Dear Pine Community,
The Pine Project is committed to engaging with a decolonial lens and elevating diversity, equity and inclusion in our relations and in the work that we do. This means we become accountable to changing — our practices and processes, policies, and priorities as they relate to time, energy and budgetary resources.
We place a great emphasis on accountability as a powerful component of growth and offer this letter in that spirit — to acknowledge the progress we’ve made and where we have room to grow.
We have a long way to go, and have identified key areas for growth while laying the foundation for coming years in the domains of professional development, hiring practices and diversity among staff, programming, internal culture, participant diversity, and accountability.
What we’re exposed to has a lot to do with who we end up becoming. In 2019 our staff took part in a multi-day training on appropriation in Outdoor Education with an Indigenous organization. That winter, Pine hosted a Kairos Blanket exercise in order to create a shared understanding amongst the staff as to the history of colonization on Turtle Island. In the fall of 2020 an online platform was set up to continue our education related to the history of these lands and Indigenous-Settler relationships. As continual learners Pine staff are co-creating a list of resources authored by BIPOC thinkers, academics, activists, and naturalists from which we can learn. Additionally, we are embarking on the first phase of organization wide Anti-Racism training this year. We continue to look for ways to assist our staff in their own journeys of allyship.
Hiring Practices and Diversity Among Staff
The fact remains that our staff team is largely homogenous, over-representing people of European descent and other privileged social positions. With the goal of becoming an organization that more closely reflects the diversity of our city we have undertaken a process to review and revise job descriptions, update our diversity statement; make the application process more accessible; expand posting to job boards targeted to BIPOC; re-imagine an interview process that reduces assumptions that favour people with racial and socio-economic privilege. We continue to invest in learning that will support us in removing biases from the hiring process.
Much of our curriculum comes from ancient skills and knowledge found across the globe. At times, it also comes from specific cultures. We are engaged in a years-long process of identifying and removing programming that once felt appropriate but that we now deem to be appropriative. We have dedicated time to sourcing and documenting the knowledge we carry so that we can honour people and cultures properly. In training, staff are practicing ways to discuss colonization and reconciliation with our participants in age-appropriate ways, while developing new programming that reflects the need to address cultural histories, histories of the land and Indigenous-Settler relations. This represents a meaningful step forward in the delivery of programming now, and an important step for the institutional knowledge of the Pine Project. As people come and go from our staff team these program documents model what we value.
As an organization that uses culture to mentor, we know its power. We are taking steps to bring diversity, equity, inclusion, and a decolonial lens to the culture ‘inside the office’ and in the field. One accomplishment is the creation of a land acknowledgment statement. While this formal statement can be found on our website, we are making acknowledgement a living part of our culture as a way to remind ourselves and others of our commitment to a decolonial process. We have included a version of our land acknowledgment in welcome packages and emails, and share land acknowledgments at board meetings and morning staff meetings. We continue to learn about the complexity contained within the words of our formal land acknowledgment and see this as a living document.
In 2020 we set up a participant diversity monitoring system as part of our registration process. Preliminary results were unsurprising — a large percentage of our participants identify as affluent and white. This monitoring system will help to assess the effectiveness of our efforts to diversify our participant community.
To live out our vision we must do more to reach people in underserved communities who have historically been disconnected from the land. Over the last two years we have been building relationships with schools that serve large immigrant, refugee, and racialized populations. Slow bureaucratic processes and COVID-19 have made in-person engagement impossible thus far, however we continue to build these relationships as we move towards society-wide vaccination.
Accountability and Conclusion
As we began, so we conclude: accountability is essential. In order to be accountable to our commitments towards diversity, equity, inclusion and decolonization within the organization, we have established twice-monthly meetings to monitor our progress across domains and roles and to formulate next steps. We have a long way to go to embody nature’s lesson that diversity is resilient and strong, but we have committed our feet to this trail and we thank you for joining with us, and helping to hold us accountable.
On behalf of the Pine Project team