On behalf of all PSAC Prairie Region members, I want to express my sadness at the loss of so many innocent lives in Orlando, Florida.
Please read our national statement below:
We are devastated by the horrendous attack that took place in Orlando over the weekend, targeting primarily queer and trans people of colour who were celebrating Pride.
PSAC stands in solidarity with GLBT communities and pledges to honour the memories of 49 people who were killed by continuing to stand up against homophobia, transphobia, racism and Islamophobia.
PSAC is committed to advancing the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Canada.
We work to eradicate homophobia and transphobia in the workplace. And we bargain and lobby for the full protection of our GLBT members’ human rights. We make this a priority because we are all affected by discrimination and inequality.
A legacy of discrimination
Historically, the federal public service has been a hostile place GLBT people. In the 1960s, the RCMP developed a list of 9,000 presumed homosexuals in the National Capital Region alone.
Until the 1990s, the federal government actively discriminated against people who were perceived to be gay. The RCMP spied on people, followed them, interrogated them, and the government fired them if they thought they were gay.
The RCMP even used a “fruit machine” in an attempt to identify homosexual tendencies. The victims of this government mandated discrimination never received an apology or any compensation.
Pervasive homophobia and transphobia
The most recent Public Service Employee Survey shows that eight per cent of federal public service workers have experienced discrimination. Of this group, three per cent say that they experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation. This means that more than 600 GLBT employees may have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This probably underestimates the problem, since many people are still afraid of coming out, even in a survey. Anecdotal evidence from public service workers tells us that discrimination and harassment can be intense and cruel. Too many PSAC members still have to deal with homophobia and transphobia in the workplace and in society.
On May 4, 2016, PSAC President Robyn Benson sent a letter to the federal government, asking that they apologize for this legacy of mistreatment faced by GLBT workers in the public service. We intend to hold the government to account on this demand.
Trans people face harassment
Studies indicate that trans people have to deal with particularly high levels of discrimination, harassment and violence in society and at work. Asurvey that was done in Ontario establishes that 18 per cent were turned down for a job, and 13 per cent were fired because of their trans identity.
While discrimination based on sexual orientation is now formally prohibited in all Canadian jurisdictions, discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression is still not prohibited in the Canadian Human Rights Act or in several provinces.
PSAC works for GLBT rights
Our union led the way in negotiating protection based on sexual orientation, even before the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians. We also won ground breaking provisions on same-sex spousal union leave, and protection against discrimination based on gender identity.
PSAC made important makes gains through complaints, grievances and in the courts. For example, we won pension plan survivor benefits for same-sex partners. We intervened in court and we lobbied to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. We also participated in the lobby for equal marriage.
Trans rights now!
We worked with allies for years to support the seven times that the NDP introduced private members’ bills to add gender identity and gender expression to the Canadian Human Right Act and to federal hate crimes laws. And on May 17, 2016, the Liberal government introduced Bill C16, which would finally make this crucial change to the law. PSAC stands with the trans community in demanding that this bill be passed as quickly as possible.
Safe spaces for all
PSAC strives for workplaces and communities that are “safe spaces” for all of our members. The PSAC Pride and Solidarity poster is one tool to help us do that.
A safe space is:
- An environment where people are welcomed and respected and where they can feel free to express their sexual orientation and their gender identity.
- A place where human rights are respected and people are free from discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
We invite you to display our Pride and Solidarity poster in your workplace. Bring it to your union events. Promote visibility, solidarity and support regarding sexual/gender diversity within our membership and the general public.
Help us visibly break the pattern of silence and invisibility, and encourage others to create a more welcoming and equitable union environment.
To order a copy of the Pride and Solidarity poster, contact your nearest regional office.