Code of Conduct and Birding Ethics

Statement of Intent

The Toronto Ornithological Club (TOC)’s mission is to promote and increase the appreciation, knowledge, and conservation of Toronto’s birds while fostering an equitable, diverse and inclusive space. The purpose of this Code of Conduct is to lay out the behaviour expected from Toronto Ornithological Club (TOC) members, non-member participants, and leaders, and to detail how we will work to ensure that everyone’s behaviour supports the pleasures of birding in a welcoming and positive environment. This Code is applicable to interactions between Club members, participants, and leaders; including during walks, at events (both in-person and virtual), and in any other way that these groups may come together in the course of club business or in the pursuit of birding and field ornithology.

TOC Code of Conduct

All members, leaders and participants have a role to play in ensuring that our organization is welcoming, inclusive and accessible to a wide audience. We encourage TOC members to engage with other participants at TOC events and respect the interests, rights, and skill levels of fellow birders. TOC members, volunteers and event participants are expected to:

  • Treat everyone with respect, dignity, and equity;
  • Respect the rules, property, and policies of event venues;
  • Adhere to federal, provincial, and local laws during activities/events, including respecting private property and flora and fauna.

Examples of behaviors that affirm our principles, include, but are not limited to:

  • Using welcoming and inclusive language;
  • Respectfully identifying racist, sexist, classist, ableist, homophobic, or otherwise biased comments and/or jokes that are offensive to you or may be hurtful to others;
  • Acting respectfully towards different viewpoints, experiences, and cultures;
  • Amplifying the voices of those from marginalized groups;
  • Acting in a way that acknowledges our own privileges;
  • Showing empathy towards other community members;
  • Using the correct pronouns for fellow members and accepting feedback gracefully if corrected.

Unacceptable behaviour includes:

  • Harassment or discrimination in any form (see definitions below);
  • Physical or verbal abuse;
  • Personal attacks directed toward others.

For the purposes of this code, harassment and discrimination are defined as follows and are adapted from those laid out by the Ontario Human Rights Code (see the resources at the end of this document for more information).

Harassment is conduct by an individual that the individual knows, or ought reasonably to know, would be unwelcome or harmful. Harassment includes any conduct or comment that demeans, belittles, or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. Harassment includes improper conduct towards any individual, even if the improper conduct is not based on discrimination (definition below). Although harassment generally refers to a course of conduct over time, one-time incidents can also be considered harassment.

Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group unfairly or negatively for reasons such as their race, age or disability. Ontario’s Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination based on differences such as race, ancestry, religion, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.

Examples of unacceptable behavior by participants, members and leaders include, but are not limited to:

  • Using sexualized language or imagery and unwelcome physical contact, sexual attention, or advances;
  • Using insulting/derogatory comments, and personal attacks;
  • Harassing others, either in public or private, including offensive or degrading language;
  • Publishing others' private information, such as a physical or electronic address, without explicit permission. This includes any sort of "outing" of any aspect of someone's identity without their consent; and
  • Other conduct which could reasonably be considered inappropriate.

Reporting Offenses against the Code of Conduct

The TOC Council is responsible for upholding and enforcing this Code of Conduct and may take any appropriate or necessary action to do so. If you witness a Code of Conduct offense from a member, event participant, or leader, or if you have concerns about past behavior of a member, event participant, or leader, please contact the President (president@torontobirding.ca), Vice-President (vicepresident@torontobirding.ca), and/or the Membership Director (membership@torontobirding.ca) in person or via email. Please include the name of the individual, a description of the behavior, and supporting information, if you are able. All emails will be treated as confidential.

All complaints will be considered seriously and responded to promptly. Confidentiality will be maintained and next steps will be discussed with the complainant.

Anyone witnessing a dangerous situation, someone in distress, or any other immediate or serious threat should report the situation to event security or local police, and then notify the President (president@torontobirding.ca), Vice-President (vicepresident@torontobirding.ca), and/or the Membership Director (membership@torontobirding.ca).

If your concern regards the behavior of a member of the club leadership, you may report your concerns to any member of the TOC’s council; you can find the contact information for them on our website and newsletter.

Addressing Complaints:

The TOC council is responsible for clarifying the standards of acceptable behavior and enforcement, and will take appropriate action in response to any behavior deemed unacceptable. These actions can include, but are not limited to:

  • Giving verbal warnings;
  • Removing individuals from events;
  • Barring individuals from engaging with TOC activities or events in the future;
  • Blocking the offending individual from engaging with the TOC’s social media accounts; and
  • Revoking an individual’s TOC membership.

Summary

The TOC Code of Conduct was created by the TOC council to clarify the standards of acceptable behavior and create a framework to address behaviours that do not support a welcoming and inclusive environment for club members, event participants and leaders. This document will be reviewed periodically and community members are welcome to provide feedback to support this initiative. Thank you for working to keep the TOC community safe and welcoming!

Resources

To learn more about these topics and how they relate to birding, here are a few resources to get you started. If you know of any other resources that you think should be linked here; please contact the TOC Council!

  1. Ontario Human Right Commission Teacher’s Guide:

https://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/students%E2%80%99-handouts/fact-sheet-1-ontario-human-rights-code

  1. Birdwatching Through the Lens of Diversity: a teacher’s guide by BirdNote.

https://www.birdnote.org/explore/tune-kids-nature-resources-educators/birdwatching-through-lens-diversity

  1. Audubon EDI summit at Hogg Island

https://vimeo.com/187029002?embedded=true&source=vimeo_logo&owner=10188836

  1. A brief primer on terminology and definitions often used in DEI work from the Harvard Business Publishing Group

https://www.harvardbusiness.org/start-here-a-primer-on-diversity-and-inclusion-part-1-of-2/