Creating a positive space in Caledon

by Monty Laskin

We just concluded two days of Positive Space Training in our organization.

For the longest time we had yet to move deliberately on creating a positive space for the LGBTQ+ communities in Caledon. But for the past year we’ve been very deliberate about this. And within our first training, we had about 30 members of our staff hunkered down in the Exchange for two full days of compelling discussions.

Guided by a very bright, sensible and wise facilitator, we were put through our paces on all things LGBTQ+.

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer. It is an acronym used to designate a community of people who are diverse in their sexuality and/or gender identity. It is commonly used to refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender. LGBTQ does not recognize all the possible orientations and gender identities in existence and therefore, the addition of the ‘+’ symbol is meant to represent other terms.

Within our training, we created a safe space through honest discussion. We found our voices on things that felt good and not so good in our agency. And we looked long and hard at ourselves and at Caledon Community Service’s vision and asked ourselves: What kind of an organization are we creating for our community? How does it treat its clients,  staff and volunteers? Are we proud of the values and behaviour that it promotes?

First we developed some basic understanding and comfort with language. We acknowledged that what isn’t familiar can easily be completely misunderstood. We were also helped to see that when put under a microscope, some beliefs are so unintentionally harmful and destructive. When your vision is, “healthy, engaged compassionate community for all”, it’s pretty essential to have a look at policies, procedures and everything else you do that touches the LGBTQ+ communities and all people in Caledon for that matter.

When you declare a commitment to health, engagement and compassion, you have to actually walk the talk in both policy and practice.

I think it’s fair to say that a very large number of our community institutions are founded on principles that echo the principles of Ontario’s Human Rights Commission. Why? Simply stated, these institutions believe in the inherent right to dignity and respect for everyone.

So if that’s your position (dare I imagine how it couldn’t be with any reasonable justification), it’s incumbent upon these institutions to have a good honest look at things like privilege, power, equity and inclusion.

Our training helped us better understand the journey we are now on to create a Positive Space in the Exchange and eventually throughout CCS. We’ve been working on this for more than a year. I see very clearly that it takes intention and leadership.

One of my colleagues, counsellor  Layla Panjeta, has provided both. CCS now has a plan in place that has us learning, wanting to reach out to the LGBTQ+ communities with some services but well aware that we’re still infants in our pursuit of the Positive Space we all wish to develop.

Our training has some next steps to it, we’re committed to continued learning and improvements so that our Positive Space blossoms and helps CCS provide better and more inclusive services to everyone in Caledon.

If you’ve got a hankering to participate and give us a hand on this work, please drop in any time. Wise minds and committed hearts need not apply, just show up and come on board. We’re all much better when the LGBTQ+ communities and everyone in Caledon feels the embrace of inclusiveness.

Monty Laskin is the chief executive officer of Caledon Community Services. His columns can be found monthly in The Enterprise.

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