Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

May 17, 2011 14:26 ET


OFL Statement on 2011 International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 17, 2011) - Standing in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified (LGBT) people and their families, the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) proudly recognizes May 17 as the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. As members of the LGBT community and their allies actively prepare for Pride celebrations throughout the summer, they set aside May 17 as day of action, awareness and affirmation of the fundamental rights of LGBT people and their families to live their lives – Out and Proud!

On May 17, 1990, homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO). However, after more than two decades, trans-identified people still are denied basic human rights in Canada. Around the world, the LGBT community continues to experience oppression and discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and on the grounds of their race, ethnicity, sex, linguistic background, ability, economic circumstances or any number of other factors.

The labour movement in Ontario has a proud history of fighting full legal rights for the LGBT people and their families. Workers have fought for collective bargaining rights and worked alongside community allies through legal battles that achieved legislative equality for the lesbian and gay community.

"Despite winning a number of key victories in recent decades, many challenges continue to face the LGBT community," said OFL President Sid Ryan. "With no Criminal Code or human rights protection from discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual identity and expression in any Canadian jurisdiction except for the Northwest Territories, trans-identified people are shamefully left without basic legal rights."

While constituting 10.2 per cent of the LGBT workforce, trans-identified people continue to:

  • Live in fear of violence, intimidation, job loss, destitution and incarceration at far higher rates than other sectors of the population;
  • Be denied basic public services, medical treatment, human rights and respect afforded all other citizens of Ontario; and
  • Be dangerously misdiagnosed by health professionals and front line workers alike.

During the last legislative session, the OFL fully endorsed Bill C-389 and called upon parliamentarians to provide basic human rights for trans-identified people. After a successful vote to approve the bill, its passage into law was thwarted when a federal election was called. The OFL is committed to working with the LGBT community and allies to ensure introduction and successful passage of similar legislation in the next session of Parliament and similar changes to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The OFL is actively working with coalition partners to secure other important protections for LGBT people at home and abroad. In Ontario, where three-quarters of LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school, the OFL continues to work with EGALE Canada, youth groups and teachers' unions to challenge harassment, bullying and discrimination. Internationally, more than 80 countries continue to criminalize homosexuality and in seven of these countries it is punishable by death. The OFL is working with the Canadian Labour Congress and the international community to support countries that provide safe haven for LGBT people escaping persecution.

"LGBT workers have made significant gains, but even legal rights cannot guarantee dignity and social equality. Many LGBT workers continue to face discrimination and violence both in the workplace and in society," said OFL Solidarity and Pride Vice-President Stephen Seaborn. "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."

On May 17, the OFL is calling upon every worker to join the many trade unions, human rights agencies, town councils, national states and the European Commission on Human Rights, in marking the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia by challenging prejudice, discrimination and oppression in all of its forms.

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