By Anne-Sophie Ruest-Paquette for COPA National
In North America, the month of June marks the beginning of Pride festivities. It is a time to celebrate, value, and support 2SLGBTQI+ (or rainbow) people and Pride. Besides the official celebrations, parades, and shows, the Pride season serves to raise public awareness about 1) the origins, manifestations, and effects of the injustices endured by rainbow people, 2) the complexity of the realities experienced, 3) the history of the victories achieved, and 4) the validity of the demands made by members of this community, from past to present, here and elsewhere.
We at COPA National believe that the diversity of sexes (intersex, female, male, etc.), sexual identities (transsexual, woman, man, etc.), sexual orientations (lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, gay, etc.), and gender identities (two-spirited, transgender, non-binary, androgynous, feminine, masculine, etc.) are characteristic of human plurality, with heterogeneity being unquestionably intrinsic to our species and, by extension, to Canadian society. In Canada, people who identify with this diversity enjoy the same rights as any other citizen, notably under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act.
The right to be safe, strong, and free, like principles of equity (social justice), inclusion (openness to diversity, non-judgment, and respect), and empowerment (increasing knowledge, building capacity, and establishing or strengthening healthy interpersonal relationships) are cornerstones of all of COPA National's programs, including the Change Our World program.
The original Change Our World workshops emerged in 2011 from the Safe@School project, which was developed in 2007 in partnership with the Ontario Teachers' Federation and thanks to funding by the Ontario Ministry of Education. The Safe@School website offers various tools for school staff including an online course (Bullying Prevention), four complementary professional learning modules (Bullying Prevention; Equity and Inclusive Education; Parents and Caregivers: Partners in Prevention; Youth Empowerment), and a guidebook (Promoting Equity and Inclusive Education in our Schools). There are also various resources available as well as a documentary (Hear Me Out) and a moving awareness video entitled Taking Bullying Seriously.
The most recent version of the Change Our World program is funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada. It aims to foster systemic change within participating school communities and, in doing so, to reduce the frequency and effects of homophobic, transphobic, sexist, and racist discrimination in French-language schools in Ontario. Besides a series of complementary workshops for students, school staff, and parents or caregivers, COPA National offers additional support for all members of the school committees dedicated to promoting equity and inclusion (training for allies). We are also committed to collaborating with the entire school for the revision and implementation of a new and improved equitable and inclusive code of conduct. In addition, we aim to inform, motivate, and equip school communities interested in cultivating a caring interpersonal and institutional culture for all, including for people whose bodies and identities are a testament to the rainbow of sexual and gender diversity.
For rainbow people, the public demonstration of individual and collective pride is not something that can be left to chance. There is a strong and compelling need (and right!) to reclaim one's inherent dignity as a human being, to assert the legitimacy of one's marginalized identities, to free oneself from the shame internalized under the influence of prejudicial attitudes and because of the (micro)aggressions that ensue, to build a more positive sense of self, and to feel empowered. COPA National is committed to supporting school communities that want to improve the experience of rainbow students, staff, and families, particularly through the Change Our World program.
If you would like more information about this program and how you can bring it to your school, please contact Lynn Hadley, COPA National's Assault Prevention Programs Coordinator.
With that, the COPA National team wishes you a Happy Pride Season and reminds you that we all have the power to change our world so that the rights and wellbeing of all people are respected.