Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Logo

The commitment to create an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advisory Committee was made by Provincial Council in the fall of 2019, and its 12 members, together with 5 staff resource people, began meeting in June 2020. The EDI Advisory Committee will provide advice and make recommendations to our Provincial Executive and Council on matters of policy and governance, and to our Executive Director on operational matters.

In addition, the EDI Advisory Committee will implement and/or oversee projects and activities designed to advance equity, inclusion, anti-racism and anti-oppression, with a focus on addressing systemic oppression, specifically anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, racism against people of colour, Islamophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia.

For further information read our outline of the Terms of Reference. 

Our Committee Members

Click on the names below to learn more about each EDI Committee member.  The committee is also supported by OPC staff. 

Michelle Rodney Bartalos
Michelle submitted her name to be part of the EDI Advisory Committee with both enthusiasm and trepidation. She doesn’t consider herself to be “the average applicant with a formal list of experiences to note.” But as an advocate for various marginalized communities, she has exercised a confident and passionate voice to inspire students and staff to excel in all aspects of school life, despite the systemic barriers. She began her elementary teaching career in Toronto, moving later to Hamilton-Wentworth. Working in two boards within an assortment of single and dual track schools provided her with experiences in culturally and socio-economically diverse communities. She also effectively engaged and motivated her colleagues through her roles in her local OPC association as Vice-Chair, Elementary Chair, OPC Councillor and Past Chair. She wanted to join this committee to learn, grow and advocate for what she believes racialized administrators need. Michelle doesn’t believes that we can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results. She hopes to provide a perspective of what provincial colleagues may want/need if they are currently part of a structure that does not recognize its systemic barriers.

A piece of advice from Michelle: “Get out of your comfort zones and engage a variety of different perspectives in problem solving. Surrounding yourself with people who look and think the same as you do doesn’t lead to greater innovation or creativity; it leads to further systemic entrenchment that ultimately harms student engagement and success. You shouldn’t be inclusive because it’s the politically correct thing to do. Instead, do it because a diverse range of voices leads to better outcomes for everyone. It’s ok to feel the discomfort and engage in action that will bring about the change to create a future we all want to be part of. Speaking out against racism, sexism, the ‘mindset of poverty’ and other “equity detours” in an unwavering and unapologetic voice is not always appreciated, but it is necessary. Our children deserve it.”

Nancy Brady

Nancy has had the privilege of being an administrator in the Ottawa Carleton DSB for the past 17 years, in the elementary and secondary panels. She always had a passion for leadership, education and making a difference in students’ lives. However, when she expressed her aspirations to a trusted mentor in the first board she worked in, she was told that unless she was willing to hide who she truly was, keeping her private life and “alternative lifestyle” hidden, she would never be an administrator in that board. Luckily, that same mentor helped her transfer to the Ottawa-Carleton DSB, where she was able to pursue her goals and remain true to who she was, a member of the LGTBQ2 community.

Nancy admits that the journey she then traveled has not been without bumps or difficulties. While able to move forward professionally, there were still many occasions (in and outside of the education world) when she faced (and still faces) discrimination, hateful comments and abuse. There are still areas in the world she will not travel due to the continued criminalization of LGTBQ2 people. She notes that she and her partner of 20 years are still cautious about holding hands in public.

Nancy wanted to be part of the EDI Advisory Committee not only to move forward the rights of the LGTBQ2 community, but also because as the Past-President of the OPC, she heard from colleagues from diverse backgrounds who felt it was time for our association not only to increase the speed of our equity journey, but to take on a leadership role in this journey.

A piece of advice from Nancy: “Even those of us who are from a diverse or marginalized group are not without our own unconscious biases. As a bisexual woman, I have not only faced discrimination outside the LGTBQ2 community, but also within my community for not being “gay enough.” I also acknowledge that I have much work to do personally and professionally to truly be an ally and accomplice for others along this journey.”

Lisa Collins

Lisa is a 0.5 Principal of Alliance French Immersion School in North Bay and 0.5 Well-Being Lead Principal (K-12) for the Near North DSB. She is also the President-Elect for the OPC for the 2020-2021 school year. 

She began her career as an Educational Assistant and went on to teach in both the English and French Immersion streams. Lisa has always had a strong passion for Special Education. Growing up with two siblings with special needs and working as an EA provided her with a great interest in this area, where she could use her background and experience to support students in reaching their full potential as learners. Collectively, these experiences contributed to her wanting to reach the entire school community and beyond. The role of principal provided her this opportunity. As a school leader, she has led several diverse school communities, facing the different challenges both large urban districts and smaller rural communities experience. She believes that regardless of district or community, school leaders share many common challenges. 

Throughout her childhood and adulthood, Lisa has observed a lack of understanding of both physical and intellectual disabilities. She has always believed that education and collaboration build understanding and the development of empathy. Lisa wanted to participate in the EDI Advisory Committee to support others in developing a better understanding of our many differences. She believes leadership is about empathy and having the ability to connect with people to inspire and empower their lives. United by diverse backgrounds and experiences, Lisa is confident that we can make a difference for our province, communities, Members and especially our students. 

Yonnette E. Dey
Yonnette’s passion for equity and social justice led her to teaching. As a Black woman growing up in Kitchener, she experienced many acts of discrimination because of her skin colour. She learned to navigate those spaces by practicing the values taught to her by her parents: always be respectful, treat others the way you want to be treated and dream big. Yonnette quickly learned that while this was sound advice, she would need others to achieve success in a predominately White society. 

She took the lessons from her parents and learned to advocate for herself. As an administrator, she demonstrated passion for equity work by building strong relationships with students and challenged inequitable practices. She became a champion of diverse resources and high-functioning classrooms. Yonnette believes equity is achieved by culturally competent and compassionate leadership, a skill she curated over many years working with families disadvantaged by systemic barriers. Being part of the EDI Advisory Committee will allow her to extend her leadership at the provincial level to be a greater voice for the underserved. Given the long-standing climate of dissatisfaction expressed by many racialized communities, she believes it behooves the OPC not only to prepare principals and vice-principals to be culturally competent, but also to offer them support on an ongoing basis. 

A piece of advice to educators: “Always respond with compassion and understanding. We live in a global society and that network requires a better understanding of the impact of systemic racism. Effective educators have an inclusive mindset for all equity-seeking groups and a vision for a just society. Our students deserve better outcomes for a life defined by excellence and opportunity.”

Tina Futers
Tina’s career in education began as the principal of a ballet school, which then led her to becoming an elementary teacher with the Grand Erie DSB, where she taught for 11 years. Proudly, she is now a vice-principal entering into her third year with the Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB in Peterborough. 

As the mother of a transgender son, Tina considers herself to be quite passionate regarding the equity of our children and young adults across Ontario. Our students are faced with many unique challenges throughout their growth in the education system, including systemic barriers causing unequal access. Unfortunately, there is very limited representation of similar races, cultures, genders and lived experiences mirrored in the professional roles in education, adding to the feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Tina believes our students deserve better. 

Acknowledging her own privilege has led her to recognize the need for sharing her voice to support those with fewer opportunities. As a collective, Tina thinks we must navigate our way through some of the barriers that exist for our students, using our powerful voices to interrupt some of the learning. Being a part of this powerful committee will allow her to model her commitment to equity and diversity, support other administrators as equity champions and continue with her own learning. 

Elizabeth Innes
Elizabeth is the proud System Lead for Indigenous Education at DSB Ontario North East. She has been an educator for 21 years; teaching for seven and a vice-principal/principal/system principal for 14 years in Northern Ontario. 

As an Omushkego Cree woman, and the proud daughter/granddaughter of residential school survivors, she has witnessed varying degrees of knowledge and understanding of our shared history and current modern-day experiences as Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, on the territory we share. Describing her lived experience related to diversity, Elizabeth believes that while we have come a long way with understanding and respecting people from all backgrounds, her lived experiences tell her otherwise. Some of her experiences have been shaped by a dominant society that desperately needs to consider how the lack of diversity affects us all. Elizabeth believes that when we lead with love, respect, bravery, truth, honesty, humility and wisdom, we create inclusive, safe learning environments. These are the teachings gifted to us all. She wonders if strong diversity in schools was modelled, widely accepted and celebrated, would she have the same connections to diversity and how our systems have failed our people? 

Elizabeth sees the historical trauma every day in her people, but she also sees strength and resilience. She believes that when we work together to understand the root causes of trauma, and strengthen that empathetic response to our shared, inherent history, we can begin to build confidence and strength in our students. When all students feel represented and visible in their schools, when more than one voice is shared and heard, our students will begin to thrive in places not typically reflective of their true selves. When working towards system level change, Elizabeth encourages us to ask ourselves if the change benefits the system or the people it is designed to serve. 

Kenneth Mak
Kenneth has been an educator for 13 years, and is currently an elementary vice-principal with the Ottawa-Carleton DSB. Growing up as a child from an immigrant family in a Toronto suburb, he was fortunate enough to be surrounded by many diverse cultural experiences and understands how this is invaluable to schools. As an educator, he has been a strong advocate for providing students space where they feel that they belong to foster inclusive learning communities. Having served on a variety of committees, working groups and collaborating with many community partners to support LGBTQ+ and Indigenous Education initiatives, he believes that the work of creating inclusive environments is not an individual task, but rather a collaboration of many stakeholders. Moving inclusivity forward is an intentional act by everyone in schools. Kenneth believes we all have the responsibility of coordinating efforts and gathering expertise to make these spaces available for all. 
Ann Pace
Ann is the President of the OPC, on secondment from the York Region DSB, where she has worked for 28 years. Ann was a secondary teacher and became a vice-principal in 2005 and a principal in 2010. Born and raised in Etobicoke to immigrant parents, she eventually moved to Richmond Hill. 

Ann is committed to ending systemic racism in education and other societal systems. She recognizes that her first steps involve deepening her understanding of the roots of systemic racism that have been perpetuated through colonialism, recognizing her role in supporting those marginalized by race, creed, gender, ability, etc, and acting to impact change in the areas where she has influence and responsibility. 

Ann believes that the OPC has a responsibility to represent and support all of its Members. She sees the first formal step in ensuring that the organization is fulfilling this mandate to be recognizing our diversity, understanding what we must do to be inclusive of all and ensuring that the organization authentically reflects equity. Ann believes that to truly champion equity and diversity, one must first recognize their own privilege and unconscious bias and commit to removing systemic barriers. 

Christina Saunders
 
Irfan Toor

Irfan (He/Him) has been an educator in a variety of settings including outdoor and alternative education, but primarily as a secondary science teacher. He is currently the Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclsuion for the OPC. Prior to that, he was a school administrator and the Principal of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the Simcoe County DSB. Irfan has  also involved with the OPC as a member of his local executive, a Provincial Councillor, a Member-at-Large for Provincial Executive and as an instructor for the OPC PQP program. He appreciates that the OPC will have a large role to play in advocating for more equitable practices in our school systems.

As a Pakistani-born Canadian growing up in small towns but also living and working in Toronto for some time, Irfan has an appreciation for the diversity that is present across Canada, but also for the persistence of patterns of bias and discrimination that exist in our communities and schools. Reflecting back on over 40 years of being involved in public education both as a student and then an educator, the diversification of the identities of educators has lagged far behind the identities of students as compared to other sectors. Irfan recognizes the importance of education leaders starting with self-reflection and personal identity if they want to create safe and inclusive spaces. He believes school administrators are integral to fostering inclusive pedagogical practices and dismantling systems of oppression and discrimination in education. Irfan is honoured to participate in the EDI Advisory Committee committee to support administrators in doing this work.

Abe Wall
“For the child of my father’s and my generation, school could be, and often was, a painful place. Everything valued by one’s parents, everything that made up one’s after-school life, was feared, misunderstood, occasionally ridiculed and always subtly undermined. Everything associated with the most significant landmarks of human existence, everything that was most sacred, most poignant, most satisfying – all of that was somehow second- and third-rate.”

The above quote summarizes so much of what Abe has experienced and observed in public education in Ontario. It is from a Mennonite reflecting on their memory of school in Canada at the turn of the last century. Abe is a first-generation immigrant and moved to Canada from a Mennonite Colony in Mexico as a six-year-old. School was not a safe place for him. Racism and systemic barriers kept him on guard and he never completely felt engaged. 

Abe strives to identify and implement strategies to eliminate barriers that stem from racism and systemic inequities. Through education, information sharing and relationships founded on trust and respect, he is changing the narrative. As a classroom teacher, he championed for the disenfranchised and marginalized. As an administrator, he continued the work, through the development of programming focussed on culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy. Currently he works with a special project involving multiple districts, the Ministry of Education and the Mennonite Central Committee. The program (Tu Puente) focusses on sense of belonging, value and purpose through student achievement. 

Equity, diversity and inclusivity have been Abe’s focus for his entire career. He is comitted to these precepts an has championed them in every position he has held. He looks forward to working with his colleagues and leaders from across he province, and on the EDI Advisory Committee, as the continues the journey towards these values.

Matthew Webbe

Matthew is an elementary principal with the Toronto DSB, with 20 years of experience as an educator internationally and in Canada. As a Canadian-born male of Afro-Latinx heritage, his lived experiences afforded him a unique set of challenges that persons of multi-multiheritage and diverse identities face outside the education field. Having these personalized experiences of race and identity allows him to connect and understand another’s experience and the thinking that sits behind that experience.

Matthew wanted to be part of the EDI Advisory Committee as he believes that his social, academic, volunteerism, professional and governance experiences can provide important insights. These skills could support effective processes and programs for realizing more significant equity, inclusion and diversity within the OPC. His work in Environmental Racism, Digital Equity, Neurodiversity, Curriculum and Instruction complements his career in educational leadership. 

He has experience in program and policy reviews at various not-for-profit organizations, municipal agencies, the Ontario College of Teachers and the TDSB that apply up-to-date knowledge to problems, issues and concerns affecting diverse groups and the historically underrepresented.

A piece of advice from Matthew – “Diversity and inclusion require preliminary work to identify imbalances, loopholes or unequal starting places within schools. Diversity is viewed as quantifiable by measuring who is represented in an organization. Inclusion is measured by qualitative data, noting personal attitudes and people’s perceptions of how welcoming an organization is.”

 

Additional Resources

 Resources

Below is an evolving list of equity, diversity and inclusion resources that include information we hope will help our Members work to understand and support the communities and students that they serve. 

Connect with our EDI Committee

The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee welcomes questions, comments or suggestions for project considerations or collaborative work.

To connect we ask that you please email president@principals.ca and include an outline or proposal for consideration.