Q&A with Claire Carter, URFA Equity Committee Chair

A foun­da­tion in stu­dent activism, pos­i­tive con­nec­tions with col­leagues at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na, and an inter­est in learn­ing more about how URFA works led Claire Carter to join URFA’s Equi­ty Com­mit­tee about eight years ago. The asso­ciate pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Gen­der, Reli­gion and Crit­i­cal Stud­ies is now in the third year of chair­ing URFA’s Equi­ty Com­mit­tee. Find out what’s been a high­light for her and learn about her teach­ing and research. 

What inter­est­ed you in becom­ing involved with URFA?

As a grad stu­dent, I was real­ly lucky and proud to be part of a real­ly social­ly jus­tice acti­vat­ed and ori­ent­ed union, CUPE 3903, at York Uni­ver­si­ty. Com­ing out of that frame­work, I was real­ly inter­est­ed in learn­ing about the union. I was also very for­tu­nate when I first land­ed at Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na that I start­ed at the same time as two col­leagues, Dr. Michelle Stew­art and Dr. Michael Cap­pel­lo. We ini­tial­ly applied for a small grant through the Pres­i­den­t’s Teach­ing and Learn­ing Award to start up a small, anti-oppres­sive teach­ing project. That led to a fan­tas­tic net­work of col­leagues who shared resources on anti-oppres­sive teach­ing and that informed know­ing a bit more about the cam­pus and about the dif­fer­ent fac­ul­ties and dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties. So, my entry point is both of those expe­ri­ences. I feel very lucky for it.

What inter­est­ed you in serv­ing as the chair of the Equi­ty Committee?

I’ve been on the equi­ty com­mit­tee for a long time and I had a great deal of respect for the chairs that had served before me. A col­league had said it was a real­ly great expe­ri­ence for me to actu­al­ly learn more about the union and actu­al­ly have a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how the uni­ver­si­ty works as well. And I’ve def­i­nite­ly found that to be the case. 

Are there high­lights for you of the Equi­ty Committee’s work dur­ing your time on the committee?

The biggest thing is col­le­gial­i­ty; the sense of deep com­mit­ment to these issues and cre­ativ­i­ty — like dif­fer­ent ways of think­ing about how do we want to address or respond to some­thing and a deep respect for the fact that peo­ple were going to be com­ing from dif­fer­ent places and there are dif­fer­ent approach­es to take. That rich­ness of gen­eros­i­ty that peo­ple have giv­en say­ing, this is actu­al­ly our committee’s exper­tise. We have such a range of exper­tise on the com­mit­tee, so it’s won­der­ful that peo­ple will step up and be like, this is how I see it [and be real­ly gen­er­ous], to name an equi­ty issue, and then work col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly on how to engage and respond to it.

What are you look­ing for­ward to about lead­ing the Equi­ty Com­mit­tee over the next year?

The big thing would be that we have some new mem­bers and that’s always excit­ing because they bring new per­spec­tives and the ener­gy shifts. I’m excit­ed about that and also get­ting to know peo­ple. In par­tic­u­lar, we’re devel­op­ing an action plan so we have con­crete strate­gies on how we want to work as a com­mit­tee. The goal is to be more proac­tive ver­sus reac­tive, for exam­ple, on address­ing anti-black racism, sup­port­ing inte­gra­tion of Indige­nous ways of know­ing and decol­o­niza­tion of the uni­ver­si­ty, and the dif­fer­en­tial impact of COIVD-19 on our mem­bers (black, Indige­nous, dis­abled, 2SLGBTQIAP+, contract/​sessional mem­bers and care givers). Our hope is to bet­ter sup­port mem­bers and to take action on issues that align with equi­ty. Equi­ty, diver­si­ty and inclu­sion is being talked about a lot. It’s been real­ly impor­tant for us to take a step back and think about what does that mean to us as URFA mem­bers, but also for the equi­ty com­mit­tee that rep­re­sents URFA. I’m excit­ed to devel­op that, share it, and act on it. We need to start with advo­cat­ing and address­ing equi­ty issues with­in URFA and then move out­ward, to focus on the uni­ver­si­ty / cam­pus more broadly.

A picture of Claire Carter. In the background is a brick wall with a picture hanging on it.

Claire Carter, URFA Equi­ty Com­mit­tee Chair. Pho­to pro­vid­ed by Claire Carter.

Are there pieces you would like to high­light about what the Equi­ty Com­mit­tee does and why it’s an impor­tant com­mit­tee to have?

We do two main things. One is that we sup­port mem­bers that have equi­ty-relat­ed issues. But also, if the Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee or Coun­cil of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has an issue, we pro­vide sup­port. One of the things we just did was pass two motions to share with the Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee to help with rec­om­mend­ing bar­gain­ing lan­guage that might be use­ful around pro­mot­ing, address­ing and inte­grat­ing equi­ty work on campus.

The oth­er piece that we do is real­ly rais­ing aware­ness — being proac­tive in advo­cat­ing on behalf of equi­ty. What’s been so won­der­ful is that we have such a rich com­mit­tee in terms of exper­tise. We have peo­ple that are well versed in anti-racist schol­ar­ship, queer the­o­ry, dis­abil­i­ty and a whole spectrum. 

Shift­ing the focus of the con­ver­sa­tion now to your work as an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Gen­der, Reli­gion and Crit­i­cal Stud­ies — tell us a bit about what you teach and what your research is.

I feel real­ly lucky; I teach some fan­tas­tic class­es. I teach the Intro­duc­tion to Women and Gen­der Stud­ies class as well as a course on method­ol­o­gy — The Prac­tice of Fem­i­nist Research. And I teach class­es around queer the­o­ry — I have a fourth-year sem­i­nar on queer the­o­ry and trans stud­ies on rep­re­sen­ta­tion and embod­i­ment. I also have a third-year sem­i­nar on pop cul­ture, so race, gen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty in pop cul­ture, which is great. I also teach a Women and Health class that I’m revis­ing to focus on women and gen­der diverse peo­ple and health. 

I’m also a part of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Regi­na Queer Ini­tia­tive and we are keep­ing our fin­gers crossed that in the next year or so we will have a minor in crit­i­cal sex­u­al­i­ty and gen­der studies.

Cover of Claire Carter's book, "Who's coming out to play: Disruption and disorientation in queer community sports".

The cov­er of Claire Carter’s book, Who’s Com­ing Out to Play: Dis­rup­tion and Dis­ori­en­ta­tion in queer com­mu­ni­ty sports”. 

My recent research has been about queer com­mu­ni­ty sports with­in Cana­da, focus­ing specif­i­cal­ly on the two major cities that have a lot of leagues: Toron­to and Van­cou­ver. A lot of these leagues have shift­ed from being women or les­bian leagues to becom­ing trans and gen­derqueer inclu­sive. I talked with league orga­niz­ers and play­ers about what strate­gies they’ve deployed and what that looks like on the ground. This has been a real­ly phe­nom­e­nal expe­ri­ence; this work around a par­tic­u­lar focus — trans inclu­siv­i­ty has also prompt­ed inclu­siv­i­ty more broad­ly. So, look­ing at their racial diver­si­ty, look­ing at acces­si­bil­i­ty around peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, and how to make it a more inclu­sive space. It was real­ly won­der­ful to bring togeth­er dif­fer­ent leagues and talk about what has worked, offer sug­ges­tions and high­light how mak­ing an open­ing or shift here actu­al­ly ben­e­fits everybody. 

I’ve now shift­ed a lit­tle bit and I’m real­ly excit­ed to be part­ner­ing with two local orga­ni­za­tions doing work in Treaty 4 in Regi­na. With Com­mon Weal Com­mu­ni­ty Arts and mem­bers of FadaDance Troupe, and try­ing to look at leisure com­mu­ni­ty recre­ation­al pro­gram­ming that is specif­i­cal­ly tied to trans and gen­derqueer peo­ple, first and fore­most, but also to the queer com­mu­ni­ty. There aren’t a lot of those spaces in gen­er­al, nev­er mind leisure spaces. The abil­i­ty to have a space to move in, and be in, com­mu­ni­ty and in your body in dif­fer­ent ways is so impor­tant for com­mu­ni­ty, but also for our health. We aim to bring trans and queer chore­o­g­ra­phers to Regi­na to offer com­mu­ni­ty work­shops and devel­op a com­mu­ni­ty exper­tise in trans, gen­derqueer, and queer dance and move­ment programming.

What inter­est­ed you in teach­ing, study­ing and research­ing in this area?

There was a per­son­al con­nec­tion. After my under­grad in human geog­ra­phy, I felt real­ly com­pelled by sto­ries of dif­fer­ent people’s expe­ri­ences in nav­i­gat­ing and under­stand­ing social norms and the dif­fer­ent ways that peo­ple felt empow­ered with­in their every­day spaces and prac­tices. But also, many felt that social norms didn’t speak to their own expe­ri­ences, to the extent that they felt exclud­ed from many aspects of soci­ety, and that they were large­ly denied or seem­ing­ly invis­i­ble to those in dom­i­nant positions. 

And I did a lot of read­ing of fem­i­nist texts about gen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty and how they inter­sect with race, class and abil­i­ty. How do dif­fer­ent spaces — such as where we get our hair cut or play bas­ket­ball, the words and lan­guage we use, the media we con­sume and engage with — inform our chang­ing notions and rela­tion­ships with gen­der, our bod­ies and each oth­er? I’ve been real­ly inter­est­ed in peo­ple’s own sto­ries about how they nav­i­gate social norms, how they make sense to them and how they speak back to them. I’m real­ly inter­est­ed in the arts so I like to learn about cre­ative approach­es to build­ing, not only com­mu­ni­ty, but also com­mu­ni­ties of resis­tance and try­ing to sup­port that work. I think that’s what real­ly drew me — I’ve real­ly enjoyed read­ing the­o­ry and think­ing about how peo­ple grab onto par­tic­u­lar ideas and try to reimag­ine how we can be togeth­er in com­mu­ni­ty, and do col­lab­o­ra­tive efforts to chal­lenge this notion of what is com­mon sense,’ and who it’s based upon and serves.

We’re social beings. So, I like to explore the ways we’ve come to under­stand the dif­fer­ent pri­or­i­ties, val­ues and mean­ings that are made in con­text to ask what is nor­ma­tive?’ We’re doing things that actu­al­ly can be real­ly lim­it­ing as well as real­ly inspir­ing in terms of the expan­sive­ness of humanity.

Do you have any advice for URFA mem­bers who are look­ing to get more involved in URFA?

A gen­er­al rec­om­men­da­tion for new URFA mem­bers is reach out to find out what your pos­si­ble involve­ment could look like- what your inter­ests are & the exper­tise you could bring. It is your union – we all make it stronger by being involved! I think it’s a real­ly great oppor­tu­ni­ty to kind of learn again more about the union and the uni­ver­si­ty, but also to get a bit of a com­mu­ni­ty which can be real­ly impor­tant, espe­cial­ly when you’re when you’re new.

Is there any­thing else that you’d like to share?

I feel real­ly for­tu­nate that I’ve learned a lot, and I feel like my col­leagues are extreme­ly gen­er­ous, both on the Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee and the Coun­cil of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, but also in the Equi­ty Com­mit­tee specif­i­cal­ly. It’s real­ly a won­der­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty of sus­tained col­le­gial­i­ty. We’re real­ly for­tu­nate to have some real­ly great peo­ple in lead­er­ship posi­tions and as well on the union committees. 

This inter­view has been con­densed and edited.

Would you like to join the Equi­ty Committee?

If you are inter­est­ed in rep­re­sent­ing equi­ty-seek­ing groups, con­sid­er join­ing the Equi­ty Com­mit­tee! At the time of pub­lish­ing, there are four vacan­cies. If you’d like to fill one of these spots, please con­tact the URFA office.

Enjoy read­ing Q&As with URFA members?

Read our pre­vi­ous Q&A with Yass­er Mor­gan, URFA Vice-Pres­i­dent (Aca­d­e­m­ic).