Article

Equity and Inclusion: ETFO Making a Difference (From the General Secretary)

Gene Lewis

As a teacher federation, ETFO has a lot in common with other unions and teacher federations. Like them, we take pride in protecting members: bargaining collective agreements, promoting health and safety, promoting and protecting their professional integrity, and providing assistance when they find themselves in difficult circumstances professionally. We are a known leader in providing professional learning, with a wide range of programs and resources that promote teacher leadership and teaching excellence. The resources ETFO has developed for educators in early learning classrooms are unique. But what sets our federation apart from all others is our commitment to social justice and equity.

This year the ETFO executive approved the following statement and definition of equity:

It is the goal of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario to work with others to create schools, communities, and a society free from all forms of individual and systemic discrimination. To further this goal, ETFO defines equity as fairness achieved through proactive measures which result in equality, promote diversity, and foster respect and dignity for all.

ETFO has adopted policies on discrimination (1998); antiracism and ethnocultural equity, employment equity, harassment, and religious rights (2000); aboriginal education and native languages (2001); equity and social justice (2003); ETFO representation (2004); and disability issues (2006). (You can find the details of these policy statements in our Reference Book published online at www.etfo.ca/aboutetfo.referencebook.)

ETFO provides a wide range of programs and resources to put its beliefs into effect. LGBTQ, anti-racist education, human rights, disability issues, and aboriginal education standing committees give members a voice. We make available funding to locals for LGBTQ, equity, and disabilities issues workshops. We fund bursaries and scholarships for members of designated groups and our awards program recognizes the social justice and equity work of members and those in the broader community.

As well, ETFO gives support to a wide range of community, national, and international organizations. Delegates to the 2011 annual meeting voted to provide $10,000 for relief work in Somalia. They also agreed to provide ongoing financial support for the ETFO Humanity Fund. Our contribution to Project Overseas sends ETFO members to developing nations to assist with teacher education. These are just some examples of the assistance we provide.

We undertake this work because our members believe in the importance of making a difference in the lives of their students, their communities, and the world. The classroom educator who focuses on bringing out the best in every child, the school that welcomes diversity, the ETFO local that supports local organizations fighting poverty, the federation that supports you and your colleagues around the world: it takes all of us working together to make sure that everyone is included and every child achieves success.

Inclusive policies and programs benefit those who might otherwise be marginalized. Moreover, when we are inclusive the unique skills and talents of every person are allowed to flourish. That benefits us all.

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