Labour Views for August 6, 2014

Submitted by Mary Lou Cherwaty, President

Across the globe Pride events are held at different times throughout the year.  In Canada, the summer months bring Out a variety of Pride activities from coast to coast to coast.

Just over two years ago, the Public Service Alliance of Canada North formed a Pride Committee in the NWT, and received their charter to be active in the territory.

While comprised specifically of Union members, this committee is keen to assist allies and educate Northerners on a wide variety of issues that gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer people (LGBTQ+) face.  Years ago there was a group called “Out North” that addressed these issues, and it is great to see that the void their absence created has been filled.

Unions in Canada have been fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community for more than 25 years.  Through these battles, many laws have been enacted to protect these basic rights:

  • Freedom from discrimination in hiring or promotion
  • Equal benefits for partners and children
  • Equal rights to bereavement, family, and parental leaves as other workers
  • Pension benefits for same-sex partners
  • Harassment-free workplaces
  • Legal recognition of marriage between same-sex couples

Even with these gains there is more to do. Today, unions are working to:

  • Improve immigration policies for LGBTQ+ families
  • Include gender identity and gender expression in Human Rights Laws
  • Ensure that public health insurance includes sex-reassignment surgeries
  • Strengthen laws about hate crimes, and ensure they are enforced

The ultimate goal of these efforts is to provide fairness and dignity, recognizing that an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

The North has played a very prominent role in the Human Rights of Canadian citizens. As a result of George Klippert’s arrest in Pine Point, NT in 1965, Prime Minister Trudeau declared “there is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”. Mr. Klippert was finally released in 1971.

The NWT was also a leader in Human Rights language protecting transgender individuals. Other jurisdictions have since followed this lead.

It is imperative that we continue to be in the fore-front of social change and set the bar for the rest of the country to follow.

This year the Northern Territories Federation of Labour and the Public Service Alliance of Canada North are proud to sponsor NWT Pride’s third annual festival. The theme, “In Solidarity”, is about coming together as a community, not only in times of urgency like George Klippert’s arrest or the immense homophobia during the Sochi Olympics, but also in our everyday life.

Since April 2012, NWT Pride has advocated, taught and celebrated the LGBTQ+ community of Northerners, with support from a variety of organizations and businesses in the NWT.

Join NWT Pride this weekend for a variety of family-friendly events, and participate in their workshops, discussion groups, music events and children’s activities. From the opening “Rainbows in the Park” at Sombe K’e park to the closing concert at the Folk on the Rocks site, you’ll be sure to learn, laugh, and have fun in the sun!

These events will go a long way to help promote an understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, and ultimately create intolerance to the discrimination and harassment that they face.