Emma Ladouceur’s hometown taught her the importance of community. But when she left for university, she learned that not everyone has a support system. This ultimately inspired her to pursue a career in uplifting social minorities and is currently the Director of Operations and Development at Calgary Outlink, an organization that promotes gender and sexual diversity.
Growing up between her mother’s home in Banff and her father’s home in Canmore, Alta., Ladouceur not only learned what it means to be a part of a community, but living amongst the Rocky Mountains her admiration for nature was met with a kinship between herself and her neighbours.
“I got to find family in so many places, in so many people, [that] crafted home wherever it was that they were,” said Ladouceur.
Being geographically isolated didn’t shield her from society’s faults. Despite Banff’s paradise surroundings, Ladouceur noticed inequality in her community.
“A sense of disconnect from certain pulses, certain communities,” she said.
While attending high school together, Ladouceur met Sarah Robertson in 2007. The pair connected through a mutual friend. Immediately, Robertson saw how Ladouceur’s thoughtfulness impacted those around her.
“Even in eleventh grade, she had the empathy to explain what the LGBTQ meant,” said Robertson. “To my parents, who had never had a safe space to answer them.”
In casual conversation, Ladouceur would often educate Robertson and her family about social justice issues. Robertson shared that her father, who worked as a minister growing up, contributed to her Christian upbringing.
Remembering the perspectives that Ladouceur offered her family, Robertson explained how her father recently officiated her cousin’s wedding, which included members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I am a better and different person because of her,” said Robertson. “So is my family.”
While in her youth, Ladouceur was aware and recognized inequality in the world. When attending the University of Lethbridge in 2009, she witnessed numerous homophobic hate crimes.
“People’s garages getting set on fire, cars broken into and spray painted, people assaulted in the streets,” said Ladouceur.
According to Ladouceur, she had no intentions in getting involved in community work, despite being unable to tolerate the issues in society. This changed when she met others on campus who shared her vision of equality.
Ladouceur was quick to join the executive board of the pride centre and started doing peer-support at the women’s centre.
“It’s hard not to just get swept up in that,” said Ladouceur. “These are issues that are meaningful to me and there’s an opportunity here to get involved.”
Sharing a passion for social justice activism, Ladouceur met Kristina Larkin in 2009. Working together on multiple community-building student groups, Larkin recalls how Ladouceur strived to ensure that others felt like they had a community.
“She always jokes that she was ‘bringing a lot to community and maybe less to parties,” said Larkin.
Larkin often ran into Ladouceur at the campus radio station and women’s centre. Whether organizing campaigns, protests or speeches — Ladouceur was always present.
“A real advocate for doing the work to make the community better,” said Larkin. “She has a vision for what our world could be and is not afraid to tell everyone.”
Identifying as a community builder, Ladouceur believes that the title “activist” holds a negative connotation. She sees how it causes a divide between active citizens for social change and the individuals behind the scenes of that change. Ladouceur describes roles like sweeping the floors of an event and that ofcoordinating the logistics of a rally as equally important in the activism sphere.
“We don’t all need to do everything, but we all need to do something,” she said.
Ladouceur often held leadership positions in activist environments. During her time in Lethbridge, she continued volunteering and working with various groups to support those impacted by gender and sexual injustices. Having a connection with the people she helped allowed her to effectively facilitate others to achieve their dreams.
“These are my communities,” said Ladouceur. “Issues that I have seen are a lot of adversity and a lot of hardship, but also a lot of beauty and magic.”
Coming to Calgary in 2017, she found her eight years of community building experience was often overlooked when searching for jobs. Upon arrival, Ladouceur volunteered for Camp fYrefly — a retreat for queer and trans youth. Later, in an attempt to experience the other side of the workforce, Ladouceur took up a corporate position.
“I was great at my job, but I was so bored, and so disconnected from the things that matter to me,” said Ladouceur.
Eager to create a future where people can be comfortable in their identity, in 2019 Ladouceur came across the Outlink Centre — a non-profit organization focused on upholding the 2SLGBTQIA+ community and allied peoples.
“We’re here to support queer and trans people, and support them to thrive, like that starts with us,” said Ladouceur.
Currently, as the director of operations and development for Outlink, Ladouceur is doing less direct support. Instead, she has the responsibility of assisting their staff in running services. While the position allows her to address reality and suggest where change is needed, Ladouceur remains an active contributor to community building.
“When I think about the world that I want to live in, it’s the world where we all get to keep living and doing so in all of our strength and power.”