Nothing can rain on our (Pride) parade!
“The progress towards inclusion is something we need to continue everyday, even beyond the week.”
The spirit of Pride is undeniably infectious and powerful. The events that happen across the country each year symbolize an impactful movement towards the journey of acceptance. Although in-person events are not taking place this year, Pride celebrations can’t be stopped, and that includes for Public Service Pride Week. It’s going virtual this year because let’s be honest, Pride can and should be celebrated at any time, and from anywhere.
Jason Bett, Public Service Pride Champion and Director General at Innovation, Science and Economic Development, first began organizing Pride events three years ago. It was something that meant a lot to him, and to, he presumed, many others across the Government of Canada (GC) as well. He gave himself the mandate to create a safe space for the LGBTQ2+ community within his department and has since broadened that to the entire Public Service. Today, we are proudly celebrating the 2nd annual Public Service Pride Week, with over 50 departments and agencies participating. The theme this year is mental health and well-being, a subject that affects everyone, no matter who you are.
Recognizing the leaders of the past
Despite being represented by a rainbow, Pride did not originate from sunshine and rainbows. In fact, it did not come without a fight, one that continues in the present day. In June 1969, a police raid at The Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York City frequented by LGBTQ2+ people, sparked a riot, which became the driving force in the fight for LGBTQ2+ rights and has since inspired Pride events every June. Jefferson Morris IV, LGBTQ2+ Departmental Representative for the Treasury Board Secretariat and policy analyst, emphasizes that recognizing the history is crucial in the celebration of Pride, “the riots were spearheaded by trans women of colour, the most marginalized group of people in NYC. The celebrations we have today wouldn’t exist now without their bravery.”
Strength in numbers
While going virtual makes it challenging to physically connect and be with people, it does provide the opportunity for a broader reach. Lydia Lipic, Chair of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Gender and Sexual Diversity Inclusiveness Network and team manager, says, “taking on a ‘virtual pride’ is a great way to foster a sense of community for all public servants, no matter where they are.” Antonietta Coccaro, who goes by Netta, one of the Regional Representatives for the LGBTQ2+ Network in her department, says that for the regional offices all across the country, moving to a virtual platform really helped turn it into a national campaign.
“Being diverse and inclusive means representing all ethnicities, all sexual orientations, all genders, all people; diversity is all-encompassing.”
“Everyone has a front seat at the table online,” Jason says. Departments are coming together to share knowledge and resources from their respective networks, helping to build and maintain one conversation across the GC. Jason highlights that having more people on board means having a bigger network to support employees, letting them know that “we are truly doing this together.”
Building a truly diverse and inclusive public service
“The objective is to make sure everyone is comfortable to be themselves at work, and to make sure everyone is, and feels safe.”
Jefferson strongly believes that being diverse and inclusive means representing all ethnicities, all sexual orientations, all genders, all people. “Diversity is all-encompassing,” he says, and I couldn’t agree more. There are so many elements involved in being a diverse and inclusive space that it’s important to continue educating ourselves and keeping an open mind towards learning from, and listening to, each other. “It’s about finding ways to reach out and include different groups of people in the conversation,” Lydia says. The GC is on the right track to be a leader and set new examples on what it means to be a diverse and inclusive workplace, and we must work to continue to put this priority into practice.
Jason adds that at the end of the day, “the objective is to make sure everyone is comfortable to be themselves at work, and to make sure everyone is, and feels safe.”
Moving the yardstick
Throughout our conversation, Jason kept coming back to one analogy: moving the yardstick forward. He says we need everyone’s participation to move the yardstick, including allyship. Lydia recognizes that there are many people who want to be a part of the conversation but may not know how to be. She acknowledges that, “coming forward to open up that conversation does require you to be a bit brave,” but both she and Netta echo that taking the time to understand, and to form friendships with members of the LGBTQ2+ community is a huge step towards breaking down barriers. Jason also emphasizes that the goal of having a safe space extends to allies as well, “whether you’re part of the community or not, it’s beneficial to build that strong bridge, so that when we need help or someone to rely on, we know who we can turn to, and vice versa.”
“If you feel comfortable, be out and proud as an LGBTQ2+ public servant. Someone who might not be comfortable with their own identity may really benefit from seeing someone embrace their confident and authentic self in the workplace.”
To queer, trans, and non-binary public servants, Jefferson encourages, “if you feel comfortable, be out and proud as an LGBTQ2+ public servant. Someone who might not be comfortable with their own identity may really benefit from seeing someone embrace their confident and authentic self in the workplace.”
Netta notes it’s important to not let the virtual aspect stop us from celebrating the magic of Pride, “attend a virtual event, join a virtual dance party, do whatever you can to celebrate this year!” And while Pride may be widely celebrated for a week, Lydia delivers an important reminder, “the progress towards inclusion is something we need to continue everyday, even beyond the week.”
Our work as the Public Service doesn’t stop here! And as for us, the Living Digital team is dedicated to contributing to the safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace for all. We wish everyone a very happy Public Service Pride Week!
For a list of Public Service Pride Week 2020 events happening during the week of August 24-28, visit the GCconnex group.
If you are interested in joining the conversation and learning more, check out the Positive Space Initiative GCconnex group. There are also two virtual courses on Positive Space coming soon from the Canada School of Public Service. Stay tuned for more information on those here.
- Positive Space: Awareness (W080)
- Positive Space: Become an Ambassador (W081)
(Please note that the links to the GCconnex groups can only be accessed internally, through the Government of Canada network).
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