Update on the BCMA’s Ongoing Commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: January 2021
The BC Museums Association is committed to supporting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within the museum and cultural sector and in our own organizational practices. A key component of this commitment is being open and transparent with our community. Moving forward, we are committing to providing quarterly updates about the steps we are taking to support justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. If you have feedback or would like to share your thoughts, we encourage you to contact us at any time. To read our Anti-Racism Statement from September 2020, click here.
The mandate of the BC Museums Association states that “we believe in the transformative power of museums.” While museums, galleries, and cultural organizations have the ability to create unforgettable memories, spark life-long passions, and allow communities to experience and celebrate new ideas, it is clear that our sector needs to turn its transformative power inward to create an inclusive, equitable, and just future for all.
In the past year, we have seen stories of institutionalized racism and toxic work environments from many of the largest museums and galleries in the country. While there has been more attention paid to injustices in the museum sector in recent months, this is not a new trend, in fact, museums have long contributed to reinforcing systems of oppression and white supremacy. The BCMA’s mission states that we “lead by supporting, empowering and advocating for the BC museum community.” In the spirit of advocating for the BC museum community, we clearly and unequivocally state that racism and toxic work environments are unacceptable. Whether an organization is volunteer-run or has a team of hundreds, every single person must be respected and feel safe in their workplace with no exceptions. While toxic work environments can take many forms, they have three things in common – they are detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of cultural workers, lead to people leaving our sector, and disproportionately impact emerging and racialized cultural professionals.
In 2021, the BCMA is reviewing our member code of conduct in order to strengthen expectations for respect in the workplace and to provide members with resources to create more inclusive and supportive working environments. As a first step, the following language has been added to all BCMA grants applications:
All BCMA members receiving funding commit to:
- providing, creating, and/or contributing to safe and respectful working conditions and to fostering a workplace free from discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct;
- acting in the best interest of the publics’ trust;
- supporting the goals set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). To achieve these goals, the BCMA encourages members to embrace the ideals of the Rod Naknakim Declaration and incorporate them into their professional practices.
While we acknowledge that this is a small step, we want to stress that racism and toxic work environments have no place in our sector and that we all must do our utmost to contribute to safe, respectful, and inclusive workplaces.
Armando Perla addressed racism and oppression in the museum sector and how to empower the participation of historically marginalized voices in his August 2020 article, The Museum Sector in Crisis, stating,
“This type of work is not easy; it is demanding and emotionally taxing. It cannot be rushed. It requires mending, cultivating, nurturing, and maintaining relations as well as trust building and sustainability. For this to be effective, museums must devote time, effort, and resources; they must commit to structural change.”
The BCMA recognizes that we are not experts in anti-racism or anti-oppression, yet we are committed to supporting this work by devoting time and resources while using our platforms and networks to amplify voices that need to be heard. To promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in the museum sector, the BCMA commits to the following actions:
ACTION: Allocate More Funding for Diverse Voices
An organization’s budget is an indication of its priorities and in our 2021/22 budget, we will allocate more funding to support diverse voices in all BCMA programs, learning opportunities, and resources. While for decades the BCMA has relied primarily on the support of our members’ time and expertise in creating resources (and are deeply appreciative of this support), we recognize that racialized and marginalized cultural professionals are all too often asked to lend their voices and ideas to projects without compensation. While funding alone cannot address the injustice endemic to our sector, it is an important first step in valuing the critical work of diverse cultural professionals.
ACTION: Launch an IBPOC Museum Professionals Network
The BCMA is expanding its Mentorship Program by introducing a new network that will provide targeted support for Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC) in the cultural sector. The new IBPOC Museum Professionals Network will enable access to practical resources, professional development, networking opportunities, and peer support. A coordinator for the program has been found and they look forward to sharing more news soon.
The Royal Bank of Canada is supporting this initiative through its Future Launch Program. It is with their support that BCMA is able to compensate artists and professionals for their expertise and contributions to the program. This includes contractor fees and honoraria for any presenters and workshop facilitators which we hope will ensure that the program generates opportunities and caters to the interests and specific needs of racially marginalized arts, culture, and heritage professionals.
ACTION: Create New Governance Resources Focusing on Anti-Oppression
In speaking with members over the past year, we have heard of a similar challenge over and over again: colonial systems of not-for-profit governance suppress equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts and reinforce systems of oppression within our sector. With the support of the Vancouver Foundation, the BCMA is beginning a year-long project to explore how not-for-profit governance can begin to be decolonized and how we can make our sector more inclusive and diverse through new models of governance. Through this project, we will talk to members about their governance challenges and use these experiences to work with consultants on producing resources that support inclusive and equitable governance structures. We will share more information about this project in March.
ACTION: Expand Reconciliation and Decolonization Resources for Museums
The BCMA has welcomed two new members to our team who, with the support of the BCMA Indigenous Advisory Committee, will be working on developing new resources that support reconciliation and decolonization within the museum sector. Leia Patterson, BCMA’s Learning Resource Coordinator, will be drawing upon her experience working with Indigenous cultural centres to help create new resources that explore best practices for museums in building respectful relationships with Indigenous communities. Koy Tayler, BCMA’s Indigenous Outreach & Partnership Coordinator, will be working to help create new relationships with Indigenous cultural centres across the province.
Leia and Koy will also be supporting the addition of new resources to the BCMA’s Indigenous Culture & Heritage portal that launched in 2020. If you would like to get in touch or discuss ideas, feel free to contact Leia and contact Koy.
ACTION: Improve Website Accessibility
Accessibility is a crucial part of supporting justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. In Spring 2021, the BCMA will be launching a new online learning portal and we are currently working to ensure that the new site meets online accessibility standards. This includes:
- Ensuring that all essential content and navigation is keyboard accessible
- Correctly structuring page markup, including ARIA Landmarks for all essential content and navigation to aid assistive technologies (screen readers)
- Effective contrast separation for ease of reading.
- All text sizes are specified in relative units.
We will be taking steps to continue to improve our online accessibility and the accessibility of our webinars and online programs. We encourage feedback from our members.
ACTION: Review Internal Systems and Improve Practices
As we work to support our members, it is also vital that the BCMA looks inward and reflects on our internal systems and practices. Throughout 2021, our goal is to comprehensively review all of our policies, procedures, and practices (from our territory acknowledgement, to our policies, to how we write and post job descriptions, to our code of conduct) to ensure that we embrace and uphold our commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at all levels of our organization.
Honesty and transparency are a critical part of this work and we welcome our members’ feedback on how we can continue growing and improving. If you have questions, comments, or thoughts, please contact us at any time. Alternatively, if you would like to discuss how the BCMA can support your organization’s own justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion work, we would be happy to hear from you. This work will take time, but together we can use the transformative power of museums to reinvent our sector for the betterment of everyone.
If you are interested in recent BCMA resources that support justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, we recommend the following: