The Ministry of Environment recently wrapped up its first gender awareness and identity courses, which were delivered to three wildfire management groups.
The course was developed by ministry staff specifically for the Ministry of Environment along with support from the Public Service Commission. A Ministry spokesperson said the course lasts about an hour.
“It focuses on gender identity and expression. It gives employees awareness and understanding in order to help foster an inclusive workplace," the spokesperson said in a statement. "The session supports managers in the organization to understand their responsibilities as it relates to gender identity and expression.”
According to the spokesperson, the plan is to expand the course throughout all the ministries. For now, the managers will be completing the training and passing the information to their employees throughout the year.
While the specific project was developed for the Ministry of Environment, a government-wide respectful workplace training program is also in development.
Laura Budd, education co-ordinator with the Saskatchewan Pride Network, said it’s a great initiative for civil servants.
“Often they’ve had no training with regards to gender or sexual diversity. Many of them work with diverse people,” Budd said. “They often don’t tell them about their identity for fear of not understanding or not being respectful. So it’s a great step that they’re going forward and creating a safer workplace.”
Budd said the private sector is being encouraged to offer similar training as well.
Back in 2014, legislation included gender identity as a respected right under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. Budd said adding gender identity to the code was a good move, but there hasn’t been enough done to get the information out to the general public to respect those in their workplace. The training, Budd said, is a good start.
“Just having the discussion, people that have gender diverse people in their lives or are gender diverse themselves know that their co-workers are going to be respectful," Budd said. "It even allows them to bring photos to put on their desk from a vacation or from their family which is sexually diverse without discrimination, and to be a productive member of the team.”
Troy Parenteau, with Prince Albert Pride, said an hour-long course is good, but hoped more will be done in the near future.
“I think having a one-hour course is a good first step, but of course gender diversity is a complex subject,” Parenteau said. “It would be nice to see something with a bit more length and time. I work for the school division; we dedicate entire days to subjects like this. The more and more you learn about gender diversity, the more you see that it’s not a one-faceted issue and it’s quite complicated.”
Once the program develops, Parenteau hopes they engage in longer workshops and work to make the training as intensive and engaging as possible.
“Saskatchewan is starting to get on board with gender diversity," Parenteau said. "Discrimination still exists and there’s still a lot of education that needs to happen.”
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