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Four CUPE activists were among over 200 participants from more than 30 countries attending the recent world conference addressing the situation of gay men and lesbians within the trade union movement and in the workplace.

Frano0069s Bellemare, Michael Butler, M.J. Haslam and Bill Pegler joined other Canadian delegates from the CLC, OFL, CAW and PSAC at the first-ever International Conference on Trade Unions, Homosexuality and the Workplace. The conference took place in Amsterdam in July 1998, hosted by the Dutch public sector trade union, ABKA-KABO and the Federation of Dutch trade unions, FNV.

CUPE activists shared the news of our recent victory in the same-sex benefits case at the Ontario Court of Appeal. CUPE has distinguished itself internationally by fighting to extend the human rights of Canadian gay and lesbian workers to include pension benefits, said Bill Pegler of Local 23 in Burnaby, BC.

Delegates discussed various trade union efforts to reduce discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, in the union and in society. But they were also forced to confront the reality that in many parts of the world, homosexual citizens are faced with arrest and punishment simply for being gay or lesbian. In Great Britain today, it remains illegal for educators to speak positively about homosexual life.

Conference participants endorsed a comprehensive closing statement that challenged trade unionists in Canada and around the world to work for lesbian and gay freedoms in the workplace. The closing statement can be viewed on the Internet at http://utopia.knoware.nl/users/modijk/SLOT.HTM. If you are not on the Web, copies of the statement can be obtained from the Equality Branch by calling (613) 237-1590.