Chris Aylward

Why I'm marching with World Pride this weekend

It's been an uphill battle for our GLBT brothers and sisters to have their basic human rights acknowledged, and it's far from over yet.

It's true that same-sex marriage is not only a legal right in Canada but has become part of the mainstream. But while discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been outlawed here in Canada, there is still resistance to allowing the GBLT community to fully and freely live their lives

Earlier this month, the Conservatives stopped an attempt to include transgender rights in its cyberbullying bill, and for fifteen months Bill-279, which would protect transgender people from discrimination, has been held up in the Conservative-dominated Senate. That fight, believe it or not, has been going on for ten years.

Miles to go, in other words. Homophobia, like racism, is no longer officially acceptable, but it's still very much in evidence all the same.  I can't imagine what it's like to be a GBLT teen - the relentless harassment, threats and violence they face every day just for being themselves is heart-wrenching.

And the Conservatives, for whatever reason, appear unwilling to combat its evil cousin, transphobia.

Is there still a need for Pride? You bet.

GLBT people from all over the world, and their allies, are gathering in Toronto at the fourth World Pride Human Rights Conference, for a massive celebration. Many battles for the freedom to live and to love have been won, although not all around the world by any means.  I am humbled by the participants who have come to World Pride from Uganda, who risk lengthy prison terms back home, and whose entry to Canada for the Conference was initially blocked by the Harper government--until public shaming forced a reversal of the decision.

The Pride parade is all-inclusive. Everyone is welcome, and every one of the participants should feel proud for participating in it and supporting a major human rights campaign that began decades ago.

The giant strides my union has made over the years on this front certainly makes me proud to be a member. In 1986 we won a six-year battle with Treasury Board to get sexual orientation included in a no-discrimination contract clause. It took another 12 long years to win an inclusive definition of "spouse," for our largest Treasury Board bargaining unit, and now all contracts contain this language. We went on to win same-sex spousal benefits, and have more recently achieved breakthroughs on transgender rights in a number of bargaining units.  Some years ago my own bargaining team, of which I was a member, negotiated same-sex marriage leave at the Canada Revenue Agency - long before same-sex marriage was even legalized.  

Hard bargaining, non-stop lobbying and a number of successes in the courts forced the government to back down from its determined opposition to equality inside and outside the workplace.

Let's give credit where credit is due. Grassroots PSAC activists formed ad hoc GLBT committees many years ago, and ensured that their concerns were recognized as a union issue. GLBT members are now a recognized and energetic presence in our union. The PSAC at all levels has been sponsoring and taking part in union Pride events, and has strongly supported the GLBT struggle for equality in our own union, in our communities across the country, and internationally as well, working through our Social Justice Fund. We have a 20-person official delegation attending the Toronto Conference this week, and our own float and many more PSAC members will join the parade on the weekend.

Yes, you could say I'm proud, all right.  But not complacent, because there are miles still to go.

That's why I'm marching.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris Aylward published on June 27, 2014 8:00 AM.

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