PSAC remains committed to ending Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

May 17th is the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The date of May 17th was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. Today, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) recommits itself to fighting against the oppression, discrimination and harassment faced by the LGBTQ2+ community.

This year’s theme is ‘BREAKING THE SILENCE’; to speak up, speak out and take up space, because the voices, stories and lived realities of the LGBTQ2+ communities matter!

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, non-binary and two-spirit people continue to face discrimination, violence and harassment at work, in the community and in their daily lives. This is exacerbated for members of the LGBTQ2+ from further marginalized communities such as black, racialized, immigrant, living with disabilities and Indigenous.  PSAC stands in solidarity with our LGBTQ2+ workers in creating workplaces that are free from homophobia, transphobia and biphobia and work towards policies and initiatives that address:

PSAC remains committed to:

  • Fighting for the inclusion of HIV prevention medication and gender-affirming hormone therapies in extended health plans
  • Advocating for gender inclusive washrooms in workplaces
  • Providing education and raising awareness on being an ally to our LGBTQ2+ siblings (Take a look at our guide on Building Trans-Inclusive Workplaces)
  • Advocating for the recognition and inclusion of the LGBTQ2+ community in the Employment Equity Act
  • Bringing issues affecting LGBTQ2+ workers to the bargaining table

We all have a role to play to ensure LGBTQ2+ people feel safe and can participate fully as they are in society and in their workplaces. PSAC will continue to work towards breaking down barriers and making equity and equality a reality, because LGBTQ2+ rights are human rights!

Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on the Asian community

May is Asian Heritage Month in Canada, dedicated to celebrating the contributions of Canadians of Asian ancestry. But this year, it is an opportunity to understand some of the challenges faced by racialized people of Asian descent in the context of the global pandemic.

East Asians face a new wave of racist incidents

Racism in Canada has reared its ugly head once again with the COVID-19 pandemic—understood to have first emerged in China—serving as a catalyst.

Similar to what happened during the 2003 SARS outbreak, anti-Asian racism has been on the rise all across Canada since this current pandemic first emerged. Reports from people of Asian heritage living across the country have revealed various kinds of harassment as they go about their lives in their communities and workplaces — from experiencing racial tirades to physical assaults to front-line health care workers experiencing racism even as they try to save lives.

poll in Canadas’ three largest cities found that 1 in 5 people felt unsafe sitting next to an Asian person on a bus. In Quebec, the rise of harassment incidents directed at people of Asian background has led the province’s Human Rights Commission to warn that “the pandemic must not be a justification for any form of discrimination.”

More recently, anti-Asian racism was shown by a federal Conservative leadership contender, MP Derek Sloan, who publicly questioned whether the country’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, who is of Asian descent, is “working for China” rather than Canada and calling for her dismissal to keep Canada “sovereign.” Although the Prime Minister was quick to condemn the remarks as racist, the Conservative Party leader, Andrew Scheer, and other contenders for the party’s leadership all refused to condemn them.

To address anti-Asian racism, the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice was forced to launch its Stop the Spread campaign to counter rampant misinformation found across the internet. A similar campaign has also been launched by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

PSAC calls on the federal government to urgently increase support, including through new public funding, for anti-Asian racism initiatives and to swiftly condemn incidents of anti-Asian racism. 

South Asians at higher health and financial risk from COVID-19

South Asian people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because they have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, which puts them at higher risk for health complications. Moreover, many Asians, including South Asians, live in multi-generational households, meaning elderly members are at higher risk of exposure to the virus.

Asian people, like other racialized people, also tend to be over-represented in precarious employment in the health, transport and service industries, which involve coming into close contact with the public during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, to date there has been no disaggregated race-based data (i.e., data with subcategories of race, such as South Asian) collected in Canada on those who test positive for COVID-19 or those who die from it, and health authorities have shown little interest in starting to collect and publish such information. In Ontario, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health dismissed calls to do so despite pressure from various public health associations. Yet, preliminary research from the United Kingdom reveals that South Asians—along with other minority groups—are dying of COVID-19 at a higher rate.

Thankfully, Toronto Public Health has initiated its own data collection during the pandemic, which will include race-based data. As stated by Toronto Board of Health chair Joe Cressy, “It’s absolutely essential, as it has always been, that we have comprehensive data to fully understand and in turn respond to COVID-19. In the absence of appropriate disaggregated race-based data, we cannot properly respond.”

Moreover, with jobs vanishing quickly, many South Asians are now facing economic crisis. For instance, an April 2020 national survey by the Association for Canadian Studies revealed that South Asians are among the mostly likely to be financially affected by the pandemic—experiencing income loss and difficulties with paying bills and making rent.

PSAC calls on all Canadian governments to urgently begin the collection of disaggregated race-based data to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on racialized communities and ensured adequate interventions are made available. 

Speak up and support one another 

PSAC reminds all members, including those of Asian descent, that they can count on their union to fully support them if they experience racism in their workplace. Moreover, PSAC encourages all members to be vigilant at work and speak out against racist views and actions.

The origin of Asian Heritage Month

Asian Heritage Month has been celebrated in many communities across Canada since the 1990s. In December 2001, Senator Vivienne Poy, an accomplished Canadian of Asian heritage, proposed a motion that was adopted by the Senate of Canada, designating May as Asian Heritage Month nationally. In May 2002, the Government of Canada signed an official declaration to designate May as Asian Heritage Month.

 

Source: http://psacunion.ca/understanding-impact-covid-19-asian-community

April 17 – Equality Day in Canada

Every human being is entitled to the same fundamental human rights: the right to live free from torture, the right to live free from slavery, the right to own property, the right to equality and dignity, and to live free from all forms of discrimination etc. just to name few among others.

If all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, why are we still fighting against discrimination, racism, inequal pay and gender inequality? Why are we still fighting against social and economic inequalities deep rooted in some communities in this country?

Well! Should we say Equality or Inequality Day instead? Well, let’s see, shall we?

Tomorrow will be Equality Day in Canada. We celebrate Equality Day every April 17 to mark the coming into force of the equality provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter was signed on April 17, 1982. However, Section 15 of the Charter on Equality Rights and Freedoms for all without discrimination, was implemented on April 17, 1985, three years later. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom is here to protect all Canadian’s fundamental rights. Well, easy said than done!

The reality is, many decades later after this great breakthrough, we are still talking in this country about gender inequality: Canadian women still face major income inequality – gender pay gap between women and men. For example, in 2017, on average, women earned between 64 cents and 79 cents for every $1 that men earned. The pay gap is even wider for racialized women, immigrant and migrant workers, indigenous women, women with disabilities and LGBTQ2+ people.

Research also shows that there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Canada. Nonetheless, 35 years later, we are still fighting to address gender-based violence towards girls and women, fighting for equal opportunity in our workplaces and fighting against all forms of discrimination and racist behaviors! In addition, and surprisingly some communities are still fighting to have their basic needs met such as clean water, medical accessibility etc.

Yes, the implementation of the section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the rights for equality was a touchstone in Canadian history. It is one of our country’s greatest accomplishments and widely admired around the globe! As Canadian, this is one of the things I proudly brag about. However, have we reached the rights to equality and dignity goals? No! It is work in progress! Let’s admit it, there is still much work that needs to be done at home before reaching full equality rights in all areas in our society, workplaces and community at large.

Brothers, Sisters and fellow activists, today, April 17, is Equality Day in Canada. Let’s celebrate! However, every day should be Equality Day because every day we need to fight against the systemic inequality we experience or witness. In doing so, we reaffirm our commitment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We don’t need a special day to promote or to defend our rights for equality. Let’s reflect today on the right to equality, its role in our society, and what we can do to promote and protect those rights. In conclusion, calling April 17, Equality or Inequality day in Canada, is up to you and me. Happy reading!

Céline Ahodekon
UNE Steward of Local 20278 & PSAC-BC Secretary for the Lower Mainland Human Rights Committee

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International Women’s Day 2020

What if we started this International Women’s Day deciding that we as women will be each other’s ally? That we support each other, we rally for each other and just be kind. From there we can try to understand where we are each coming from and the journey we are taking.

As young girls we learn to complete with each other, though for most of us it was not always in a health way. So, let’s relearn to complete, challenge each other and still be colleagues and celebrate the success of other women as it is not a reflection of our defeat.

Let’s learn to build networks and mentorships to help women succeed. Find ways to better connect women together to share our knowledge and history so this important information is not lost. Development of a networks where we can store and access information to support women’s ideas, goals and to be able to better strategize and plan. We need to start looking more future forward with strategic planning on where we are going.

It’s 2020 and yes, we are still fighting for basic human rights! Fighting that the victim is not to be blamed, clothes are just that clothes, NO means NO! and silence is not consent and women are not asking for it. Yes, these are still what women face and what we are still stand together strong fighting for!

2020 International Women’s Day slogan says, “We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.”

Let’s in 2020 go out and show society that for all women today this to be true! That we will no longer be quiet, that we will no longer ask for what we are entitled to, that what we are here to do is: Step out of line ladies. Step out of line for equality.

Diana Walker
UNE National Equity Representative for Women

Black History Month – Celebrating our Members: Celine Ahodekon

February 7, 2020

Celine works for Parks Canada at the Fort Langley National Historic Site as a heritage presenter, telling visitors about our shared history – something she is very passionate about.

Celine has been very active within her component and local and has held many positions, including serving on the Parks Canada bargaining team and as the equity representative for racialized members for the Union of National Employees (UNE). She sat on the organizing committee of PSAC BC’s first ever conference for racially visible members. Celine is also involved in her local PSAC BC Area Council and Human Rights Committee, where she is currently busy helping to organize a Black History Month celebration in Abbotsford, BC.

We asked Celine why she felt Black History Month was important and she explained: “We still have much more work to do in order to create a society where everyone feels equal. Having Black History Month is one way to remember, teach and learn about Black people’s contributions to the economy, politics and social life in Canada.”

Source: PSAC Website

 

October 4, Sisters in Spirit

Sisters in Spirit Vigils celebrate, honour and support Indigenous women, girls and their families. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has been shared online.

Indigenous women and girls suffer higher rates of violence and homicide than non-Indigenous women and girls. There are many personal and systemic changes we need to make in this country. Can we join the Native Women’s Association of Canada to enhance, promote and foster the well-being of Indigenous women?

I am grateful for the recent learnings I have received from Colleen Hele-Cardinal, in Algonquin territory, and Hummingbirds Rising Consulting, in Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil waututh territory. I am encouraged by my worker union’s initiation of a Reconciliation paper. There is much to learn.

All my relations,

Ruby Langan
UNE National Equity Representative for Aboriginal Peoples

Join the Global Climate Strike!

 

People around the world will be hitting the streets on September 27 to draw attention to the growing climate crisis. PSAC encourages any members who are able, to show support for and join the Global Climate Strike.

Download the PSAC For Climate Justice poster!

With the environment emerging as a top concern for Canadians in the upcoming federal election, this strike provides us with an opportunity to drive home the call for urgent action to all political party leaders. Visit the Global Climate Strike website to find out when and where your city’s demonstration or march is taking place.

What is the Global Climate Strike?

Young people around the word have been leading the fight against climate change. They are now asking everyone to join them in the fight for their future. The strikes have been set to bookend the meeting of global leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit taking place September 23. Actions have been planned in 150 countries around the globe and everyone is encouraged to participate. A worldwide show of solidarity will make it clear to all leaders that we expect ambitious action against climate change, and we expect it now.

I can’t skip work, but I want to support the movement. What can I do?

We understand that not everyone has the ability to take a day off of work to join the strike, but it doesn’t mean you can’t participate and make your voice heard. Here are some ideas of how you can support the movement while on the job:

  • Share the Global Climate Strike messages on social media on your breaks. You can post selfies or group photos using the #ClimateStrike hashtag.
  • Host a presentation or lunchtime discussion to share information about the Global Climate Strike.
  • Put forward a proposal to your employer outlining how and why your workplace should join the Global Climate Strike.
  • If you have a number of colleagues who want to participate, organize a workplace action.
  • If you are able to request formal leave at your workplace, let your employer know why you are taking leave to ensure that your action builds awareness. Encourage other employees to do the same.

Visit the Global Climate Strike website to get other ideas on how you can support the movement.

UNE Human Rights Conference

UNE Human Rights Conference
November 14 – 17, 2019
Hilton Lac Leamy Hotel

Dear members,

The UNE Human Rights Conference is quickly approaching. We invite you to submit your application to join us in Gatineau, QC from November 14 – 17, 2019 for an exciting chance to meet with fellow Human Rights activists and discuss the many issues facing our union.

The Conference, held every three years, will feature guest speakers, educational sessions and networking opportunities for those in attendance.

In addition, elections will be held for the following:

  • National Equity Representative for Aboriginal Peoples
  • National Equity Representative for Persons with Disabilities
  • National Equity Representative for Racially Visible People
  • National Equity Representative for LGBTQ2+
  • National Equity Representative for Women
  • Four (4) Equity Group Delegates to the 2020 Triennial Convention from each group

Members must self-identify during the application process and will not be able to change or modify their equity group status at the Conference.

For a sneak-peek at what else we have in store for you, check out the Conference agenda.

During online registration, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire. Your answers will be used in the Conference selection process. Here are the questions so that you can prepare and then copy/paste your answers during registration.

Describe your experiences as a human rights activist within the union, your community and/or share your personal story (use the following guidelines as a basis for your description):

  1. How will your participation impact your Local, your Union and your community?
  2. Have you had any formal training or exposure to Human Rights issues?
  3. Describe community organization, Local or any other experience you feel is pertinent (e.g. community activism in Human Rights or social justice, Union positions held, etc.)
  4. Why are Human Rights important to you?

We ask that you register by Friday, October 4th, 2019.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ONLINE

If you are unable to register please contact our UNE events staff at events@une-sen.org.

UNE Multiculturalism Day

Each year, our members celebrate our union’s diversity on August 14. We encourage you to take this opportunity to find out more about the rich cultural mosaic that surrounds us in our workplaces and in our communities!