RBC has committed $10,000 to the Rainbow Resource Centre to fund its Youth Educating Against Homophobia (YEAH) program.
YEAH is a program where trained youth educators go to high schools to educate students about homophobia.
The program began in 2011 after a Canadian study, surveying over 3,700 high school students across the country, showed 70% of students, LGBTQ or non-LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or questioning), reported hearing homophobic expressions every day in school.
"When it’s peer-to-peer education that’s more effective," said Chad Smith, executive director of the Rainbow Resource Centre. "Folks are able to see themselves in other people, and the goal of the workshop is to do several things: challenge stereotypes around LGTB people, explain the impacts of homophobia, to break down homophobia, but more importantly create empathy for LGTB people."
This is second time RBC has donated to the program. Their first $10,000 was in 2012, and when they saw the program was so successful they decided to do it again to extend their support until 2015.
"We believe that, first of all, that all children deserve to feel healthy inside and out," said Robb Ritchie, representative for RBC. "This program really speaks to the hearts of communities right across our province and into Northwest Ontario, and we just really enjoy the work that Rainbow Resource Centre does to affect communities and affect change."
Ritchie is impressed by the impact the YEAH program has made.
"I’m really touched by the number of schools, the number of students that they’ve reached in the past nine months," said Ritchie. "They’ve (held) 101 workshops with over 4,800 students in Manitoba and Northwest Ontario."
Smith said it says a lot about RBC as a company that they would donate this kind of money to them.
"The fact that they are openly sponsoring us is huge," said Smith. "I think it says a lot about their commitment to diversity, to their own workplace, their own workforce, but also about changing society."
In the wake of the Bill 18 controversy, the YEAH program has had some hits and misses, said Smith.
"We’ve had some schools and some districts contact us to say ‘hey, we want you to come in,’" said Smith. "And we’ve actually had some workshops cancelled this spring that have been booked for four, five, six months now. So it’s been an interesting way to raise awareness for everyone."
Ritchie said with Bill 18 their relationship with the Resource Centre has actually strengthened.
"If anything it says to me is that there is an absolute need for the work that Rainbow Resource Centre is doing," said Ritchie. "There’s great opportunity for understanding, and I think Rainbow Resource Centre is a prime example of an organization that gets out there and delivers that right message."