To our members, volunteers, supporters and partners,
We are writing you today to address several conversations happening in the media and on social media. We know you have questions. We know you have concerns. We hear you.
First, regarding the recent changes to our national staff: As an organization, we believe that accountability and honesty is critical to furthering our mandate of electing more women and seeing more gender diversity at all levels of political office. As the employer, we are limited in what we can share at this time, and for reasons of confidentiality we cannot provide further details on specifics of the situation. We can assure you that all recent staffing changes had nothing to do with anyone's race, ethnicity, religion, or any such grounds, nor any attempt to raise concerns regarding equity, diversity, and inclusion. Any insinuation that this is the case is unequivocally false.
We acknowledge that there have been challenges internally and externally, as Equal Voice is a growing organization and underwent many leadership changes in a short amount of time. We know we can do better. We are committed to doing better. There is always room for change and improvement in how Equal Voice operates. Our new management is currently engaged in an organizational assessment and developing processes that focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Our multi-partisan coalition is mandated to focus on advocacy efforts and produce programs that will help more women in all their diversity be elected. We want to enable women with the knowledge, tools, and tactics to empower their voice and bring the issues they care about to the seats of democratic power and where important decisions about our country are made.
Within a group of thoughtful and politically diverse women, it doesn’t take long to realize the challenge for a multi-partisan organization to maintain a consensus on anything. And when you appreciate the challenge of maintaining that consensus you begin to understand how valuable it is.
Supporters, members and volunteers at Equal Voice all want to achieve the same goal: to ensure that women are represented in our democracy. Different parties and individuals prefer different mechanisms to get us there, but we agree on the goal, while at the same time respecting that we might want to get there differently.
Equal Voice is committed to the principles of equity as an employer, in our programs, and through our advocacy.
In our programs, Equal Voice took, and is taking, all feedback from the 2017 and 2019 Daughters of the Vote program to heart.
The first-ever Daughters of the Vote program, which took place in 2017, was run almost entirely by volunteers. It was a learning experience for all involved.
We identified early on that more support services for all delegates, including specific measures for racialized and Indigenous women, were needed if the program was to continue. With increased funding for the 2019 and 2021 programs, this became a possibility. That is why, in 2019 we implemented the following measures (note: this list is not exhaustive):
- An increased staff compliment of seven full-time, and other paid support staff, entirely dedicated to Daughters of the Vote
- Anti-racism and anti-oppression training in advance of the event for staff and management
- Anti-racism and anti-oppression training on the first day of programming for delegates
- On-site, free childcare available for all delegates, panelists, volunteers etc.
- 24/7 Support Workers on site
- Elders on Site 24/7
- A decompression room
- A prayer room
- An Indigenous Forum
- A workshop for Black delegates
- Diversity of panelists and presenters
- Travel, hotel, accommodation, food etc. covered at no cost to participants to ensure financial accessibility
- Dietary options for those with complex allergies or dietary restrictions
Despite these measures, we recognize that some delegates had a negative experience. We want you to know that we hear you. We are listening to your concerns, and this feedback will be at the heart of our program moving forward.
We will be using all comments, feedback, and criticism from 2017 and 2019 to build our next scheduled program. While the next event will not take place until 2021, we have begun the process of rigorously reviewing and reworking all aspects from the planning to implementation stages involved in organizing such a large, robust, and dynamic event.
In addition to Daughters of the Vote, Equal Voice campaign schools, mentorship programs, scholarships, online tools, analysis, and other programs, have equipped and supported diverse women from across Canada to engage and compete in politics in a meaningful way. We will continue to seek feedback and advice on how we can ensure all programs and events are inclusive.
Since its creation, Equal Voice is proud of the work we have done to advance the goal of electing more women and seeing more gender diversity at all levels of government.
Through our advocacy, we have been pushing for safer and more inclusive legislatures for all women through our Systemic Change initiative, and have seen success across Canada. Through information sharing, expertise, and advocacy work, Equal Voice is proud to have contributed to positive change and to breaking down barriers for women already in our legislatures, and for those who will one day be elected.
Politics presents enormous opportunities to make meaningful change and we encourage women to contemplate seeking elected office, which means having influence and a seat at the decision-making table. Canada is still far from equal representation in our governments – there is still a lot of work to be done. Decisions made within our democratic institutions affect our life, and at the foundation of Equal Voice is the principle that women’s voices must be at the decision-making tables in equal measure. Because having an equal voice means having power in determining the direction of our country.
We still have work to do, and are learning together along the way.
Thank you for your support and dedication to this mission.
(This statement was updated from a previous version on August 7, 2019)