Canada has long been known as a warm, welcoming country and these collective values also pervade many aspects of the hospitality industry. At Shaw Centre, this inclusionary spirit infuses our policies and practices of celebrating diversity, among both our guests and our colleagues. During Ottawa’s recent Pride Week festivities, we had the opportunity as a team to reflect on the importance of creating an environment that is comfortable for all.
It was heartening to see the city-wide engagement throughout the various Pride festivities as it served as a vivid reminder of why celebrating diversity strengthens us as a community. As Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson reminded us when he raised the rainbow flag at City Hall to kick off this important annual event, we are fortunate to live in a place that is recognized as progressive, diverse and inclusive, thanks in large part to the important advocacy work Ottawa Capital Pride has done over the years. “The Capital Pride Festival is a great opportunity to highlight the contributions made by LGBTTQ+ communities everywhere, and acknowledge the progress that remains to be made at home and abroad,” he said.
This year, Justin Trudeau made civil rights history by becoming the first sitting prime minister to participate in Capital Pride’s marquee event, a joyful parade through downtown believed to the largest in Ottawa’s history. Another parade first was having the Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, and other senior members of the Canadian Armed Forces marching along with approximately 100 uniformed military personnel. They were joined
by representatives from more than 120 community organizations as well as other political leaders including Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown. I mention this simply because the success of this year’s parade, which included tens of thousands of spectators from all walks of life, sends a strong message about inclusion. I personally felt proud to be an Ottawan and a Canadian, knowing that diversity is something we have come to accept as a norm.
Yet, despite the advances that we’ve made as a society, we are mindful at Shaw Centre that we cannot rest on our laurels. To this end, we are constantly focusing on ways to ensure that we are supporting accessibility and diversity as best we can, including establishing gender neutral washrooms in our facility. As a further example, our staff participated in a training session through the Gender Diversity and Sexuality Centre of Ottawa during Pride week. It was an opportunity to help our staff better understand the LGBTTQ+ community, learn about respectful language and gain insight into new ways to be more inclusive.
Gender is not the only element of inclusivity that we pay attention to here. We strive to ensure our environment is equally welcoming for employees and guests of every ethnicity. As well, we have established a wide range of accommodations for those with disabilities. Not only is our centre fully accessible, but we also have developed detailed processes to support employees who require individualized disability-related accommodations in order to fulfill their responsibilities, including facilitating their return to work after an illness or injury. These plans also incorporate measures to ensure employees with disabilities can participate fully in career development and advancement.
I personally feel it is very important for organizations such as ours to do more than just talk about diversity, accessibility and inclusion. I am proud of the work our team has done to make that Shaw Centre is a safe and comfortable space for everyone who spends time here, whether it’s for an evening, a weekend or the duration of their career. This process is an ongoing one and Shaw Centre will continue to identify and remove barriers that exist for staff and guests to ensure we remain the warm, welcoming place that we strive to be.
-Nina Kressler, CEO, Shaw Centre