At a monthly staff equity discussion in April 2022, the RMG team talked about and reflected upon how we wanted to share our values and actions related to equity and social justice. We considered how public statements could be or read as performative, that organizations that pledge to regularly report on progress do not, and if we wanted to share the internal work we’ve been doing with our broader community. We decided that we did within these parameters:
- Be specific and accountable for our actions
- Provide an opportunity for feedback from the community
- Share some of the things we’ve done in the past for context, not to congratulate ourselves
- Make it digestible and understandable
- Share the structural and organizational changes; programming is already shared
- Update whenever actions are completed or added
While I’ve written this text, it is our team who also lead and support these actions. We all come to this with different backgrounds and lived experiences, stages of unlearning and learning. We are open to the challenging, hard conversations that result, to the discomfort, and to the missteps and mistakes we will continue to make on this journey.
We’re sharing our actions first, and encourage you to read further background, context, and guidelines below. We will update this as actions are accomplished and as things evolve. We welcome your feedback and input. I invite you do so through an anonymous feedback form or get in touch with us at [email protected].
Lauren Gould, CEO
The RMG recognizes that diversity, equity, and inclusion require a strategic process to eliminate barriers and implement change, and we are committed to acting as a positive force. We believe this can only be achieved with the active and meaningful involvement of people who reflect the diverse groups within our community.
The RMG recognizes that ideas and practices based on, or modeled after, norms of dominant culture or society result in exclusion and discrimination. We believe that certain people in our society face oppressive experiences because of individual and systemic unequal power related to identities including race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed (religion), sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status, disability, socio-economic status, or the receipt of public assistance.
The RMG recognizes that unequal power operates both at a personal level in interactions between individuals, and at a systemic level through rules, structures, and practices. The RMG recognizes the need for broad change, and the need for combating oppression in and through our work, so that everyone who interacts with the RMG is treated with dignity and their rights are recognized and protected.
Understanding, acknowledging and working to eliminate oppression is an ongoing and continuous learning process for us all. We recognize that different people can be at different stages in the learning process. We recognize that we all need to make the effort to learn, create opportunities for learning, and assist each other in the learning process.
The team has identified and set the following actions for 2022:
- Build Accessibility into all exhibitions and programming
- Support and mentor emerging IBPOC curators within exhibitions
- Continue to address a lack of diverse representation in the Thomas Bouckley Collection by engaging with communities to include untold stories of Oshawa
- Use key-word optimization in the collections database
- Undertake anti-racist retitling project to address problematic titles in the Permanent Collection
- Support equity-deserving artist through acquisitions
- Develop onsite school program with equity and social justice issues as the focus
- Maintain and pursue additional subsidies to fund programming and make our paid programs accessible to all
- Foster a more equitable digital space through takeovers, content shared, and co-creation with equity deserving groups and artists, such as Womxn of Colour Durham Collective and Aislinn Thomas
- Maintain an Indigenous voice in the Shop by supporting Indigenous artisans and supplies
- Develop new partnerships with Black-owned business and artists represented in the Shop
- Be conscious of the way we ask for funding from active members and non-members
- Second annual review of all organizational policies with considerations of equity
- Develop and deliver authentic, well-researched Indigenous-led content for schools programming. We will consult with Indigenous community members on its development.
- Continue to ensure strong representation of diverse voices within our staff, Board, and volunteer teams
- Ensure diverse representation on the senior leadership team
- Staff team continues to reflect and represent the communities we serve
- Work towards implementing accessibility tools for visitors to experience our programming building and being attentive to our own capacity.
- Continue monthly staff equity discussions focusing on issues that we can more directly impact or that directly impact our community and/or sector
- Create an updated and transparent history of the RMG that celebrates successes as well as past issues
- Develop a way to make our demographic data (collection, exhibition, people) available to the public
We’re including these to provide further context for those who may be new to us, not to grandstand or pat ourselves on the back.
- Completed a demographic audit of the Permanent Collection and special exhibitions held since 2016
- Equity and Indigenous Cultural Awareness Training for all staff and Board. We need to asses when and how this is continued and/or repeated
- Settler x Indigenous History 101 Training for all staff was developed and archived to be included as part of onboarding for new staff and all Board members
- Reviewed recruitment and onboarding strategies, including qualifications required for postings and where positions are shared
- Joined the Indigenous Curatorial Collective as an Institutional Member; also provides an external support and forum for IBPOC staff members
- Updated all policies, internal and external agreements to place binary gender language and selections with more representative language
- Updates all gendered washroom signs to better welcome visitors, staff, and volunteers
- Completed demographic survey of Board of Directors to identify areas that lack representation and prioritized this as part of the recruitment process. Revised governance documents to remove any suggestions of a requirement of financial commitment.
- Explored race-based caucusing for the workplace by providing training through Work Shouldn’t Suck for a white and IBPOC member of staff.
- Hold monthly staff-led equity discussions on staff selected topics. Anonymous surveys sent periodically during the year to assess effectiveness and adjust approach based on feedback.
- Take the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as an opportunity for organizational and personal learning for settler staff members
- Revise all organizational policies with an equity lens
- Updated Collections Management Policy including collection priority for equity deserving artists
Background + Context
The RMG is an organization that has always been rooted in its local community. As our understanding of community has evolved during our history, it has broadened from a white, Eurocentric perspective, to a public art gallery that actively works with partners and individuals representing equity deserving groups. We operate from the ethos of ‘nothing about us, without us’ and this has been ingrained into the way we work for many years.
In 2020, racial inequities realities that were already prevalent in our society were given greater attention, and the attention needed to begin the radical shift needed to continue the path to an equitably just society. There was an increasing need for galleries to reflect art and structures that represent diverse histories, experiences, and perspectives.
When the RMG embarked on a strategic planning process in 2021 to set a new vision and mission for the institution, we re-examined and clarified its values, priorities, and goals. At the onset of the process, the RMG prioritized critically thinking about how equity, inclusion, accessibility, and justice could be incorporated within both the planning process and the final plan. Alongside the development of the strategic plan, we also collaboratively worked on an Equity Policy that would serve as continued guidance and integrated associated equity actions within our operations plan. Equity is not separate from what we do, it is part of what we do.
These guidelines inform the development and execution of the Operations Plan that encompasses equity related actions and supports the delivery of the Strategic Plan. They are central to our vision and mission, and critical to ensuring the well-being of our staff, Board of Directors, and the communities we serve.
- To follow the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’ the RMG will ensure that the community or audience is participating in planning and development for community-led or partnered programming. This will include working in partnership with the community to amplify institutionally excluded voices, stories, and perspectives. This audience may include internal and external stakeholders.
- To be conscious of our role as an institution shaping Canadian art history through our actions.
- To develop partnerships with communities that are not transactional; they will be meaningful for the community and reflect the RMG’s commitment to relationship building.
- To measure our progress, the RMG will regularly and at least annually report on equity related actions through the Operations Plan reports to the Executive Committee and Board of Directors.
- To practice and encourage transparent communication in all interactions, and create opportunities for dialogue and self-reflection. Our work culture values are accountability, kindness, care, and openness.
- To respect and value everyone for their contribution, celebrating peoples’ differences, and providing equal opportunities for all.
- To continue to learn and increase cultural competence throughout the RMG by creating substantive learning opportunities and formal, transparent policies.
- To annually review all policies. We will acknowledge and dismantle inequities within our policies, systems, and services that may be identified by anyone within or external to the organization. As language may change and understanding advances, the RMG will ensure that all policies are reflective of current equity practices
- To commit time and resources to expand more diverse leadership with our Board of Directors and staff.
 CRRF, grounds from Ontario Human Rights Code to reflect RMG’s Abuse, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Violence in the Workplace Policy