It’s been a week since we hosted what turned out to be an engaging and productive first annual Equality Day on Sunday, June 1st. In that period we have reflected a great deal on the events leading up to and culminating in E-Day.
We know many of you were frustrated. The venue for our original Equality Day, Artscape Gibralter-Point on Toronto Island, had for months been in productive planning with us and was well aware of the nature of our program, choosing to cancel the use of their venue 3 days before the event. But we can understand that when suddenly facing threats and harassment – even from just a few misinformed trouble makers – it is often easier to bow to the pressure and do what is easy instead of what is right.
We know many of you were disappointed. It is unfortunate that an educational charity working with social service agencies, health programs and a range of medical professionals to setup services to support boys, men and families, should be routinely subject to law-breaking and dangerous protests and campaigns to damage and discredit our critical programs.
Those feelings of frustration and disappointment are entirely reasonable and we share them. But CAFE chose not to let those feelings undermine our primary goal. Our mandate is public education centred on men’s and boy’s issues. That is the reason for which we were recently granted charitable status. Our opponents aim to warp our message or to prevent you from hearing it for yourself. They fear that if our message is judged on its own merits, unfiltered, it might actually make sense and be seen for the positive agenda which it is.
In response, CAFE decided to postpone the music festival, details for which will be circulated when they are available, and to focus instead on engaging directly with you so you could learn firsthand about CAFE and our issues. We chose to do this at Yonge and Dundas, across from Yonge/Dundas Square, the symbolic heart of the metaphorical public square.
And within 24 hours Equality Day was back on track. On June 1st CAFE brought out over 30 volunteers, roughly half male and half female, to pass out educational material and to engage with hundreds of people. Several individuals expressed their shock with the lack of equal parenting in Canada and the abuses in the family court system. One young man volunteered his concern with the lack of space for male victims of domestic abuse. Several came out to meet us in response to the news articles they had read and were shocked by the disconnect between those reports and what they witnessed. Most surprising were the spontaneous donations we received, including an older woman who shook my hand and handed me $10, as well as the the helpful advice, such as a young woman suggesting we apply for a grant from the Ontario government’s Trillium Foundation where she works. There was no organized protest whatsoever. It was a beautiful and peaceful day (actually, there was a peace parade that walked by us at the beginning).
A special thank you to our volunteers: Denise, Gabrielle, Geoff, Dusko, Nick, Agathe, Mark, Paulette, Richard, Roni, Mansoor, Paul, Eleanor, Jim, Damoon, Kevin, Michael, Ashkan, Steve, Robert, Adam, Andrew, Malcolm, Edward, Iain, and great to see Silvia and her two sons Patricio and Frederico.
As the Canadian Association for Equality grows as an organization, we use these challenging situations as an opportunity to learn important lessons. While we are proud of turning a challenge into an opportunity, we are also reflecting on this experience. We could have communicated our message better surrounding this event, and we should have done more to respond to criticism when it first emerged. We are a grassroots all-volunteer operation and our resources are very limited. Our growth and the overwhelming support we are receiving is testament to the hard work and discipline of our members. But it also reminds us that with more at stake we must continue to improve our management and our public image, so that we can be a force for good in the lives of men, boys and families.
CAFE Volunteers Tell You Why They Support Equality Day
Featuring Gabrielle Bouchard, Damoon Azarpazhooh, Paulette MacDonald, Ashkan Yousefi and Silvia Medrano telling you why they support CAFE at Equality Day 2014 at Yonge and Dundas.
A picture is worth a thousand words