Toronto – May 15, 2014 – On May 17, 2005, the first International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) was celebrated to honour the contributions of the LGBTQ community in advancing human rights globally and to draw attention to the issues faced by the international LGBTQ community. That same year, the Civil Marriage Act received Royal Assent in Canada, making our country the fourth nation in the world to extend marriage rights to same sex couples.
Canada remains a progressive leader with respect to same sex marriage laws. However, in the area of Gender Identity, there is still much work to be done. To that end, UFCW Canada recently endorsed an open letter in support of Bill C-279, a Private Member’s Bill on Gender Identity that is currently before the Canadian Senate. The Bill would make certain that both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Criminal Code would protect the gender identity of all Canadians. The legislation is badly needed as our trans brothers and sisters face suicide rates as high as 77 percent in some provinces.
In addition to facing high rates of suicide, members of the LGBTQ community often lack adequate access to health care services. As such, UFCW Canada recently gained provisional Associate Membership in the International Lesbian Gay Association (ILGA) to help fight for better access to health care for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Our union's constituency group for LGBTQ advocacy, UFCW OUTreach, also joined the UFCW International Union in signing onto the WHO Consensus on LGBT Health.
As Canada's leading union, it is important for us to take action on human rights issues that affect workers across Canada. This summer marks the first time in history that the World Pride parade will take place in North America, with Toronto hosting the international festival from June 20th to 29th. We encourage all UFCW Canada members to show their support for advancing LGBT rights in Canada by attending this truly special occasion. To mark the event, UFCW Canada recently launched a UFCW Pride website that provides the most up-to-date information on the festivities, marches, educational forums, and parades that will be happening in Toronto this June.
I encourage you to talk to your Local Union, find out how you can participate in our Pride events, and be loud and proud when the world descends on Toronto to honour the past, celebrate the present, and inspire a better future for LGBTQ communities everywhere. Think about how far we’ve come as a nation, and what equality means in our lives, our children’s lives, at our workplaces, and in our communities.
On this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we stand against violence and discrimination toward LGBTQ people globally. And we look forward to welcoming the world to Toronto this summer to honour the history and culture of LGBTQ communities everywhere.
Paul R. Meinema