I’m writing today from the shores of Rice Lake, where I’m attending a women’s retreat for seventy Kawartha Pine Ridge ETFO members. Sharing a cabin with three long-time colleagues, we are here to “Refresh and Ignite .” At dinner last night, we heard from Ontario NDP leader Merit Stiles about the importance of women in leadership roles, followed by a very entertaining round of Drag Bingo featuring two outstanding performers: Betty Baker and Sahira Q. There are a variety of sessions offered this year including outdoor education using wonder wagons, coping with burnout, breast cancer awareness, health care from an Indigenous perspective, landscape painting, humour/comedy, and yoga.

Attending retreat weekends takes coordination and effort, and many women have multiple roles of responsibility. There were years when I could not work the retreat into my schedule, but I’m so happy to be here today, even if the skies are gray. There is strong camaraderie and a friendly atmosphere for us to laugh and learn together.

Why is this retreat just for women? We have a history; before ETFO existed, our teacher unions were gender-based. The rise of women’s rights over the past century has allowed us to look at women’s issues and note that women need opportunities to connect in a safe environment. Saturday’s informative keynote address was by ETFO vice-president Shirley Bell. She reminded us that ETFO is mandated to fund and create women’s and other social justice programs. She said, “women need to see themselves reflected in leadership.”

Our local also held an all-members retreat this year for the first time. I’m sure this event will grow over the years. I appreciate the outstanding leadership at our local office and the dedicated volunteers who put the retreat together. I can’t emphasize enough how many fabulous opportunities there are within ETFO, and I encourage readers to explore how to be a more significant part of our union.

Further Viewing/Reading:

Equity and Women’s Programs Annual Report. 2022. ETFO.

Hanson, Andy. 2021. Class Action: How Ontario’s Elementary Teachers Became a Political Force.

It’s Elementary: 2020 Edition


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