an open letter
To the Black and Indigenous People, and People of Colour Harmed by CCGSD
We are writing to apologize to you and to make commitments about how we will move forward. In the long history of CCGSD, and as recently as this year, it is clear to us that Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour have been caused harm by CCGSD. Today, we write this letter:
- To take public responsibility for our actions and choices;
- To provide insight into how microaggressions and discrimination could happen within an organization that is committed to social justice; and
- To outline the work that we have been doing and the work that we intend to do to continue to address these issues, alongside other problematic practices that have, until very recently, been present within CCGSD. It is our commitment, our determination and our promise to do better.
Organizationally, we experienced a very difficult Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) forum last year. In the context of this forum, the Support Staff volunteers were harmed by staff and management of CCGSD. Due to a lack of structural and program-related policies and oversight on our part, the heritage of white superiority – which we believe influences the actions of the white majority of Canadians and, as such, the white members of staff and management – was informing decisions that were being made and how situations were handled.
Additionally, the lack of written policies to provide a decision-making structure was not available for managers to assist them in countering the bias that exists in the treatment of white staff compared to the treatment of Black staff. That bias was allowed to continue unchecked, as
unintentional as it may have been. We recognize the difference between intent and impact. We regret not acting more swiftly to develop the structure that we needed to ensure the safety of our Black staff at CCGSD.
We apologize, wholeheartedly and without reservation, for the harm we have caused. We apologize that it has taken us this long to understand how and why we caused such harm. We do so in the hope that one day we can again work together in the fight for social justice for all gender and sexually diverse communities.
We also recognize that there have been harms caused to other members of the Black communities, Indigenous communities and Communities of Colour that have worked with us as partners, volunteers, staff, contractors, or in any other capacity over the years. To you we offer our heartfelt apologies and we recognize that while time may have passed, the hurt is still with you. If you feel unseen or unheard, please tell us your story and we will do our best to make reparations.
We have committed directly to those who we know have been harmed, and now we commit to all those who have worked with us in the past, work with us now, and will work with us in the future: CCGSD will become the social justice institution that the gender and sexually diverse communities across Canada and Turtle Island need and deserve. We commit to centering anti-racism in our policies, programs, and approaches. We commit to deconstructing the heritage of white superiority that has existed within CCGSD now and on an ongoing basis. We are grateful that we do this work, we are honoured to do it, and we are committed to doing it for everyone, everywhere.
We have been reticent to make announcements about advancements or improvements made by CCGSD because we did not want to take attention away from the very important Black-led civil rights movement. However, after hearing from members of our communities and after discussing it within the organization, we would like to share some improvements that we believe will help us ensure that CCGSD is living up to those commitments:
CCGSD has changed how decision-making occurs. While the Board of Directors maintains final decision-making authority as we are legally responsible for all decisions, we have shifted to a much more inclusive and exchange-based process whereby the views of any interested or concerned staff members are included in any strategy and structural changes that are made. These changes began with the strategic planning process in February 2020 and have continued to expand in scope to include the Executive Director hiring process and the development of organizational policies. No staff is required to participate, but each staff member is invited to provide input if they so choose. Additionally, processes have been implemented so that staff may anonymously contribute to these processes in an effort to reduce the impact of the power relationships between themselves and their manager or the Board of Directors, and to improve their ability and willingness to share their opinions.
Policy and Procedures Updates
CCGSD has begun an organizational push for updated and detailed policies and procedures. We have most recently approved an Accommodations Policy, a Conflict of Interest Policy and a policy detailing expectations and flexibility while working from home during COVID-19. One purpose of these policies, and those in development, including program-related policy, is to provide the structure that has been sorely lacking that, among many other things, the white members of management and the Board need to ensure that the heritage of white superiority – or any other unconscious biases of any member of management or the Board – does not affect their decision-making.
We are committed to providing anti-racism and anti-oppression training for Board members, staff and management. We acknowledge that this process is taking awhile and we are shifting priorities to make this happen more quickly.
We commit to using our forthcoming strategic plan to develop and integrate an anti-racism, anti-oppression action plan that is woven into the fabric of CCGSD. The goal in doing so is to increase our openness and take responsibility for our actions throughout the period of time covered by the strategic plan, and beyond.
Focused Materials/ Education Series
We have developed and will be developing, more materials focused on the herstories of Black queer women for our Queer History education series, which will be presented for the first time this week.
We are committed to developing open and inclusive hiring policies to ensure that BIPOC applicants are fairly treated throughout the hiring process and in the final decision-making conversation.
We are committed to partnering, collaborating, and contracting with BIPOC-specific individuals, collectives, and organizations.
We have increased regular communications between staff, management and the Board to improve our organizational functioning and approaches.
We are actively planning for the reimplementation of a sustainable and effective Advisory Committee model to ensure that as many of the various gender and sexually diverse communities, including Black communities, Indigenous and Two-Spirit communities and Communities of Colour, across Canada and Turtle Island are represented and consulted on CCGSD programming and approaches.
Donations to BLM
We will be splitting $1,000.00 as well as 50% of all Pride-related revenues between the Black Lives Matter chapters in Toronto and Vancouver.
This is just a start. Improvement will always be required. Change will not happen without
concrete action and continued accountability. CCGSD has committed to additional improvements. In the coming weeks, we will be making announcements about the next chapter of CCGSD, including our new Vision, Mission and Values; leadership changes; and updates on programming, policies, advocacy and so much more. We are determined to make ongoing and necessary changes to dismantle the structural and systemic racism that exists within CCGSD and continue to consciously and intentionally unlearn the heritage of white superiority and biases that affect our staff members, managers, and Board members.
On behalf of the Board of Directors