ATA News

Diversity initiative cause for excitement

Cartoon image of multi-cultural people

Question:  I’ve heard about the Diversity Equity Network (DEN) initiative approved by the Annual Representative Assembly. Where do I sign up? 

Answer: Whoa there, Tiger! We aren’t quite ready yet, but we are on the way.

The 2024 Annual Representative Assembly approved funding for the establishment of Diversity Equity Networks as part of a larger diversity initiative. In my 24 years of attending ARA, I am hard-pressed to recall an initiative that was greeted with such enthusiasm. 

DENs are modeled on Association specialist councils, but instead of bringing together teachers based on their teaching specialties, DENs will provide a structure where teachers who identity as members of a diverse group could come together to dialogue, support each other, and organize relevant events and services. They will be self-defining and self-organizing, with a focus on providing programming to members who might be scattered across the province. 

A good example of a prototype DEN is the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (ATAGSA), which was established by gender- and relationship-diverse teachers and has provided opportunities for its members, including 2SLGBTQIA+ teachers and their allies, to meet monthly in a safe virtual space to share their stories, resources, supports and to build connections and community. The ATAGSA assists teachers wanting to establish local GSAs, promotes understanding of how human rights, employment and labour law impact gender- and relationship-diverse teachers and students, and promotes dialogue around pressing issues affecting the community. 

We anticipate that DENs will eventually be formed around a wide variety of potential identities and are excited by the potential of this new approach to provide service to members and support the diversity of our members. 

But we have some work to do first. 

Over the next few months, Association staff will develop draft terms of reference and processes for establishing and operating DENs. We will develop a funding model that will be flexible and sufficient to support DEN activities while providing for necessary accountability. All this work will need to be informed by input from the Association’s Diversity Equity and Human Rights (DEHR)Committee and, ultimately, approved by Provincial Executive Council.

All of this work might seem like unnecessary bureaucracy, but we are establishing an entirely new mechanism for serving members. Getting the details right, or at least as close to right as we can, is important for the success and sustainability of the program. 

I am anticipating that we will be ready to launch around January 2025. You can expect to see a communications campaign to raise member awareness of the program. 

Diversity Equity Networks are part of a larger diversity initiative that will include the following: 

  • Restructuring the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Committee of Provincial Executive Council 
    The role and membership of the DEHR committee will be expanded to provide representation, coordination and oversight of DENs. The revamped committee will continue to provide policy advice to Provincial Executive Council concerning general diversity, equity and inclusion issues, liaise with local DEHR Committees and organize budgeted events such as the DEHR Conference. 
  • Expanding diversity responsive initiatives within existing Association programs 
    Diversity training, accommodations to support diversity, and celebrations of religious, cultural and racial identity are being undertaken by and for staff of the Association, which will be the subject of a diversity audit to be carried out over the course of the year. A program for local DEHR chairs at summer conference will be offered in alternate years. Plans are being developed to create within the Association Instructors Corps a cohort of racialized teachers to offer focused professional development relating to the experience of race in the profession and the classroom. Policy and program initiatives will be considered through the lens of diversity as they are being developed and delivered.
  • Creating a new Social Justice and Equity (SJE) sub-program area within the Professional Development program area 
    The creation of this new sub-program area will facilitate the activities of the DENs, support the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, and coordinate diversity initiatives. 
  • Maintaining the Indigenous Education and Women in Leadership Committees of PEC and their associated programming 
    Our established Indigenous Education and Women in Leadership Committees will continue to do their work. Both these committees and the programming they support provide extraordinary value to teachers and have provided insights that will inform other initiatives. 

As you can see, there is a great deal that needs to be done, but this is important and complex work that deserves to be done well. ❚

Questions for consideration in this ­column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at 

ATA executive secretary Dennis Theobald
Dennis Theobald

ATA Executive Secretary