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Recently 30 UFCW Canada activists from across the country attended the Egale (Equality For Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) "Speak Easy: Stand Out, Speak Up" annual gala in Toronto along with 350 other supporters from diverse organizations and backgrounds.
The gala raises funds for Egale's Safe Schools campaign, which aims to fight and eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying and violence in Canadian schools. This campaign is badly needed because hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals continue to climb, with 74% of these crimes being violent in nature.Youth between the ages of 12 and 24 are the most likely to either commit a hate crime or become the victim of one and educational facilities are the most common place of occurrence for such crimes.
Given the urgency of the issue, UFCW Canada was the gold sponsor for the gala, where Lawyer and Director of Human Rights, Naveen Mehta, presented the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust Leadership Award to the Honourable Louise Arbour, former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Honourable Louise Charron accepted the award on behalf of Madam Arbour.
Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of Egale Canada, noted that she was "very proud to be working with UFCW Canada. They’ve been amazing supporters of LGBT work and Egale in particular. We’re hoping to raise a lot of money to fight homophobic and transphobic bullying and violence at school and in the workplace.”
Actor Michael James paid tribute to Jack Layton, a long time supporter of Egale, by reading an excerpt from Ulysses. Layton's widow and Member of Parliament for Trinity—Spadina, Olivia Chow, and Nycole Turmel, interim leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, were also in attendance as vocal supporters of Egale.
"Egale is really about equality; it’s about working with communities, unions, and other institutions to fight injustice," said Chow. "So I applaud UFCW Canada’s work on human rights and I believe that together, we can have a country that is fair and just."
Nycole Turmel thanked UFCW Canada for its involvement with Egale and its sponsorship of the gala, and noted that "it is important to raise funds to help the LGBT community achieve equality and end sexual orientation-related hate crimes in Canada.”
One of the many attractions at the gala was Boylesque T.O. – an all male burlesque troupe.
To see the high energy music video of the gala with performances by Boylesques T.O. and commentaries from a number of well known Canadians and Egale supporters, please click here.
"As the largest private-sector union in the country, UFCW Canada must commend our partner, Egale Canada, for creating projects that directly tackle homophobia and transphobia,” says UFCW Canada National President Wayne Hanley, who is also a member of Egale Canada’s Human Rights Trust Honorary Advisory Board. “As activists we still have an enormous amount of work to do in collaboration with our LGBT sisters and brothers. Sponsoring this event raises the profile of Egale amongst our membership and public awareness of Egale Canada’s Safe Schools campaign, which is an essential step to fostering safer and more welcoming schools and workplaces. "
Emily Groom, a longtime LGBTQ Community activist and, more recently, a union representative from UFCW Canada Local 175, said she admires Egale's determination to end homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in schools as well as in society generally. "I think it’s great that UFCW Canada has stepped up and supported this action because it’s absolutely life or death for some of the kids in our schools."