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As Sinda Cathcart was attaching the last rainbow-coloured ribbons to the CUPE Saskatchewan banner in preparation for the Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade on June 24, she noticed her partner, Donna, was talking to the six-year-old boy next door.

Oshoowa and his parents were also planning to march in the parade. In anticipation of the event, his dad had talked to him about Sinda and Donnas relationship.

You guys are okay, the boy told Donna.

You think were okay, Donna said laughing.

I know youre okay, he insisted.

A few days later, Oshoowa called across the yard to tell Sinda he had seen her husband, Donna, driving down the street in the car.

Sinda laughs as she finishes the story, one of many she relates in describing her experiences as a lesbian activist in CUPE. Sporting bleach-blonde hair and the lesbian trademark of sensible shoes, she acknowledges Oshoowas understanding of gay and lesbian relationships isnt complete. But education is the key to acceptance, says the co-chair of the National Pink Triangle Committee. Until more people feel comfortable talking about it [homosexuality], its always going to feel unsafe for gays and lesbians.

A special care aide in a Regina long-term care home, Sindas involvement with CUPE began as a steward in 1981 and then as the sergeant-at-arms. She was elected recording-secretary and chief steward in the 1990s and participated on the 4 a.m. shift during CUPEs provincial health care strike on the coldest day of the winter last year. Shes also active as a volunteer tutor in the WEST Program, a workplace-based literacy program run by the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour. But the gay and lesbian fight is her passion.

Although Sinda and her partner are well known in the lesbian community, she wasnt out at work or in the union. That changed in 1997, after she attended the CUPE Summer School course on discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Not one thing was mentioned about gay and lesbian issues during the entire five-day course, Sinda says. My union was silent on the matter. That was unacceptable to me.

At the end of the course, Sinda filled out her evaluation and cried over it. She was the last one to leave the room.

Within a year, Sinda was serving as the CUPE Saskatchewan representative on the National Pink Triangle Committee and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labours Solidarity and Pride Committee.

Sinda also instructs the Pride in CUPE course, an educational program about gay and lesbian issues which has earned rave reviews from participants at the Prairie School for Union Women and the Saskatoon Public School Board. In fact, Randy Holfeld, past president of CUPE 34, said the Pride in CUPE course was one of the best in-service educationals school board employees had ever attended.

But as Sinda knows too well, the struggle for gay and lesbian equality in Saskatchewan is often a solitary one. In February, Sinda was set to teach the Pride in CUPE course at the Saskatchewan CUPE Winter School, but it was cancelled due to low enrolment. And at the Gay and Lesbian Pride March in June, there were so few CUPE members in attendance that she had to ask a friend to help her carry the union banner.

Its thrilling being involved in the National Pink Triangle Committee, says Sinda. CUPE is progressive and were very much a leader in the legal fights for equality rights. But locally, we have a long way to go.

She looks up and smiles. Thats okay. Im not going anywhere.

Beth Smillie