Lakeland’s Safe Spaces: allies to the LGBTQ+ community

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December 11, 2019
A visual representation of support for individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirited, queer and questioning (LGBTQ+) are in various areas of Lakeland College.
Marked around the Lloydminster and Vermilion campuses are rainbow-hued Safe Space stickers, a design approved by the college student body, that share a message of safety and inclusivity to LGBTQ+ students, staff and community members. The first round of stickers were installed in 2018.
 
“We want to identify safe places on both campuses where students can approach and talk to individuals without judgement. Taking this action is aligning the college’s policies and procedures with human rights legislation and with other post-secondary institutions,” says Chantel Walker, a counsellor for Lakeland’s student and academic services and past LGBTQ+ Committee chair.
 
“Schools have a responsibility to create an inclusive environment for all students.”
 
The Safe Space stickers also identify college faculty and staff who attended a Safe Space workshop in June. The college invited Tim Ira, student diversity and inclusion coordinator from NAIT, and William Yap, a fourth-year business degree student, to host the session.
 
“Just because you don’t have a Safe Space sticker doesn’t mean you aren’t a safe space. Those with stickers have taken training to understand some of the stereotypes, myths, statistics for LGBTQ+ persons and best practices on how to create a welcoming environment for all,” Walker says.
 
The Safe Space initiative launched approximately two years ago by Lakeland’s LGBTQ + Committee. This cross-functional committee, with representation from both campuses, includes faculty, administration and students from both campuses, was created three years ago to investigate ways to improve inclusivity at Lakeland.
 
Other initiatives to come out of the committee include Lakeland’s Pride Awareness Week, which was attended by more than 200 students, gender-neutral washrooms, coming-out events and education initiatives for staff and students. The committee also reviews and updates policies with gender neutral language, and research into gender neutral change rooms and housing.
 
While everyone deserves a safe space, the purpose of the stickers is to raise awareness for the most at-risk populations for mental health distress, Walker adds.
 
 

Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are five times more likely to consider suicide

and seven times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

 

 

Almost 65 per cent of transgender youth in Alberta between the ages of

19 and 25 have considered suicide at some point in their lives.

 
 
“We're a college; it’s our job to educate people. We need to take the lead in our communities and set an example. All people regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender, race or religion must be treated with respect,” Walker says.
 
Michael Diachuk, co-chair of the committee, says Safe Space training sessions will continue in 2020.

Photos: William Yap, a business degree student, poses with a Safe Space sticker at the Lloydminster campus. (Bottom) Safe Space stickers like this can be seen around the college's Lloydminster and Vermilion campuses.