On July 14th, 2021, Pride at Work Canada in collaboration with the Black HR Professionals of Canada presented the Virtual ProPride: Beyond Equity Towards Justice. The session was emceed by Pride at Work Canada’s Board director and Chair of Thought Leadership Committee Angela Facundo (she/her, they/them) was the third of Pride at Work Canada’s 2021 Virtual ProPride Series and sponsored by Norton Rose Fulbright. Here are some of the highlights:
“… [reflecting on Plato’s ‘Republic’] But I think until we make spaces in which the slaves and everyone is invited to that table, there will be no justice. And the reflection upon my work and also for this esteemed panel, we’ll more than likely talk about sharing. It’s very simple. Sharing means the table has to be expanded. And as a result, the resources must be shared. It also means that the philosopher kings or the folks like Plato have to give a little.”
Harlan Pruden (any pronouns), started the conversation with remarks. Pruden (nēhiyo/First Nations Cree Nation) is an Indigenous Knowledge Translation Lead at Chee Mamuk, an Indigenous public health program at BC Centre for Disease Control and is also a cofounder of the Two-Spirit Dry Lab, North America’s first research group and lab that exclusively focuses on Two-Spirit people, communities, and/or experiences. Harlan is also the managing editor of the twospiritjournal.com and an advisory member for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Gender and Health. Pruden gave a context about the importance of sharing (including decisions, resources, spaces), accessing some of the current resources to move towards justice.
Equity in the workplace is often driven by a sense of legal need and the pursuit of fairness. This goal, although admirable, often focuses on addressing equity in the moment with each employee or potential job seeker instead of addressing historical wrongs. Canada has histories of injustice, but we are moving towards a more just future starting with truth.
WARNING: Some of the content in this webinar and summary can be activating or triggering. Mention of: Indian Residential Schools, Murder, Anti-Indigenous and Anti-Black violence, and Homophobic violence.
Pride at Work Canada’s Manager of Programs, Jade Pichette (they/them) moderated a panel featuring three inspiring thought-leaders:
- Shelly Skinner (she/her), President and Founder, UPlift Black
- Aaron Devor (he/him), Chair in Transgender Studies, University of Victoria
- Derek Inman (he/him), Senior Policy Analyst, Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, Canadian Heritage
Pichette started the discussion by talking about the difference between equity, when we might focus on individual accommodations, and justice, when we realize our privileges and address historical wrongs for the collective’s benefit. Afterwards, Pichette invited the panelists to share their thoughts on equity and justice.
But actionable change, it takes you out of the equation completely and it makes you look at others around you.
Skinner pointed to the importance of allyship and working alongside others to address the changes. She believes that we have to put in action all the efforts and not just be performative, bringing attention to the importance of collaboration. Those actions will create a supportive environment for everyone, including businesses who are struggling to find funds for their activities and services. We are still experiencing the impacts of the pandemic, and Black communities, 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, and those communities who have intersections with both are potentially the first communities to feel the economic impact and challenges.
There are times when our differences are very important and our differences are irrelevant. And we bring special knowledge and special skills and special talents that are applicable in some situations. And in other situations, they really should be irrelevant and should be of no importance.
Devor started to explore the concept of justice by the fairness analogy, which could be very complex considering that fairness has different meanings for different people and contexts. It’s important to have a holistic understanding, looking at the whole picture of the system and considering the best outcomes, even though they aren’t good enough. Those efforts require everyone’s contribution because the results are different for each of us. Finding the balance between what it’s important and what is irrelevant for our communities is the key for living justice. Devor also brought attention to trans inclusion in Canada, sharing that we do have better laws and social integration, but also calling attention to the fact that trans people continue facing more challenges in the workplace and experiencing trans misogyny.
The process of collective individual healing can begin with truth-telling, and the recognition that there’s not one singular truth but instead many truths. Sometimes even competing truths that should be allowed to enter the discourse of justice.
Inman explored the topic justice in a more technical aspect, sharing the concepts of remedy, reparation and healing processes. He called the importance of allowing different truths to build strong historical records by using survivors’ experiences and narratives. The visibility of those truths could lead organizations and individuals to engage with more concrete things and support the changes that we need to end discrimination and marginalization experienced by 2SLGBTQIA+ communities. Inman also mentioned the lack of employment data and studies on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues and experiences, which would support some legislative movements and other initiatives for human rights.
Justice is about doing work to dismantle the barriers equity-deserving groups face to accessing opportunities. A lot of hard work has been done to dismantle some of the barriers and to obtain justice and some real equity under the law. But that work is not done.
Norton Rose Fulbright
There was lots of gratitude and love for the panelists for their gifts of personal perspectives and experiences in the chat. Their invaluable reminders and reflections included calls to action for attendees to take back to their workplaces in order to remind us that we should cultivate collective spaces for everyone. Closing our panel discussion, Pruden shared his perspective for a better future as we have been planting seeds for future generations, but that we have to act now and include Indigenous and Two-Spirit people. Each takes us back to Pruden’s opening words to bring everyone to the decision-making table.
Calls to Action:
- Acknowledge Two-Spirit people at the front of the LGBTQIA+ acronym: 2SLGBTQIA+
- Challenge conceptions of the presumption of innocence
- Include Indigenous people and/or Two-Spirit people in your actions
- Acknowledge that discrimination happens in the workplace
- Support organizations who face the constant struggle for funding
- Apply an intersectional lens to development and review of all EDI initiatives including specific consideration to possible implications for all LGBTQIA2S+ identities
- Do workplace self-assessments on trans inclusion
- Understand the ways in which discrimination such as homophobia, transphobia, and racism are rooted in larger systems of oppression
- Be aware of and responsible for intersecting forms of harm, harassment, discrimination, and exclusionary behaviour in the workplace
- Take responsibility to self-educate and actively uphold and apply teachings from Indigenous, Afro-Indigenous and Black communities, individuals, and nations