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Discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation or sexual identity is homophobia/transphobia. Statistics show that about 10 per cent of the Canadian population is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual or intersex (LGBTTI). This means that more than 7,000 CUPE members in British Columbia belong to the LGBTTI community.

May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia. CUPE BC is encouraging CUPE locals throughout British Columbia to recognize the occasion and join in activities sponsored by the LGBTTI community in their neighbourhoods.

It wasn’t long ago in Canada that homophobia was not only allowed but encouraged. The Canadian Criminal Code outlawed and was used to punish same-sex relationships. While this era is now over and there have been great strides made to eliminate discrimination and harassment, this does not mean that homophobia/transphobia has been eradicated in society or the workplace,” says CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill.

Last year, at our first Pink Triangle Conference (http://www.cupe.bc.ca/index.php4?id=3826), CUPE members from throughout the province gathered to talk about some of the barriers they continue to face as members of sexual minorities, and to work at building solutions to overcome those barriers,” says O’Neill.

What the conference told us is that we still have a lot of work to do in terms of making workplaces safer for everyone, and in educating our members and the public about the negative consequences of homophobia. The May 17th awareness day is a good reminder of that.”

The CUPE BC president is quick to add, however, that one day to fight homophobia and transphobia is not enough, and that changing attitudes and practices is an ongoing challenge.

Peter DeGroot, a member of CUPE BC’s Committee Against Racism and Discrimination, agrees.

We must continue to work with our allies to ensure that collective agreements, bylaws, policies and procedures eliminate discrimination and promote pride in our LGBTTI members,” says DeGroot. “We must educate our members and ourselves and become more sensitive to LGBTTI co-workers, ensuring a safe environment that celebrates diversity.”

For more information on how you can help fight homophobia, visit the official website (http://www.homophobiaday.org) of Anti-Homophobia Day. There is also an archive (http://www.cupe.ca/lgbtt) of CUPE-related news on LGBTTI issues.