Reflecting on Niagara-In-Action: What Does Social Advocacy Truly Mean?

Photo by Markus Spiske on
 on December 9, 2021

On September 25, 2021, the Diocese held another successful session of Niagara-In-Action! An annual favourite, this year’s event showcased two workshops: “Mapping the Ground We Stand On” and “Creating 2SLGBTQ+ Positive Space.” Mapping the Ground explored Indigenous presence and settler arrival on the map of Turtle Island (Canada). Led by PWRDF-trained facilitators, Greg Smith and Cheryl Marek, and Archdeacon Val Kerr, this seminar explored common social misconceptions about “vacant” land in historical Canada. 

On the other hand, Creating 2SLGBTQ+ Positive Space training was led by Deirdre Pike, Justice and Outreach Program Consultant. This workshop took a personal, organizational, and political perspective to challenging heteronormativity. It helped participants identify subtle and explicit forms of heterosexism, cissexism, homophobia, and transphobia. The workshop gave information about being an ally and advocating for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

As a participant in Mapping the Ground, I was both confronted and humbled by the visual truth. The map of Canada, filled with all its rich and long-standing Indigenous communities, communicated a very clear message to me: that even the land I legally “own” today was stolen. How would I have felt if my home was stolen from me or my family? How would my community survive if our connection to the land—to our medicine, food and shelter—was severed? The workshop encouraged us to ponder these questions.

Similarly, participants in the Positive Space training had their own “a-ha” moments. In general, when confronted by overt homophobia, cissexism, or transphobia, many may feel compelled to react. In fact, some activists and allies may be most familiar with this type of social injustice—when discrimination is obvious and loud. However, a challenging and equally crucial part of advocacy is recognizing subtle cues. The silent judgment, the exclusion from social events, or the undeserved promotion—each of these can reinforce heteronormativity in equally dangerous ways. How can we advocate in these cases? How can we confront subtlety? How can we be better allies, advocates, and accomplices?

Ultimately, Niagara-In-Action challenged participants and helped them reframe their views on social injustices. The workshops taught us to challenge our assumptions and preset knowledge. They taught us that our efforts in reconciliation and allyship may sometimes inconvenience us. It may put us in a place where we ourselves have to change, compromise and feel uncomfortable. 

Perhaps, however, it is in these moments that we experience the most growth. After all, we cannot be an ally without giving up some privilege.

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