The Union of Taxation Employees recently held its National Equal Opportunities (EO) conference in Ottawa. The theme of the conference was “Making an Impact” and the conference definitely lived up to its name.
Conference attendees explored workplace diversity, examined bias, and gained a new understanding about what is privilege. This was aided by each EO Committee member speaking about the privileges they have. Some examples shared included same sex marriage, clean water, and the right to vote. Some members spoke of the challenges they still face, including hidden disabilities not being recognized by others, or being subjected to violence because of who they are.
Contributing to the learning was Jequity, a lively equity take on the game Jeopardy! The game was a trivia based game where small groups were given the answer and then had to come up with the question. This was a fun and challenging game.
The conference included many moving presentations and performances for all those in attendance. One was the KAIROS Blanket Exercise. This was a unique, interactive and participatory history lesson. It was developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators. The presentation covered more than 500 years of history with the aim to foster understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
Wayne Antle entertained and inspired by sharing his story of dealing with a severe visual impairment throughout his life and becoming legally blind in 1990. He shared some of the struggles he had both in the workplace and at home as he continued to lose vision over the next 21 years and became totally blind in 2011. His story was full of tenacity and grace.
Kyle Miller talked about the Rainbow Railroad. Rainbow Railroad’s mission is to help persecuted LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex) individuals get to safety as they seek a safe haven from state-enabled harassment and violence.
Comedian Lara Rae spoke about her journey as a transgender woman, and shared the importance of not always jumping to conclusions and to try to give people the benefit of the doubt.
We watched an incredibly moving performance by the Dandelion Dance Performance Company. The Company exists to show that every girl – regardless of background, body type and ability – has a valuable perspective to share with the world.
National Executive Vice-President of PSAC, Magali Picard gave a rousing speech which included insight on the struggles aboriginal women face when marrying someone non-aboriginal off the reserve.
The final speaker was Canadian Olympic medalist, Elizabeth Manley, who told her inspiring story of how she overcame the odds by preparing for the Olympics while battling depression.
Furthering the conference theme of “Making an Impact”, attendees were asked to bring cold weather gear, such as toques, scarves, and socks, for donation. We are pleased to tell you that in addition to toiletries, 658 items for men, women, and children were donated to local shelters, along with over $200 in cash. Thank you to all for your generosity!
Chair of the EO Committee