Read the Canadian Equity Council’s report to Convention

The Equity Council’s report was originally presented at our national convention in 2019. Read all the documents from Convention 2019 here.

Good morning delegates of the COPE/SEPB National Convention 2019! Our names are Kathia Narcisse and Casey Oraa and we’re here today to deliver the Report on behalf of the Canadian Equity Council also known as the CEC. The CEC is composed of 4 members from each Region who come together before or after the Mid-Term Conference and Convention. Today we’re going to discuss some of the work and challenges that the CEC has been facing over our last term. But before we do so, we would love to introduce you the members of the council. When I call your name please rise:

Representing Region 1: We have Liesel Albino, Philippe St-Jean, Sebastien Barraud and myself.

For Region 2: Casey Oraa, Vanitha Ethiraju, Carrol Ann Scevior and Adam Hodgins

For Region 3: Nathan Markwart, Jeremy Koskie, Amanda Herman and Jessica Henrion.

And for Region 4: Gunter Seifert, Dora Wong, Anderson Charles and Sheela Kumar.

CEC’s Work and Perspectives

The CEC officially met twice in-person and twice online  through an e-meeting tool. One key issue we’ve been dealing with has been the Sex Work Resolution coming out of the 2016 Convention. 

Sex Work Resolution

At the 2016 Convention, a Resolution regarding support for sex workers was referred back to the National Executive Board. With the creation of the CEC at the 2016 Convention, the National Executive Board felt that the CEC would be the appropriate party to deal with this Resolution.

At our first meeting, we were given presentations by activist both in support and against sex work which helped to frame folks thinking around the Resolution. Following this, folks went back into their Regions and as a result, there were two suggested Resolutions which came out of Quebec. At our e-meeting, the CEC worked together and took concepts from both these resolutions to form what ultimately was the Resolution that came to the 2019 Convention. A lot of our conversations have been around how to respectfully support autonomous sex workers while denouncing forcible sex work (ex/ forced sex trade). Ultimately, we were collectively happy to have reached a consensus with the Resolution that was ultimately passed by this delegation.

Challenges the CEC Faced

From our first meeting forward, it became clear to the CEC that there were many systemic challenges ahead of us. Frequently, during our Term we were reminded that we are an “advisory” body and that we are allowed to do this but not allowed to do that. When it came to other things like making requests for further meetings and such, initially, we had push back but eventually, we were able to convene an e-meeting. The e-meetings posed another challenge in themselves as all members don’t reside in the same time zone. On our first e-meeting multiple members of the CEC we’re not present due to confusion on the meeting time, or because of their schedule.  Consequently, we were unable to appropriately work on the resolution. On our second try we were effective although we experienced a few technical difficulties. The joys of technology!

Being as decentralized as we are also posed challenges. Between meetings, most of the dialogue between the CEC took place over email although a few unofficial teleconferences were scheduled.

Furthermore, there seems to be some confusion in the heads of some on the role that an equity council member plays. Who do they represent? The equity seeking group they are from or their local union. Due to this confusion some members are unable to speak freely about the issues they face. Some may even be silenced.

In some Regions, there were specific things that came out of the creation of the CEC. Such as, in Quebec where they voted to create a permanent regional equity committee at their last convention. It is currently still at its beginning stages but they were able to meet twice and participated in a conference on homophobia. In addition, the youth committee of the region organized a survey who has been answered by 1700 respondents. The survey consisted of 20 questions concerning member’s perception of the union. As a result, we drafted a set of 15 recommendations directly addressing their concerns.

Overall, it became clear during the Term that there’s a lot of work to be done to infuse greater equity within COPE-SEPB. Some things that can be done include:

  • Continue to find ways to empower Equity members and the CEC to infuse greater equity within the organization
  • Continue to provide space for the CEC to organize programming at key COPE-SEPB events like Convention
  • Give greater autonomy to the CEC by not having members of the National Executive Board sit on the Committee but rather, consult with the CEC
  • Give the Chair of the CEC voice and vote on the National Executive Board
  • Provide the support and resources for the CEC to be able to better self organize and hold meetings
  • Inform the CEC when resolutions for convention are available for consultation
  • Support or affiliate with groups that provide services to equity seeking communities and/or promote greater inclusivity in society. (Ex: CBTU)

In closing, the CEC faced many challenges during this first Term but is determined more than ever to continue working on infusing greater equity into COPE-SEPB and the wider movement. We now open up our Report to the floor for commentary from CEC members and/or questions/feedback from the wider delegation.

POST SCRIPT: One quick last thought we’d want to leave you all with is that we have a Federal election coming up this fall and that its absolutely imperative that we get out there and support political parties that support ALL of us. The Conservative Party of Canada is not our friends and if what’s happening in Ontario and Alberta is any indication, if elected, there are very dark days ahead for all of us. So let us remember that in unity there is strength.