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Equity and social justice have and will always be central to the work of ETFO. As an Executive, we consider on an ongoing basis how to bring issues of equity to the forefront, to advance the rights of all members and to ensure that all students, families, and every person who enters our schools finds an accepting, safe and inclusive environment.
As part of the process by which we monitor our work and consider ways in which we can enhance our policies, programs and services in the area of equity, ETFO has undertaken an external review focused exclusively on equity.
In June 2008, the Executive appointed Sheena Hanley as the ETFO Equity Officer. In July 2008, Sheena embarked upon her work as Equity Officer. She attended Annual Meetings, Representative Councils, meetings of many ETFO committees, as well as various conferences and workshops. In each of those forums and events, Sheena heard the voices of members attending those meetings and conferences, committee and Executive members and ETFO staff. In addition, ETFO’s Equity Officer undertook an extensive review of ETFO policies, publications and reports. Over the course of the year, Sheena presented three interim written reports to the Executive and in October 2009, ETFO’s Equity Officer, Sheena Hanley presented her final report to the ETFO Executive.
In her report, the Equity Officer noted the extensive work done by ETFO in the area equity and social justice. She stated, “I was and continue to be impressed by ETFO’s work to promote social justice and equity. The range and quality of existing programs and the outreach done by ETFO is certainly among the foremost work done by teacher unions in this field”.
The report outlines issues and strategies to consider for ETFO to move to the next level of implementation of equity. Since receiving Sheena’s final report, the ETFO Executive convened two special meetings to focus exclusively on the report of the Equity Officer. These meetings allowed us the time for in depth discussions on the various topics raised by the Equity Officer, thereby allowing us as an Executive to consider our work in the area of equity and social justice, and perhaps more importantly to reflect upon how we can strive to improve what we do.
This will not be a report that will be read and placed on a shelf – it will have a life and will continue to be the catalyst for positive and proactive change within ETFO. The Executive passed a number of resolutions which will address some of the issues highlighted by Sheena in the context of her report. These resolutions are also available on the website for you to review.
This report issues a challenge to each of us as leaders and members of ETFO – to us as an Executive to ensure that the issue of equity is a galvanizing force and to ensure that issues of equity and social justice are central to all of our decisions and work. To Presidents, to work with us to ensure that equity infuses all that we do – both locally and provincially. Finally to members, we look to you for your feedback and input on how ETFO can continue to advance those issues of equity which will ensure your rights are realized within your schools and in our greater society.
Sheena stated – equity work is never easy – it is challenging as it demands that we reflect on our beliefs and our biases. But there is one central goal which we all have in common – ensuring that all members feel safe and that every member of ETFO has an opportunity to participate fully in this great teachers’ organization. That is at the heart of Sheena’s report – and that goal in and of itself demands that we work together to advance the representation and rights of all members of equity seeking groups.
I wish to thank Sheena Hanley for the work she has undertaken for ETFO, we have benefited from her insights, her observations and the recommendations she has brought forward.