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  • Writer's picturekk smith

Improving workplace diversity, one holiday at a time

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

The chalkboard sign in front of our treat-laden staff table read, “Happy Diwali – Enjoy!”

At the childcare centre where I help manage operations and HR, we don’t celebrate the “usual” holidays. We only celebrate holidays that everyone at our Centre can enjoy: Heritage Day, Earth Day, International Day of Families and National Child Day.

We’ve always included Canada Day in this list, but after receiving some feedback from families last year, we’re thinking of switching or combining that celebration with National Indigenous Peoples Day and/or Canadian Multiculturalism Day, since they all fall around the same time, and, in combination, better represent the realities of Canada’s history.

We draw a distinction between holidays we can celebrate together and “traditional” holidays, which we welcome as learning opportunities. Our curriculum is child-led, so if children are excited because Christmas or Halloween or Eid is coming, our Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) will provide opportunities for the children to explore and learn more about those occasions.

The same goes for staff, instead of a staff Christmas party, we host a staff appreciation shindig in the bleak mid-winter (usually Feb); instead of “Secret Santas” we do “Sunshine Buddies” around the same time.

We forge our own traditions around values that we all share, no matter our religions, cultures or national origins.

We have taken this approach to holidays for at least a decade, but in the last couple years, our opportunities to learn have grown exponentially with the influx of ECEs from all parts of the world (including Nigeria, Vietnam, China, Philippines, India, UAE, Brazil and Jamaica). These days, ten of our 18 full-time staff are newcomers (i.e. - they arrived in Canada less than two years ago). We also employ four international students part-time.

This week the CBC highlighted our efforts to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace through our involvement with the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program:

Although we’re from everywhere, most of us are struggling with some combination of the same challenges. In the space of a mere 16 (or so) hours a day, we must find the inner strength to give our best to our work, households, kids, spouses and, quite often, extra schooling on the side.

For all of the things that we do - Happy International Women’s Day!

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