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Going gender-neutral at Kamloops City Hall

The city is working toward equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, with council to be asked in January for funding of between $75,00 and $100,000 to hire a temporary employee to train staff on issues
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Gender-neutral language and a proposed hiring of a new temporary staff member are among initiatives at Kamloops City Hall aimed at equity, diversity and inclusion.

City reports and staff acknowledgments have shifted away from idioms such as “Mr.” and “Mrs.” and have become focused instead on job titles and inclusive terms.

City CAO David Trawin said the change came as a result of updates to council’s procedure bylaw.

“All language was taken out that’s not gender-neutral,” Trawin said, noting acknowledgements of staff should be related to their city position and not their gender identity. “That shouldn’t even be a question,” he said.

According to the United Nations, the use of gender-inclusive language prevents discrimination against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.

“Given the key role of language in shaping cultural and societal attitudes, using gender-inclusive language is a powerful way to promote gender equity and eradicate gender bias,” the UN backgrounder on communicating in a gender-inclusive way states.

Trawin said the city is working toward equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, but noted it takes time with a large organization like the city, which has some 900 employees.

Trawin said he has noticed, for example, he uses the term “guys” in a generic way, despite speaking to both men and women. He said it is a term he is working to eliminate from his vocabulary in that context.

Guidelines for gender-inclusive language outlined by the United Nations advise use of gender-neutral words. For example, “mankind” is less inclusive than “humankind,” “humanity” or “human race.” Pronouns such as “their,” “they” and “one” can be used to ensure inclusivity.

Trawin said council will be asked in January for funding as part of supplementary budget discussions to hire a temporary equity, diversity and inclusion worker. That employee — at a projected cost of between $75,000 and $100,000 — would provide training to staff and implement initiatives.

Trawin said the city is working on an in-house equity, diversity and inclusion training program.

“They cover hiring practices,” Trawin said. “They cover First Nations type of things. We’re putting together a whole program on this, basically directed by council to do so as part of their strategic plan.”

Thompson Rivers University is another public institution that has hired an equity, diversity and inclusion co-ordinator.