Women’s symposium to shine spotlight on gender equality
Tim Brody - Associate Editor
As the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Diverse Voices for Change initiative draws closer to its conclusion, Sioux Lookout, as one of five communities across Canada involved in the initiative, is preparing to host a women’s symposium.
The March 26 symposium, being hosted by The Municipality of Sioux Lookout, is being held to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women in Sioux Lookout.
“It’s really about getting women excited, encouraging them, making them more informed, more aware, and familiarizing them with the process of political change and politics and how it works, so that they will then be more inclined toward participation (in municipal, provincial, or federal politics), which is the ultimate goal, to have women’s participation increase toward parity,” commented Sioux Lookout Municipal Councillor Yolaine Kirlew, describing the Diverse Voices for Change Initiative.
Kirlew and Councillor Joyce Timpson are spearheading the initiative in Sioux Lookout.
Kirlew is the regional representative for FCM.
March 8 was International Women’s Day and this year’s theme, Press for Progress, aligns with the goal of the Diverse Voices for Change initiative.
“The whole purpose is to focus on innovative and collaborative approaches, connecting selected officials with community based organizations to galvanize women from Indigenous, racialized, and new immigrant women in the community to start thinking about how does politics intersect with their lives and how they wish to approach it going forward, with awareness, and with a better understanding of the tools and initiatives available to them at the local level,” Kirlew said.
“This symposium is really a culmination of that, and from that we should then have our recommendations to put forward to council that say this is what women have said in our community, and here is what matters to them in terms of their intersectionality with the municipal government machinery and how they wish to then go forward and see the municipality engage them in a more long term, meaningful way,” Kirlew explained.
Tiffany Gooch, a public affairs consultant, will be the keynote speaker at the symposium.
“Being a woman that is racialized, and very, very involved in engaging women across the board in politics in Ontario, she was an ideal candidate… to be a keynote to talk to women about on the inside, what is politics federally and provincially, and how that then impacts from a policy perspective, local engagement and how women can see themselves and what sort of public profiling is really done to align women with policies and policies with women.
“There isn’t really any more active voice that represents this whole idea of diversity that I think could really resonate with the municipal lens, other than her,” Kirlew shared.
Enterprisecanada.com described Gooch, “Tiffany has worked extensively in the provincial government in Ontario, where she assumed increasingly integral roles in the Ontario Liberal Party office, constituency and Queen’s Park MPP’s offices, minister’s offices, and the Office of the Premier; often called upon as a speaker and moderator for civic roundtables in the Toronto area, consulting with numerous political campaigns, social enterprises, and not-for-profit organizations on strategic communications, fundraising, and business planning.”
Gooch is also a former Ontario Liberal Women’s Commission executive member, former Ontario Liberal Party executive council secretary, and former reading partnership chair.
Gooch is also a columnist with the Toronto Star newspaper.
Asked her thoughts on the Diverse Voices for Change initiative and Sioux Lookout’s participation, Gooch shared, “Our approach to dismantling the barriers faced by women, and particularly racialized women, in leadership needs to be solutions focused. These are important discussions taking place across the country as best practices are shared. Kudos to those who are leading this important initiative.”
Kirlew added, “She’s a great way to bring back to the south what we’re doing on the ground here at the grassroots and the municipal level and how that can be translated into effecting change going forward.”
“Ultimately,” Kirlew said, “when we look at women in leadership, women remain underrepresented in leadership and management level positions in both public and private sectors. Parity is still far from a reality.”
“We’re very, very happy about the success of the program and we’re looking forward to the upcoming things that a symposium can encourage,” Kirlew noted.
“Even for Diverse Voices for Change, the project, as it comes to a close, there’s a national toolkit that we’re looking to put together of best practises that we’re looking to share with the rest of Canada,” Kirlew concluded.
The Women’s Symposium will take place March 26 at the Forest Inn and Conference Centre from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Women interested in participating are asked to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 737-2700 ext. 2228.