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November 1, 2011
I want to thank you for using your voice and position in Canadian society to raise the issues of homophobia and teen suicide. You are absolutely right – one young person committing suicide is one too many.
The movement to gain acceptance for queer and trans people has come a long way in recent decades, but the tragic death of Jamie Hubley illustrates just how far we still have to go. We still live in a society where young people are bullied for simply being who they are to a point where they consider, and sometimes do, take their own lives. It’s shocking really. This is Canada and it’s 2011; aren’t we better than all that?
And you were right again when you said that it’s not good enough to tell young people to wait until “it gets better,” no matter how true this can actually be. We must all do whatever we can today to address bullies and those that support them head-on. We must build a climate where it’s simply not acceptable to abuse and oppress people – Period.
My name is Fred, and I’m writing you this letter as President of the Ontario Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Our Union has long stood up for human rights, and the rights of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are a big part of that fight.
I am a social worker by trade, and the President of Ontario’s largest union. I am also a proud, out, gay leader in our union. I’m proud to work with people who actively pursue a more just and equitable society. I’m proud of our union’s record on human rights overall, and in advancing the rights of LGBT workers in their workplaces.
But your video reminds us that it’s not enough to only focus on our members’ working lives. We have to create a safe, accepting and fair society for all of us, young people especially. The real advantage we have in CUPE is that so many of our members’ working lives are spent in the environments filled with young people.
There are 230,000 workers in CUPE Ontario and, as public sector workers, all of them have contact with people. Many work in child care centres, in elementary and high schools, in universities, and in municipal youth programs and community agencies that support children and families. I will encourage them all to watch your video and to think about their role in fixing the very problems you highlight. I will work with them to ensure they all become what many of them already are – champions against bullying and guardians of young people – in their communities and their workplaces.
Thank you for your attempts to make something good come from such a tragic event. And for giving us all pause to consider how we must act today to effect positive change within our communities.
For more information, please contact:
Fred Hahn, President, CUPE Ontario, 416-540-3979
Craig Saunders, CUPE Communications, 416-576-7316
Watch the video: “RMR: Rick’s Rant – Teen Suicide”