Another year, another conversation

The new year is a time for reflection and to look forward to new possibilities. 2018 signals progress and change.

2017 has been an interesting year. Many important landmark events were met: two of them being Canada’s 150th birthday and Durham College’s 50th anniversary. The New Year is a good time to set a collective resolution as students and as citizens.

But before we resolve what is to come, it is important to reflect.  There were many big events in social movements last year.

The #MeToo sexual harassment and assault movement gave a voice to survivors who otherwise would not have spoken out.

The number of hashtags populating social media brought more awareness of the how ubiquitous this issue is and in the end, there is more transparency and more accountability. This changed the focus of the conversation from the survivor to the perpetrator.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement protesting police presence during LGBTQ+ pride events prevented uniformed officers and marked police cruisers to participate in the Toronto Pride Parade. This debate about diversity and inclusions started in 2016 but culminated in 2017.

In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized to the LGBTQ+ community for the “witch hunt” of civil servants because of their sexual orientation.

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has created changes in the Durham Region including accessibility of the regional website. Nationally, the federal government has concluded  nationwide consultation to develop federal accessibility legislation.

The introduction of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act (Bill 148) in November of 2017, includes the minimum wage increase from $11.60 per hour to $15 per hour by Jan. 1, 2019.

It will be increased to $14 per hour as of Jan. 1, 2018. After five years, employees get three weeks of paid vacation and are eligible for more personal emergency leave.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) call to action for First Nations reaches a two-year milestone. Canadian Media started reporting more on and from Indigenous communities. Acknowledging traditional territory became more commonplace.

The public, and Canadian icons like the late Gord Downie, put more pressure on the Federal Government to continue the inquiry into finding the missing Indigenous women. Canada also made a $750 million settlement to survivors of the Sixties Scoop.

So, what should we envision for the New Year?

A world where all voices are heard, regardless of ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, or religion. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening overnight are pretty slim. So, for now we can only work to improve things, at least a little bit.

With the flurry of sexual harassment and assault allegations, we should continue listening to the people who have been sexually assaulted and/or harassed. Instead of immediately picking a side or picking them apart, just listen. Let them tell their story.

Support those who support the #MeToo movement. They are more than just someone’s parent, partner, or child. They are people and they deserve to be heard.

We can continue with the progress on full AODA applications. The Regional Municipality of Durham’s new website promises to meet a AAA standard of accessibility.

One in seven Canadians has a disability. The world needs to be accessible, whether it’s more accessible transit, better accessible documents, or simply having accurate subtitles on videos.

Nationally, there is hope that in 2018 the Federal Government will create nationwide legislation that will set accessibility standards and make Canada accessible for everyone.

As a nation, we need to discuss the future of what Ontario’s working conditions could be. Contract work is becoming more and more common.

To end the five-week college faculty strike, Premier Kathleen Wynne implemented a back-to-work order, essentially stomping the freedom of collective bargaining. Ironically, around the same time, Bill 148 was passed.

The Bill, also known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, aims to create more opportunity and security for casual, contract, part-time, temporary and seasonal workers.

This is one of the things college faculty were bargaining for during the strike. The conversation around contract work needs to continue.

Once again, we should listen to what Indigenous communities are trying to tell us.

Don’t interrupt and don’t brush them off. Just listen and ask what we can do to engender truth, create reconciliation, and foster an understanding of cultural differences.

Despite the effort and changes in 2017, as a community and as a society, there is much to be done.

We must continue working to give all communities a voice. 2017 went through a lot of change and 2018 will surely be no different.

The Chronicle would like to hear about initiatives that speak to societal changes in our community. Tell us your story so we can share it with our community.