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CUPE has received major recognition for its activism in Canada and around the world on the rights of sexual minorities.

The University of Toronto’s Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies announced today that it has chosen Canada’s largest union for its first-ever “Citizenship Award” for its equity work.

The award seeks “to honour an individual, group or organization that has made substantial contributions to public understanding of sexual diversity in Canada.”

The “pioneering activism” of CUPE’s Pink Triangle Committee, which organizes, educates and mobilizes for equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, was specifically praised.

CUPE National President Paul Moist was delighted with the news.

I am proud of the efforts CUPE members and staff have made over the years to lessen the hurtful impacts of discrimination and prejudice that too many people experience just for being who they are,” said Moist. “Receiving this award is a real honour and I hope that all of us within CUPE can share the pride I feel for our leadership.”

“Honouring CUPE gives credit to the remarkable work of activists working for equity inside the labour movement and in the public domain,” said David Rayside, director of Sexual Diversity Studies, in a news release.

For well over a decade,” said Rayside, “CUPE has been among those unions that have taken the most assertive steps to challenge inequities in the workplace, to support employees in taking their cases through grievance and court procedures, and to challenge prejudice where it exists.”

Achievements include the union’s 1998 successful Charter challenge of the Income Tax Act that extended survivor benefits in the union’s staff pension plan to lesbian and gay employees.

The award recognizes CUPE for being the first union to establish a gay and lesbian committee, and for being among the first to enshrine transgender rights in its constitution. CUPE participation in Pride marches across the country were also noted.

CUPE formed its Pink Triangle Committee in 1991, to better organize its fight for full labour and human rights for all people regardless of their sexuality or sexual orientation.

The award comes with a $5,000 prize, half of which is to be donated to a cause of CUPE’s choosing.