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Fernie workshop addresses LGBTQ inclusion in business

The event brought in 50 people from varied sectors and organizations
Courtney Baker (left) of the Fernie Pride Society and Andrea Brennan, reverend canon with Christ Church Anglican and the Fernie Knox United Church. (Joshua Fischlin/The Free Press)

A workshop on LGBTQ inclusion in business took place at the Fernie Senior Citizens Drop-In Centre on Wednesday (June 8).

The event, called ‘Building a More 2SLGBTQ+ Inclusive Business’, was put on by the Fernie Pride Society and the Fernie Chamber of Commerce.

“It really was to help businesses either get on the path to inclusion, or to further the inclusion in their businesses,” said Courtney Baker, who is administrator with the Fernie Pride Society.

Featured speakers included Andrea Brennan, who is reverend canon of Christ Church Anglican and Fernie Knox United Church, Loren Christie of Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce on Zoom, speaking on ‘How your Business can Benefit from Becoming more 2SLGBTQ+ Inclusive’, and Pam Rocker, an activist, consultant, speaker and musician, also on Zoom, speaking on the topic of ‘Safer and Braver Businesses.’

There were 50 people in attendance both in-person and online, with various sectors and organizations within the community represented.

Baker said the event was meant to help businesses attract and retain employees and customers, and that inclusion leads to growth economically, socially, and culturally for businesses.

“It really was to put businesses on the best path to success.”

People in attendance were given a booklet called ‘2SLGBTQ+ Workplace Inclusion Guide’, made by Baker.

“(The booklet is) really more of the how to start your business off (with inclusivity), and then if you want to, how to further your D.E.I. - your diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in your business.”

Baker said that crafting a commitment statement and putting it ‘front and centre’ in hiring and living up to that statement is one way for businesses to be more inclusive.

In her remarks, Brennan said that the event was “a wonderful opportunity to bring business owners together, and employees together, to take a look at what we need to do, what we need to do to be better, as an inclusive community.”

She said that Fernie has always been ‘ahead of the fray’ in terms of attracting people from around the world, and that broadening it’s appeal to the LGBTQ community was another step that could be taken.

“There’s a market there that we’re missing, and so it just makes economic sense,” she said.

She also said that inclusion is the moral thing to do, and that anyone can participate in a job given that they have the necessary skills to do so.

“There’s always work that we can do to be better in inclusion, and if we can start with the LGBTQ community, then we can look into being more inclusive for people of colour, for our indigenous brothers and sisters, to make sure that we provide spaces where people feel safe, where people feel included — where people don’t feel tolerated, they feel celebrated. And that’s a really big difference,” Brennan said.

“I’m really pleased for the folks that were with us today.”

READ MORE: Fernie Pride survey gives high(er) marks to Fernie than neighbours for inclusivity


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