Statement from National President Wayne Hanley on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Each year May 17 is observed as the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the Fondation Émergence's campaign to establish a special day that recognizes homosexuality and celebrates the valuable contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer (LGBTQ) community in our society.

Although the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly acknowledges the human rights of LGBTQ communities in Canada, we have yet to achieve an unwavering social acceptance of homosexuality and the fight against homophobia and transphobia in our workplaces and schools is not over. According to a survey conducted by UFCW Canada’s national partner, Egale Canada, high levels of bullying, violence, and harassment are directed towards LGBTQ students in schools across the country. Two thirds of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school, 20 percent have been physically harassed or assaulted because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, and 37 percent of youth with LGBTQ parents have been verbally harassed about the sexual orientation of their guardians.

Statistics Canada has also revealed that hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation doubled in 2008 and increased by another 18 percent in 2009. 74 percent of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are violent in nature, with 63 percent resulting in injury to the victim.  

As Canada’s largest and most inclusive private sector union, UFCW Canada supports the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. The event allows our organization to reflect on the hard work and service of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. We must take up the challenge each day in opposing discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. We must be respectful of our LGBTQ members and strive to provide a safer space for them within our workplaces, schools, and communities. 

Diversity makes this country a strong nation. As labour activists, we share Egale Canada's vision of a Canada free from homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and all forms of discrimination. Our belief is that every Canadian, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be able to achieve their full potential without facing hatred or prejudice from others.