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November 20, 2012 marks the 14th annual observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance; a day for all of us to honour and remember our transgender sisters and brothers who died because of anti-transgender discrimination and victimization.
Violence against transgender individuals is not uncommon around the world. Most often, these tragic events are not reported in the mainstream media, and the perpetrators are seldom prosecuted.
We each need to commit ourselves to working toward the full equality of our transgender sisters and brothers in our workplaces, in our communities and in our union.
In Ontario this spring, the legislature took an important step by passing Toby’s Law. Introduced by New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo, it amends the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity and gender expression and makes Ontario the first major jurisdiction in North America to provide human rights’ protection for transgender people.
This year, we can take a stand by contacting our MPs in support of Bill C-279, a private member’s bill that would amend the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code of Canada to include proper protections against discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. The bill was put forward by New Democrat MP Randall Garrison and was referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in June.
The bill in is the same one introduced in previous parliaments by former MP Bill Siksay. It was heart-breaking when the bill died in the Senate when the last federal election was called. It had progressed to the Senate after passing a historic vote in the House of Commons. It is important that we send a clear message that the issue remains a priority for Canadians.
Legislation is an important part of the road to equality, but it’s just one part. Unions have a long history of championing rights. It’s why we must mobilize in every community against the attacks on our collective bargaining rights by Liberal and Conservative politicians. Through collective bargaining, we bring rights, protections and safety to workplaces across Ontario, and without the right to free collective bargaining, the struggle to advance human rights will be a much harder one.
As union members, we know that an injury to one is an injury to all. On November 20, let us commit individually and collectively to re-energize our support of Transgender communities and their struggle for equality.