We are all allies. It doesn’t take a special skill or talent; rather it takes courage and commitment. So when an opportunity to step in as an ally presented itself to Taylor Hills, Materials Specialist, Sarnia Refinery, it ignited a commitment to help Suncor continue to do better. 

“I was encouraging someone close to me to apply for a role at Suncor, yet despite my encouragement and outlining how he’d be a great fit, he declined,” says Taylor. “Naturally I got curious and I learned that as a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, ours was not a workplace he would feel comfortable in. This broke my heart. I never looked at it from his perspective. I committed myself to doing what I could to support him, and to helping ensure we all feel welcome and comfortable.” 

Throughout June, Suncor will be recognizing the LGBTQ2S+ community during Pride Month, and the Indigenous community during National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day. Our employee inclusion networks Prism and Journeys will have powerful learning and cultural opportunities, and through it all, we’re encouraged to reflect on what it means to be an ally, why it’s important and how. 

Key to being an ally is understanding some people experience imbalances in treatment and opportunities, and actively working to correct it. Taylor reflects, “While I thought I was progressive, it continues to be an education and a journey to recognize the vulnerability marginalized groups face. You worry you’ll say the wrong thing, yet it’s having those hard conversations, not shying away from the discomfort, that’s going to help us progress.” 

Since this experience, Taylor began volunteering as the Sarnia lead for the Downstream Workplace Inclusion Network (WIN) which also sees her work with Prism, our employee inclusion network supporting Suncor’s LGBTQ2S+ community. She’s been working closely with Conor Poutney, VP, Sarnia Refinery, to expand Suncor’s inclusion and diversity messaging into external programs that will ultimately support the broader industry. 

Our colleagues at the Sarnia Refinery, including Taylor and Conor, on the permanently installed rainbow crosswalk with the Progress Pride flag behind them.
Our colleagues at the Sarnia Refinery, including Taylor and Conor, on the permanently installed rainbow crosswalk with the Progress Pride flag behind them. 

“Together, Taylor and I have been able to support other organizations in the community with their inclusion and diversity conversations and training, and we’re excited to continue working together,” says Conor.

Here are some tips to be an ally:

  • Take action to support another person or group who are treated disrespectfully or unfairly. 
  • Listen and learn about others’ experiences. 
  • Do no harm by knowing and understanding what microaggressions are and don’t do them. 
  • Speak up when you see microaggressions, even if you feel nervous to do so. 
  • Advocate for others. 

“I’m encouraged, when I see an email signature that includes an individual’s pronouns or when hundreds of people attend a session to hear someone’s story to learn how we can all do better,” says Taylor. “I know that it feels like we can only change so much on our own, yet as a company of like-minded, strong, caring and empathetic people, we will continue to do great things for our workplace and the communities where we live.”  

Let’s recognize that one person, one act and one word at a time can bring about culture change.