Ontario Nature is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion across our work. Our team strives to embed these issues at the center of our programs and campaigns. In June of 2020, we released a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter in which we made several commitments. Although we recognize that we still have a long way to go, and our learning process is ongoing and evolving, in this post we highlight some of the initiatives that we have undertaken since the summer of 2020.
Creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Staff Committee
The purpose of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEI) Committee is to support identification, development and implementation of actions that will advance diversity, equity and inclusion within Ontario Nature. The committee was formed in July 2020 with staff members representing each department.
The goals of the DEI Committee include, but are not limited to:
- Develop recommendations to further the mandate of DEI within Ontario Nature’s internal operations and external communications and programs;
- Foster discussions across departments about DEI;
- Promote actions that will advance the Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter;
- Inform the development of a DEI Strategy that aligns with Ontario Nature’s Strategic Plan;
- Support Ontario Nature in understanding the challenges regarding DEI in the conservation and charitable sectors; and
- Ensure Ontario Nature is an inclusive space where all employees feel heard and valued.
Ontario Nature’s Board of Directors formed a DEI Committee in 2021 and is focusing on DEI goals related to board composition, education and strategy.
Our communications and programs continue to improve on DEI via reflecting diverse voices and perspectives in our blog, magazine, social media channels and other outreach.
Here’s a list of selected articles published in the last two years that you might enjoy:
- Land Back Movement – An Indigenous-led movement to reclaim stewardship over traditional lands.
- Celebrating Family Day With an Accessible Hike – An all-terrain wheelchair enables Lisa’s family to enjoy family hikes year-round.
- A Breath of Fresh Air – How can experiencing nature be made more inclusive?
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Woman – Dr. Maydianne Andrade is an internationally respected arachnologist and co-founder of the Canadian Black Scientists Network.
- The Art of the Craft – Birchbark canoes are not only culturally important but also sacred for many of Ontario’s First Nations.
- My Favorite Birding Places – by Jacqueline Scott, founder of the blog Black Outdoors.
- Diversifying Birding – Black Birders Week aimed to raise awareness about the barriers that Black naturalists face when being in nature.
- Environmental Racism – A bill signals hope for underrepresented communities affected by pollution.
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As for internal initiatives, we developed processes for our social media commenting policy, avoiding the use of offensive species names and releasing public statements on social issues.
To ensure that Ontario Nature is a positive, inclusive space for all, we started acknowledging our personal pronouns in our email signature and other internal documents. Our DEI Committee developed an internal guide for gender inclusivity implementation and its integration into our operations.
Beginning January 2021, our committee organized monthly 2-hour sessions for all staff where we watch a webinar together and then have a facilitated discussion. Topics have included:
- Coloring Nature
- Black Outdoors: The Connections Between Race and Outdoor Space
- Empathy: the secret sauce in effective diversity, equity and inclusion
- Birdability: Access for Everybody
- Perry Cohen, Founder of The Venture Out Project – The Inquiry Series: Exploring Inclusivity
- Towards Reconciliation: 10 Calls to Action to Natural Scientists Working in Canada
- Mental Health Benefits of Parks
- Crossing the Line: Why I left conservation science for social justice
- Mental Health and Well-Being, including Eco-Anxiety (Climate Changes Health & Health Equity Series)
Commitment to Reconciliation
We continue building relationships with Indigenous communities through our conservation and education programs.
We have a board mandate for reconciliation and working with Indigenous peoples and drafted an internal resource document with best practices for land acknowledgements, which we do at the start of, for example, webinars and staff meetings. We also developed a list of resources on Indigenous topics that includes Ontario Nature produced material and trusted go-to resources from external partners. Last year we held a staff commemoration for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and plan to do the same this year.
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Last year we launched an inaugural annual staff-wide DEI survey with the purpose of using the findings as a baseline tool to measure staff opinions over time, to better understand the current opinions of Ontario Nature’s DEI efforts, and to collect ideas for implementation. With two years of survey results now, we are pleased that staff opinions have notably improved in many areas. The annual surveys will help to evaluate our progress over the years and implement new initiatives.
Ontario Nature has various plans on the horizon, including hiring an external consultant to help develop an organizational DEI strategy. The strategy will help to objectively identify gaps and establish priorities for future action.