“Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having that voice, and belonging is having that voice be heard.” - Liz Fosslien
For many in our community, their voices are silenced. They are labelled as different, often marginalized. They don’t feel heard or accepted. Missing a sense of belonging.
According to a Canadian Survey on disabilities, developed by Statistics Canada, more than 1 in 10 youth in Canada have one or more disabilities. The prevalence of disabilities among Canadians tends to increase with age, however, more than 540,000 youths aged 15-24 years (13 per cent) had one or more disabilities.
For a community to be great, everyone must feel included, safe and welcomed. Together with our partners, Hydro Ottawa is committed to creating a vibrant community where all people are treated equally and can flourish.
With summer comes pool days, the smell of fresh cut grass, and the opportunity to support and participate in events in support of our community’s most vulnerable.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of Hydro Ottawa’s partnership with the Capital Fair to host their annual Special Needs Day. For those of you who may not know, Special Needs Day is an organized event for children with developmental and/or physical disabilities and their caregivers to take advantage of all the sights and attractions of the fair, while being accessible to all who attend.
“I have disabilities myself, so I understand the importance for the kids and caregivers who attend,” says Jennie St. Martin, a Hydro Ottawa employee who has been a volunteer at the Special Needs Day for more than five years. “By slowing down the rides, reducing the sensory overload and having people lifting the attendees on and off the rides, it gives them a chance to enjoy a day at the fair like anyone else.”
With an army of volunteers made up of Hydro Ottawa employees, the event hosts close to 1,500 attendees. In addition to midway fun, guests enjoy additional features of the fair such as a complimentary BBQ lunch, live entertainment, and karaoke. The day's fun-filled itinerary puts a smile on each and every face as well as gives the children, caregivers, and volunteers the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Volunteers get as much out of the day as fairgoers do.
Jennie shared, “When assisting a fellow volunteer with hosting the karaoke, the participation from a young girl with an amazing voice captivated the whole crowd. It was such a moving experience for everyone. Also, nothing beats hearing from the parents who share their appreciation for this program. Many of the families that attend aren’t able to do things like this all together, so giving these children the opportunity to take part in the fair with their family is truly incredible.”
Marching with pride
Since 1986, Capital Pride has been hosted in the heart of the nation's Capital with a mission to create opportunities to celebrate, advocate, educate and connect people while respecting the full diversity of the LGBTQ2+ community.
Based on a 2018 survey conducted by Statistics Canada, one third (33 per cent) of LGBTQ2+ Canadians found it difficult or very difficult to meet their needs in terms of transportation, housing, food, clothing, participation in some social activities and other necessary expenses, compared with just over one quarter (27 per cent) of non-LGBTQ2+ Canadians.
Hydro Ottawa has been a proud supporter of Capital Pride since 2013, showing our alliship by walking in the parade. But the support doesn't stop there. In 2015, we introduced our own internal Pride Network that hosts our very own pride week to celebrate, promote, and learn more about the LGBTQ2+ community.
“I was happy they had started it. Some of my best friends and family members are part of the LGBTQ2+ community so I would consider myself an ally. Just knowing some of their past experiences, in work places in particular, I thought it was a really great initiative and definitely something I wanted to be a part of,” shared Meghan Fee, a Hydro Ottawa employee and proud member of the Hydro Ottawa Pride Network.
The colourful wave that takes over Centretown each year represents a vibrant, united community. Capital Pride accepts everyone as they are with arms wide open.
“The most memorable experience of Capital Pride is always the parade itself,” says Meghan. “It’s an unforgettable day and a ton of fun. A lot of people can bring friends and family and kids and every time I’ve participated in the parade it’s been really uplifting.”
Stronger together, brighter than ever
For us at Hydro Ottawa, diversity and inclusion are about recognizing, respecting and valuing differences that make us unique. It’s these differences that enhance our ability to collaborate with colleagues, and connect with customers on a meaningful level. They are necessary pillars in both the community and the workplace, which is why they are embedded in our values.
While we celebrate how far we’ve come as a community, we acknowledge how far we still have to go before everyone can be their authentic, true self. By partnering with organizations like the Capital Fair and Capital Pride, we know that we can create a better tomorrow for our community.
As Nelson Mandela famously said: “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
This blog was submitted by special contributor, Sydney Landry