in HR.

When asked for calls to action each panelist had much to share. Nazatul pushed employers to work directly with community groups, learning from their experience in the LGBTQ2+ community to encourage interest in skilled trades jobs. Dr. Mills underscored the importance of creating employment policies and actually following them, pointing out recent successes in the area of Indigenous inclusion as an example. Gillies used an inclusion charter that was recently rolled out by a carpenter’s union as an example of good leadership in the industry that attendees may consider following.

Feel bad that you missed out on the action? Never fear! Email info@prideatwork.ca for a link to a recording of the session.