Council receives plan to create first diversity and inclusion charter

(Gazette file photo)

SARAH WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

If the over 500 attendees of the recent Pride Rally at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church is any indication, there is little tolerance for bigotry or exclusivity in Prince Edward County.

At the June 27th Committee of the Whole Meeting, County Council received a deputation from three individuals who have spearheaded a working group, aiming to create an inclusion and diversity charter that they are proposing will be implemented by late 2020.

This group has had to act quickly, finding fuel for fire in the recent homophobic remarks in a bulletin published last month by clergy at St. Gregory Catholic Church in Picton.

Altogether, the group is proposing a five step process toward creating the charter, which will include educational components, strengthening Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) and visual campaigns.

By the end of 2019, the group is hoping that a draft diversity and inclusion charter will be completed and by the end of the first quarter of 2020, they propose that the charter should be ready for council to consider.

Once the charter as been implemented, which they are proposing should be by the end of the third quarter of 2020, there will be a chance for council to review or complete policies with the intent of making them adhere to the new charter.

With a focus on diversity and inclusivity, the charter will not only include people of sexual and gender minorities, but people of colour and those with with differences in ability, class, culture, religion and age.

“In my deputation, I refer to myself as a lesbian,” said Patricia Ginn, beginning the group’s deputation.

“I want to clarify that I actually define myself as an old school butch,” Ginn said, continuing, “People used to say to me, ‘Why are you dressed like that? Aren’t you inviting trouble? People would like you a lot more if you dressed like a girl,” Ginn added.

“I dress this way because it’s how we used to dress to protect the women we were with and members of our community, it’s to portray an image of power and strength. We also dress this way to protect our youth,” Ginn explained, standing steadfast in dress pants, a dress shirt and a tie.

“What are we going to do about it?” Ginn asked council, citing remarks made by Father Robert Chisholm that resulted in a rally outside the church of more then 500 people.

Ginn also cites the County’s 2016 Corporate Strategy Plan which she recently perused.

According to the plan, the County “champions the economic and social vitality of the community.”

Ginn, and those in her group, believe having a diversity and inclusion charter is a critical part of making sure the community maintains and strengthens its vitality.

““I believe municipal governments that choose to ignore diversity and inclusion cannot respond effectively to the ever-changing landscape of the community they serve,” said Ginn.

Adding to the deputation was Daisy Fraser-Boychuk  who walked councillors through some of the initiatives the group is proposing adding they are only part of making the County more safe.

“These proposed recommendations are stepping stones to making Picton and the County a more safe and inclusive community,” stated Fraser-Boychuk.

She added that she hoped they would also be stepping stones in helping external and self-inflicted harm experiences at high rates by the 2SLGBTQ community.

County Canteen and 555 Brewery owner Natalie Wollenberg also spoke on behalf of the group, adding her voice as a business owner and parent for who inclusivity has always been important.

“It’s something we’ve publicly celebrated and most definitely has added to the success of our business,” said Wollenberg.

Before running out of time, Wollenberg cited the recent remarks made by Father Chisholm, along with other recent sexual harassment allegations from the Norman Hardie Winery, as “two public actions which have not put (Prince Edward County) in the best limelight.”

The motion to make Prince Edward County a 2SLGBTQ safe community was received unanimously by council.