International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia
May 17, 2013, 8:30 AM EST
To many people, it may seem that sexual orientation and gender identity have become less of an issue in Canada. It is true that we have made significant gains on social and legal rights. After decades of political and legal battles gays and lesbians have won important protection against discrimination in human rights law and legal recognition of same-sex couples. The courageous trans activists and human rights advocates made important progress in advancing the rights of trans people. In June, 2012 after its fourth introduction before the Ontario Legislature, Bill 33, the Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment Because of Gender Identity or Gender Expression Act, 2012 (commonly known as "Toby's Act"), was finally passed into law. Bill 33 enshrines into the Ontario Human Rights Code protections for transpeople that are equal to those currently afforded to others. Toby's Act affords protections with respect to public services, housing, employment and access to government facilities. Federally, Randell Garrison introduces a private members bill, Bill C279 which was passed on March 20, 2013 that goes a step further extending hate crimes statutes in the criminal code to gender identity. In Manitoba on June 14, 2012 the Provincial Government passed legislation to amend the Human Rights Code to include gender identity.
We recognize however the limits to legal rights. Alone they don't ensure the full dignity and equality that all of us in our diversity deserve. Social rights, freedom from violence and harassment and the right to live and work wherever we want with dignity, safety and security have yet to be won for all. Legislative change is an important step, but it is only one of many steps to achieving true social and economic equality for the LGBTQ community.
Despite these important victories lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans union members still face the reality of homophobia and transphobia in their daily lives. LGBT workers and their families continue to experience oppression and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in their workplaces and society more generally. Transgender people experience significant harassment and discrimination in education, employment, housing and access to services. As a result, they are more likely to experience acute economic insecurity, homelessness, and poor health while facing significant barriers to receiving updated identification documents which are often vital for accessing government support.
The CAW is proud of our contributions to the progress we have made on LGBT issues in Canada and we re-confirm our commitment to fighting all forms of discrimination. The responsibility lies with each of us to create positive space and challenge homophobia and transphobia, and other forms of discrimination such as racism, sexism, ableism, and classism whenever we can. We can support co-workers who face homophobia or transphobia on the job. We can and should challenge bullies. We should all make attempts to attend upcoming pride events, anti-violence rallies and show our communities that we stand up for the rights of our members and everyone within the broader community. We can demand that the rights we have won in Canada be extended to other countries and call on the government to voice their opposition to the criminalization of homosexuality. We can learn that we stand strong when we stand together.
Therefore on May 17th the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the CAW stands in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer communities to continue the fight against homophobia and transphobia in our workplaces, communities and around the world.
Download the pdf of the statement here.