Yukon’s PSAC Pride Committee rep, MLA Lois Moorcroft and trans Rights activist Chase Blodgett at the Yukon Legislative Assembly following the passing of a motion forwarding Trans Rights in the Yukon Human Rights Act.
May 14th 2015 marked a positive step toward a more equitable Yukon. Lois Moorcroft, MLA for Copperbelt South presented a motion to change the Yukon’s Human Rights Act to include language specifically protecting the rights of Yukon trans people. Her motions read:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to review, and introduce amendments to, the Human Rights Act, before the end of its current mandate, to protect the human rights of trans people by adding “gender identity” and “gender expression” under section 7 of the Act as a prohibited ground for discrimination. 525. Ms. Moorcroft (Motion No. 994)
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to review its legislation, programs and services and introduce required amendments or policy changes in order to ensure the human rights of trans people are fully protected.
To most progressives, that seems straight forward. Simple. A no-brainer, even. Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers, Minister of Justice countered that all Yukon people are protected under Article 7 of the Yukon Human Rights Act which lists” sexual orientation” as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Ms. Moorcroft put forward the argument that sexual orientation is a different thing entirely from whether or not one feels their gender identity aligns with the gender designated to them at birth.
The motion was debated, spun around, debated again, argued for and argued against. In the end as an olive branch and with a nod to the large gallery of concerned members of our community, Mr. Cathers proposed amending to the motion to add the words CONSIDER INTRODUCING AMENDMENTS and THE NEXT TIME THE ACT IS REVIEWED.
Not surprisingly, Ms. Moorcroft (and the gallery) felt the government’s offer to CONSIDER changing the legislation at some theoretical distant future date was not in keeping with the spirit of the motion. The proposed amendment provided no certainty, no sense of urgency and no genuine commitment to change.
The floor of the Legislative Assembly became quite animated, with MLA’s and Ministers leaving the room and returning, conferring in the hallway with pages ferrying notes back and forth across the floor.
When all was said and done, and thanks in no small part to the contributions of Klondike MLA Sandy Silver, there was unanimous agreement to pass the motion without the word CONSIDER included. The work will now be to ensure the Yukon Party maintains its commitment and prioritizes a review of the Yukon’s Human Rights Act sooner than later.
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to advance equal rights for transsexual, transgender and gender-variant people by:
(1) introducing amendments to explicitly include “gender identity” and “gender expression” under section 7 of the Yukon Human Rights Act as a prohibited ground for discrimination the next time the act is reviewed;
(2) supporting full equality and respect for trans people accessing Yukon government jobs, programs and services; and
(3) using public education to fight intolerance, discrimination and violence against trans people.
The motion received the unanimous support of all MLA’s in a recorded vote.
PSAC and YEU Activists were present in the gallery along with other community members. YEU delegates to the PSAC National Convention in Quebec City in early May were particularly interested, as a series of resolutions addressing the rights of transgender people were brought to the floor, and all were passed with overwhelming support. Unions have always walked alongside those who work to change the status quo. We are proud to be a part of the journey.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead, 1901-1978
A seven year legal battle for two Ontario residents and a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada set a legal precedent on what constitutes a disability under Human Rights legislation. Employees who suffer from an illness or injury that restricts or limits their ability to perform their duties are considered to be “disabled” under employment law; addictions and alcoholism are considered disabilities.
Under the Yukon Human Rights Act, an employer must accommodate disabled employees – this is the “duty to accommodate”. The right to equality for persons with disabilities is entrenched in Human Rights legislation across Canada. If an employee suffers from an addiction they may have access to a workplace accommodation while they are recovering.
We say may because the duty to accommodate usually follows disclosure by the employee. The employee may believe they suffer from an addiction but unless this is disclosed, it’s tough for the employer to know what supports are appropriate.
An accommodation can be anything from altered hours of work, time off to attend counseling or treatment or even modified duties. It may mean working in a different position or location. The intent is to reduce or eliminate the risk of further injury or illness, to meet operational needs and to allow the individual to continue working while recovery takes place.
If an employer suspects a medical condition may be affecting an employee’s performance, they have a duty to inquire. This means they may ask the employee if there are any medical restrictions or limitations, or if they have a medical condition they should be aware of. This isn’t an invasion of your privacy just for the sake of asking; if you are asked, it likely means your employers have noticed you are struggling.
What can you do if you believe addiction is affecting your ability to carry out your duties? Ask for help! Talk to your family or friends, consult with your family physician and tap into your employee assistance program.
If you believe you need a workplace accommodation, ask YEU for a union representative to help you talk to your supervisor. Some employers offer financial support to attend treatment programs, follow up counseling or other rehabilitative programs. All employers have a legal duty to accommodate an employee to the point of undue hardship.
If you’re in doubt about your responsibilities and your rights as a disabled employee or if you have any questions please contact YEU and your human resource branch. There is confidential support available and all levels can work together to help. For your protection, it makes sense to make sure you have union support when you approach your employer; we will be with you every step of the way.
During the YEU’s recent Human Rights Speaker Series, YEU was happy to welcome Yukon Trans* man Chase Blodgett to our hall to give a presentation. Invited by the PSAC’s very active Pride Committee, Chase walked us all through the complicated world he is navigating as he completes paperwork, plays hockey and plans the medical care his transition will require. A reporter from the Yukon News attended Chase’s YEU Human Rights Speaker Series talk, and wrote this great article. http://www.yukon-news.com/news/trans-man-pushes-for-human-rights-changes/
Chase has been a powerful advocate for the rights of transgendered people in the Yukon. Very recently the Whitehorse Women’s Hockey Association announced a ground breaking policy, allowing Chase to continue to play in the league while creating a safe space so that anyone who was born or identifies as a woman is welcome. While Chase is working through the issues surrounding his own journey, the groundwork will be laid for those who follow in his footsteps… or skate tracks. Read more here: http://www.whitehorsestar.com/Sports/women-s-league-oks-inclusive-transgender-policy
If you weren’t able to join us and want to watch the talk, please watch all three parts below or on the Yukon Employees’ Union’s YouTube channel
At YEU’s recent Triennial Convention, the delegation voted to ensure language and policy is adopted by our organization to create a truly inclusive union. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (of which YEU is a component) is a leader in equity advocacy and trans rights. YEU is proud to work with groups like the PSAC Pride Committee and outstanding individuals like Chase.