On July 22, 2020 Pride at Work Canada partnered with The Conference Board of Canada to present a panel on Queering the Future of Work, emceed by Pride at Work Canada’s Executive Director Colin Druhan. Here are some of the highlights:
“The new normal can help us find new ways to be engaged” ~ Sylvia Maracle
Dr. Sylvia Maracle, the Executive Director of Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres started the event off with remarks. Maracle is a two-spirit Mohawk elder from Tyendinaga who has been a leader and educator for over fourty years. She talked about how, for many LGBTQ2+ people, “coming out” is not a singular event. They have to come out repeatedly, to family, friends and coworkers. She said the future of work includes a holistic model, one in which all people are welcome to be who they are and are always a part of the circle. Maracle provided a call to action that organizations need to pay attention to their own equity statements and make them not just about words but about actions.
Following Maracle was Dr. Jill Andrew, MPP for Toronto-St. Paul’s and Ontario NDP Critic for Culture and Women’s Issues. Andrew was the first out queer Black representative elected to the Ontario legislature and has been instrumental in helping to create its first Black Caucus. During her remarks, she stressed the importance of challenging systemic barriers and the importance of education. Andrew discussed how the future of work required an inclusive curriculum for youth and gave a shout out to Glad Day Bookshop, the oldest LGBTQ2+ bookstore in the world, located right in downtown Toronto.
“The future of work is full inclusion.” ~ Keith Smith
Keith Smith, Director General, Policy & Communications for the Canadian Human Rights Commission followed Andrew to close out the event’s opening remarks. Smith discussed how crucial it was to take an intersectional lens and that, for Canada to be successful, the future must include all Canadian workers. He encouraged employers to enact the steps laid out in the Standards of Conducts for Business: Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People published by the United Nations and adopt the recommendations in Transitioning Employers: A survey of policies and practices for trans inclusive workplaces by Pride at Work Canada and the Institute for Gender and the Economy. Smith spoke strongly about the importance of recognizing the inequities we see in our workplaces as directly related to inequities in society. For us to make inclusive workplaces, we must make societal change.
Maria Giammarco, the Senior Research Associate at The Conference Board of Canada then came on to provide remarks and introduce the panel. The three panelists she introduced were:
- Kai Cheng Thom, Writer, Performer & Community Worker
- Peter Flegel, Director, Government of Canada’s Anti-Racism Secretariat
- Sara Wolfe, Director, Indigenous Innovation Initiative, Grand Challenges Canada
“..create pathways to leadership that are open to a wide diversity of experience. ” ~ Kai Cheng Thom
Thom talked about the importance of envisioning a utopia and then taking steps to get there. In particular, she envisions a more perfect world. She sees one in which we look to work primarily as a way to help queer and trans people flourish and prioritize human health and well-being above all else. Thom critiqued the idea that there is ability to get to inclusion through single-event training, which doesn’t do anything to change the larger structures employees work within. She talked about tokenism and how those who are often marginalized, people like trans women of colour, are consistently told they are not qualified candidates. Instead, she suggested looking at mentorship programs and to build candidates up by investing in them.
Flegel centralized the importance of all forms of queerness in the workplace. In particular, he encouraged deeper understanding of the diverse sexuality and gender of Indigenous people and non-white people around the world. He wanted to also see that organizations put their policy into practice, showcase clear sanctions in the workplace who commit homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and racism, and encouraged restorative justice techniques from Indigenous cultures. Flegel expounded on the importance of having communities at the table, underscoring that no community is a monolith. So it is important to recognize that no one person can speak to their whole community. He put pressure on those in leadership positions to listen to these voices and put their recommendations into practice.
Wolfe talked about how pre-colonization.queerness was long a part of Indigenous culture. It was colonization that disrupted that knowledge. Therefore, de-colonizing the workplace will create space not just for Indigenous people, but also for queer people, people with disabilities, people who are economically disadvantaged and other, non-Indigenous, people of colour. Wolfe spoke about the importance of making sure marginalized people are not just asked to be part of advisory groups, but are in roles in every level of decision making. She talked about how employers need to lead with an open heart in order to have difficult, but productive, discussions to include all communities. Wolfe honoured leaders who came before like Sylvia Maracle, and asked other leaders to help future leaders to go even further.