Self-Identification and Participation in ETFO

Rachel Mishenene and Carol Zavitz

Understanding the difference between equality and equity can be difficult. A simple activity in which a group of people sit in a circle and place their shoes in a pile at the centre can demonstrate the difference. When everyone gets a random pair of shoes from the pile and puts them on, this demonstrates equality. Can they walk in them? Some participants will notice that they do not fit the shoes they were given and will realize individual needs (in this case, shoe size) have to be met so we can all participate equally. This demonstrates equity. Equality is our objective; equity is one of the ways we get there.

Since 2000, ETFO has asked members to self-identify if they belong to one or more of the following designated groups:

  • Aboriginal
  • Disabled
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning (LGBTQ)
  • Members of racialized groups
  • Women

We ask for this personal information because ETFO’s commitment to equity and social justice includes the goal of increasing involvement and participation for members from the designated groups that are under-represented in leadership positions in our union. Every year, we report to the Annual Meeting about the participation of our members who self-identify. Collecting and reporting these statistics are ways ETFO holds itself accountable for this commitment. Members can self-identify on the annual member information form and on all registration and application forms for ETFO programs. Members may choose to self-identify for statistical purposes only or give ETFO permission to contact them with information about programs and opportunities (e.g., leadership programs, focus groups, writing groups, standing committees). Providing this information to ETFO allows staff to identify gaps in participation, programming and policy and to reach out to members from equity-seeking groups. In dialogue with members who self-identify (for example, in focus groups), staff can better understand the need for supportive resources, programs and services in response to barriers members experience in participating in their union. We asked members to share their insights and perspectives on self-identification with us. The following quotes are from members who self-identify in one or more of the groups.

Why did you decide to self-identify with ETFO?

“After much consideration, I decided to self-identify [Aboriginal] with ETFO because I believe that it is important to be proud of who you are and not to hide. I think this is important for the next generation to see that you can identify with your heritage, be proud and stand up for your people.” “I chose to self-identify as a woman because I am proud to be a woman and because despite all of the advances in equity … many people/institutions in society still do not view or treat us as equals.”


stock photo of two teachers talking in front of blackboard with a chalkboard effect applied to it

Every year, ETFO members contact us with questions and concerns about discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Understanding your rights will help you protect yourself.

ETFO General Secretary Victoria Réuame

ETFO is a union that takes action even in the quietest of times. But these are not quiet times, and ETFO’s activism is at the heart of an organization that cares about the future of public education and the social justice and equity issues that affect women, children, families and communities in Ontario and beyond.