Inside Golf House

AN INVITATION TO CONNECT: CEO Laurence Applebaum on Golf Canada’s Commitment to Support Diversity and Inclusion

Laurence Applebaum
Laurence Applebaum (Golf Canada)

It was a transformative moment for our organization.

A virtual town-hall with staff in the summer of 2020 to talk about the tragic and senseless murder of George Floyd and reflect on what we were seeing and experiencing in the world around us. The team shared an honest and emotional conversation, and I was incredibly moved by the personal sharing, thoughtful insights on racial injustice, and the conviction that everyone brought to the call.

Many followed up with a willingness to play a role in what comes next for Golf Canada—a shared commitment to be an organization of impact that could lead through action. I look back to that moment as a catalyst for the important steps needed to make our organization and our sport reflect the multi-cultural diversity, inclusiveness, and acceptance that we all want as Canadians.

It was that commitment that led to the creation of Golf Canada’s Diversity and Inclusion Alliance and a vision for who we want to be in this important space.

“As the National Sport Federation and governing body, Golf Canada is committed to creating a safe, diverse, and welcoming environment within our organization and across our sport.

We recognize that even as Canada’s most participated sport, we know that our sport is not free from prejudice, stigma, racism, or systemic bias. Golf Canada stands in solidarity with racialized persons and equity seeking groups and is working to better understand the challenges of racialized communities as well as the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and golfers with a disability.

We formed our Diversity & Inclusion Alliance to develop a strategic action pathway that will guide the organization’s efforts to create a more inclusive and respectful sport environment. This includes a review of Golf Canada’s policy for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; education and training for staff and volunteers; integration of diversity elements across all programs, events and partnerships; and a commitment to be a leading voice in global golf that supports diversity and inclusion in the communities where we live, work and play.”

As the national sport federation, we needed to do the work—to begin having conversations about privilege and bias that were uncomfortable but important.

To learn from thought leaders and invest in training and education for staff and volunteers. Golf Canada’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy has been in place for a number of years and the efforts of our Diversity and Inclusion Alliance have brought forward strategic activities that bring the spirit of our policy to life. The areas of focus include: a diversity audit; education and training; recruitment and retention; advocacy; and support for racialized and diverse communities.

The launch of our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion online resource is an expression of our commitment in this important space and portal to many of the activities and alliances that are currently underway. 

To reinforce our commitment to be an organization of impact, we are proud to welcome Laura Wilson, former executive director of the Ontario Para Network as Golf Canada’s new Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Safe Sport.

I am extremely proud of the work that has been done by Golf Canada’s Diversity and Inclusion Alliance to inspire an organization-wide commitment to developing a more inclusive and inviting culture within our sport. Some of the activities undertaken to date include:

Golf Canada is also fully committed to fostering a safe sport environment for golf. As the national sport federation, we have fundamental obligation and responsibility to protect the health, safety and physical and mental well being of athletes, staff, volunteers, and other enthusiasts involved in our sport.

Change takes time. As much as anything, we want to make a connection with the many equity seeking groups who do not feel welcomed within the golf experience.

That means encouraging national, provincial, and local golf organizations along with golf facilities to consider education and training with an expressed commitment to support diversity and inclusion in the communities where we live, work, and play.

It is an invitation to golf’s stakeholders to consider positive action through policies, programs, recruitment, and retention to support the progression of indigenous communities, racialized Canadians, 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, golfers with disability and other equity-seeking groups who are playing and working at all levels of the sport.

It also means promoting opportunities for diversity and inclusion through advocacy, education, recruitment, and financial investment across areas of our business.

As Canadians, the deeply disturbing tragedies of the residential school system and the ongoing impact on our Indigenous communities further reinforces the need for greater education and acceptance, and reconciliation. Those in our sport can benefit by understanding and advancing the unique connection between golf and our indigenous communities, as so thoughtfully examined in this SCOREGolf cover feature.

I want to recognize and thank our partners at the PGA of Canada for their extensive work in this space through the activities of their dynamic Diversity Task Force. We are also learning through the meaningful efforts of our many provincial, national, international, and corporate partners who have a shared vision to make our sports and our communities more inclusive.

While the expression of Golf Canada’s commitment to support equity, diversity and inclusion and our activities to date are important steps, our work and our investment in this important space is only just beginning.

Together with our Board of Directors and staff, we look forward to connecting with the entire golf community to create a safe, diverse, and welcoming environment within our organization and across our sport.

Laurence Applebaum

Chief Executive Officer
Golf Canada