Pride Month is a time to celebrate our victories and recommit to sustained solidarity with the LGBTQ2S+ community. CUPE Ontario is proud to do so – and we’re grateful that our 280,000 public sector workers have been enriched by the voices and efforts of LGBTQ2S+ Ontarians in our union.
This year, Pride Month is situated during an unprecedented health and political crisis that has impacted everyone to one degree or another. Unfortunately, however, some members of our communities are impacted more than others. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed existing inequalities in our society’s landscape. While job losses are widespread, a national survey revealed that about half of LGBTQ2S+ have experienced lay-offs or a reduction in hours compared to 39% for Canadian households overall. The survey also revealed significant mental health effects of the crisis on the community, as well as a greater sense of isolation compared to Canadians broadly.
More so, there are concerns that members of the LGBTQ2S+ community may be disproportionately affected by contracting the virus. This is made worse since LGBTQ2S+ communities are also particularly at risk due to ongoing barriers to healthcare access and existing health disparities.
Our own members who are also part of the LGBTQ2S+ community have been directly impacted by this crisis. For us, it underscores the necessity of addressing and opposing inequity and oppression.
With Pride events across the country cancelled, the capacity of the community to come together and celebrate a history of significant achievements is challenged. But CUPE Ontario recognizes that we can’t resign ourselves to isolation. More than ever, we need to remain connected – we need to build, not sever, our bonds.
CUPE Ontario’s Pink Triangle Committee is therefore creating a virtual Labour Pride Series to connect with our members and allies across the province.
Today’s work follows a long tradition. We’ve made important strides as a union, and as a labour movement, in the past. We were the first union in Canada to use collective bargaining to advance LGBTQ2S+ rights. We challenged the definition of “spouse” in court and won, opening the door for same-sex spousal benefits for all Canadians. We supported member Martine Stonehouse in her landmark case that helped carve a path to having transition related surgeries being relisted as an insured service by OHIP. And we actively campaign for legislation such as “Toby’s Law,” which extends human rights protection to transgender people.
Today, despite the significant challenges disproportionately facing the LGBTQ2S+ community, through collective action and solidarity we will continue the fight for justice and equity.
Fred Hahn, President
Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer