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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
Canadian employers lose $77.9 million annually due to the direct and indirect impacts of domestic violence, and the costs, to individuals, families and society, go far beyond that. However, we know very little about the scope and impacts of this problem in Canada.
The Canadian Labour Congress partnered with researchers at the University of Western Ontario and conducted the first ever Canadian survey on domestic violence in the workplace. We did this because there is almost no data on this issue in Canada and we know that women with a history of domestic violence have a more disrupted work history, are consequently on lower personal incomes, have had to change jobs more often, and more often work in casual and part time roles than women without violence experiences.
Being a perpetrator of domestic violence also significantly impacts a worker and their workplace. A recent study found that 53% of offenders felt their job performance was negatively impacted, 75% had a hard time concentrating on their work, and 19% reported causing or nearly causing workplace accidents due to their violent relationship. Their behaviours lead to a loss of paid and unpaid work time, a decrease in productivity, and safety hazards for their co-workers.
Here are some of the things we learned from this survey:
Experiences of Domestic Violence
A third (33.6%) of respondents reported ever experiencing domestic violence from an intimate partner, and there were differences by gender (figure 2).
Aboriginal respondents, respondents with disabilities, and those indicating a sexual orientation other than heterosexual (e.g., lesbian, gay or bisexual) were particularly likely to have reported experiencing DV in their lifetime. In terms of indirect domestic violence experience, 35.4% of respondents reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is experiencing, or has previously experienced, domestic violence and 11.8% reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is being abusive, or has previously been abusive, toward his/her partner.
The Impact of DV on Workers and Workplaces
Of those who reported DV experience, 38% indicated it impacted their ability to get to work (including being late, missing work, or both).
In total, 8.5% of DV victims indicated they had lost their job because of it.
Over half (53.5%) of those reporting DV experiences indicated that at least one type of abusive act occurred at or near the workplace. Of these, the most common were abusive phone calls or text messages (40.6%) and stalking or harassment near the workplace (20.5%; Figure 3).
Ultimately, stronger evidence will help to shape legislation, policies, and practices that promote violence prevention and safety in workplaces, that hold abusers accountable for their behaviour, and that lift the burden from victims so they need not deal with domestic violence alone.
Disclosure of DV in the Workplace and Support Received
Overall, 43.2% of those experiencing DV reported they discussed it with someone at work. There are apparent differences according to gender, with men being particularly unlikely to discuss domestic violence at work. Among all respondents, 28% said they had received information about domestic
violence from their employer. Among unionized respondents, 27.2% received information about domestic violence from their union.
Only 10.6% of all respondents think that employers are aware when domestic violence is affecting their workers, but among those who said yes, 62.3% believe employers act in a positive way to help workers experiencing domestic violence. Similarly, only 11.3% of all respondents think union officials are aware when domestic violence is affecting members, and among them, 86.6% believe unions act in a positive way to help members.
Where do we go from here?
This research has identified the scope and impact of domestic violence on workers and workplaces, but is only a first step. Immediate next steps include encouraging use of these results by governments, unions and employers to establish proactive practices to address the impact of domestic violence at work. Some immediate changes in the labour movement include:
The Yukon Teachers’ Association has negotiated special leave that can be used when workers need time off due to domestic violence.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has a network of social stewards who are provided training to develop listening skills, learn about available resources, and assist in prevention of a range of difficulties, including family-related problems. The program is particularly effective in Quebec.
Download the entire report and learn more about what we are doing on this issue.
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.