You’ve Come a Long Way Baby…. But They Haven’t


Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work

News Flash!  Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape are making the global headlines.  Whether it is the gang rape of women and children in India or closer to home the stories about our Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the American Military.

We have a real global problem. With all of the advances women have made we  are not taking seriously on the job.  We are still in an age where authorities will turn a blind eye to violence against women and children.  We don’t have to look very far to see that women’s basic right to safety continues to be violated even in democratic countries like India, Canada and the United States.

Our Western countries are supposedly the beacons of progress and equality – but I guess that is not the case if you are a woman who wants to enter into a patriarchal institution like the US Military and the RCMP.

I have a few questions for the officials.  Did you ever prepare to have women be a part of your forces?  What proactive steps did you take to ensure that the women would be taken seriously by yourself and those you lead? What policies were put into place? What kind of screening questions were used to disqualify members who could not work respectfully in a male/female workplace? What training was given? Did anyone ever argue that there was a  “business case” for having women in these positions? What kind of training was involved to bring acceptance and respect for fellow female officers in these institutions?   It seems like none of this happened.  Clearly the RCMP and the US Military have failed women when it comes to affording them the same respect that male officers have been given.

 A lot of pain could have been prevented that the brave women endured.  An infrastructure was needed which could have:

  • ·         screened out people who cannot work respectfully alongside members of the opposite sex,
  •        had a knowledgeable and sensitive official who the victims could trust .

We’ve come a long way indeed, but some of our institutions definitely need to catch up when it comes to workplace respect and safety for women.

If you would like more information about gender sensitivity training, please contact:

Diversity at Work   519-659-4777 or

Thank You Mr. Milligan: A Bright Light With the Thames Valley School Board

Evelina Silveira, President Diversity At Work

So often we hear how the school system is failing to keep our children safe.  How bullying seems to be on the rise and the labour strife between the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Government of Ontario doesn’t seem to want to budge.

But amid the turmoil, is a shining light at the Thames Valley District School Board — a principal who takes his job seriously when it comes to children’s safety and inclusive education.

Mr. Colin Milligan of Princess Anne French Immersion School in London, has put the “pal” back into the word “principal” with his kind but firm and professional approach to dealing with both parents and students.

He heads a large elementary school with a cross-section of  diverse children from South London and beyond.

When a group of dispondent Grade 7 children came to visit him expressing their disappointment with the withdrawal of extra-curricular activities, he listened.  Others may have turned the children away, but he decided that they would problem solve together.  They surveyed their fellow students and came up with some ideas of what they could do.  They were involved in an assembly and collaborated on a video on the theme of “Words are Powerful” and that was just the beginning!

Mr. Milligan takes bullying seriously, and he doesn’t need a school policy to tell him it is wrong.  He doesn’t tolerate it.  Not because he has to.  Because he wants to and it comes from his heart.

My daughter spends a lot of time in the principal’s office and so do her friends.  Not because they are in trouble, but because they like him and they want to work with him to build the best school possible. Their education has been enriched by the projects, teamwork and nurtured friendships.  When I get a call from the school principal, it’s a good thing.

(In my day, going to the principal’s office to talk about a problem was unthinkable.  You might as well suffer in silence until graduation because they acted more like sergeants than role models. Change is good).

Thank you also to Madame Wilkie the school’s Vice Principal who is also another empathetic ear, a real gem and a great role model for the students.

Merci Madame et Monsieur pour ton bon travail.  Felicitations!

Bullying and Peer Pressure: Lessons From the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario

With all the anti-bullying lessons going on in school these days, it seems that some of the members of the ETFO must have skipped out on the education. Or worse, listened but did not feel that anti-bullying applied to them.

Okay, I understand. You feel that you have been betrayed. I get that. However, please accept my apology. I don’t sympathize. Everyday in my work, I see many examples of people who do not receive a decent wage, who have to take work home at night so that they can stay on top of their job just to keep it. I see families working two and three jobs to put food on the table with no hope of ever having a two month vacation and benefits and more. They don’t get to go home at 4:00. When they are sick and cannot go to work, their families don’t eat. These my friend, are real grievances, and your lobbying power and skills could be best put to use to protect these hard-working individuals who are drowning in this recession with no voice, instead of getting in the way of good dedicated teachers doing their job. On top of it, the people who will suffer the most with these flash strikes and withdrawal of extra-curricular activities are those families who are struggling to stay afloat and cannot afford the sports, the dance and other lessons. Who is supposed to look after the children whose parents will lose their wages or worst yet their jobs if they cannot show up for work? How many children will be left neglected, unattended or in an unsafe environment, because their parent has to go to work or they risk losing their job? A friend told me that her child would be graduating this year and it will cost each family $500 per child, because the teachers have been told that they are not permitted to hand out fundraising information. No fundraising will be allowed. With this approach there could be lots of students unable to take part because their parents cannot afford $500.00. These are painful choices and the ETFO says it has the children’s best interest in mind? How is that so?

Stop the bullying and the peer pressure! I am talking about the Watch Dogs hanging outside the schools, making sure that teachers don’t stay after hours. It’s the people who follow teachers to their cars, intimidating them because they have stayed to talk to a concerned parent. I have heard of several examples of teachers feeling afraid of the consequences of doing anything outside of what these Watch Dogs have demanded. They fear isolation from other teachers who are supporting the Union’s demands and potential retaliation that can occur when members side against them. In any other organization, these  coercive tactics would not be permitted. I’m confused.  The ETFO speaks about its democratic right, but don’t these teachers who just want to go ahead with their usual business have democractic rights as well?

In this case, we have learned : bullies are untouchable and that peer pressure wins.

Thank you for a lesson on bullying and peer pressure!

Stand Up Against the “B” Word

ImageSo it is summer, and things have slowed down and now I have time to do things like watch television.  It seems like it has been awhile since I have watched so much television, but I am going to put a halt to it very soon.   I cannot believe what I am seeing!  Has the world become so numb and accepting of the violence against women in TV?  Reality television has stooped to the lowest level when a bunch of women are vying for a bachelor? Roma women are punching each other and slapping the face of a pregnant woman?  Vancouver beauties fight over who has more filler or botox? And on top of that the “Bitch” word and “Slut” word gets furiously hurled around like it was nothing, even in daytime programming which was once supposed to have higher decency standards!

Since when did it become acceptable and common place to call women female dogs?  I don’t care if some women have reclaimed this word as their own.  The connotation is still negative.  We are ascribing half of the world’s population to the status of an animal.  Why are anti-racist activists so good at challenging the use of derogatory and racist words and women are not?  Is it that women are unsuccessful with challenging it, or are their calls not being heard? When was the last time you saw the “N” word written if full?  You probably haven’t.  The “N” word has become so repugnant in our vocabulary that the mere sight of it, makes a lot of people enraged.  It’s meaning heralds back to a time of slavery, inequality, and the inferior role that black people had in our society.

I wish that we could do the same with the “B” word or the “S” word and others  What will it take for us to see that calling women these words is repugnant as well? It seems that we haven’t really progressed that much. By using these words, we show that we are backward and that women have not reached the same equal status as men in our society.  We still judge them on their submission, passivity, and on their sexual history.

Let’s challenge one another when we use these words against women.  One by one we can make these misogynistic words cast outs from our vernacular.  It is going to take some time but  high time that women enjoyed equal status in this society, don’t you think?

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