Spring 2004

Working Class Pride: Our Roots, Our Struggles, Our Communities

Our 3rd National CAW Pride Conference will take place this spring (April 30 - May 2) at the Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, Ontario. The conference is for CAW lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members, partners, and allies. The conference theme is: Working Class Pride: Our Roots, Our Struggles, Our Communities.

The conference will focus on the working class history of gays and lesbians, how CAW workers make our own history every day by confronting homophobia in a variety of ways, and how we make communities for supporting each other and celebrating our victories.

Call letters were sent out the week of February 2 to Local Union Presidents, Recording Secretaries, Unit Presidents/Chairpersons including Rail Lodges and Air Districts, Employment Equity Representatives, Chairpersons of: Pride Standing Committees, LGBT Regional Pride Caucuses, Women's Committees and Human Rights Committees. See your Local Union Executive for an application.

Our union's commitment to equality can only be met with the total participation and involvement of our leadership and activists. Please come to the conference and encourage all interested CAW brothers and sisters to do the same.

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CAW Pride Atlantic Conference A Big Success

Twenty-four CAW members attended the November 8 CAW Pride Atlantic Conference in Halifax Nova Scotia. Many participants - from a range of ages and experience - were at their first or second union event and there was good representation from allies in elected positions. Our conference followed the Canadian Labour Congress Regional Pride Conference at which the CAW was well represented.

The CAW conference dealt with issues of homophobia and barriers preventing the election of LGBT members, though some participants reported they felt their locals to be barrier-free. Woven throughout discussions of how to fight the oppression of heterosexism was the history of racism. Participants watched the video about Marc Hall, the Ontario high school student who fought (with the help many organizations, including the CAW) to take his boyfriend to his prom.

Participants were both surprised and delighted at the level of CAW activism on LGBT issues and pointed to the need (despite the many pressures on people's time) for more youth LGBT activists as well as more activists from blue collar workplaces. One direct result of the conference has been the formation of a Halifax Pride Caucus.

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Same Sex Marriage

With the recent change in the federal government's leadership comes a regrettable change in their commitment to bringing in legislation for equal marriage for lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

The Supreme Court of Canada was scheduled to hear the marriage reference on April 16, 2004. However, on January 28, 2004, the federal government broadened the reference to add an additional question determining whether limiting common-law marriage to opposite-sex couples only, is constitutional. This is widely seen as a delaying tactic which will push off the reference pushed off to beyond a spring federal election.

The CAW has joined the Canadians for Equal Marriage coalition and will continue to push for equal choice to marry. Please write today to your Member of Parliament and to the Prime Minister to press them to commit to pass equal marriage legislation. We must ensure that our voices are heard before a federal election is called.

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Great Turnout at December Council Pride Caucus

We were pleased to have a great turnout at our Pride Caucus held during December's CAW Council. More and more of us are succeeding in being elected into various capacities in the union. Council is the "parliament" of our union. Delegates to Council debate reports of the National President and staff of the union. Resolutions are also discussed and voted on. At our Pride Caucus we discussed various issues of interest to our communities and set out some ideas about how to move our agenda forward.

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Retroactive CPP win under Appeal

In January, 2004, an Ontario court ruled that gays and lesbians whose partners died between 1985 and 1998 are entitled to survivor's benefits under the Canadian Pension Plan. When the federal government enacted omnibus legislation in 1998, eliminating more than 50 discriminatory federal laws, it limited the survivor pensions to lesbians and gays whose partners died after 1998. The Court responded that the benefits should have been retroactive to 1985, the year that the equality rights section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect. The federal government has announced that it will appeal the Court's ruling of retroactivity back to 1985. Anyone who might be affected by the results in this case should contact Doug Elliott at Roy, Elliott, Kim, O'Connor in Toronto.

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Hate Crimes Bill in the Senate

MP Svend Robinson led a crucial fight to add sexual orientation to the list of included grounds under hate propaganda legislation in Canada. This Bill is now before the Senate. Once enacted, this section will make it clear that it is a criminal offence to promote hatred, violence or genocide directed at gay, lesbian or bisexual people.

This will be a welcome addition to the already existing section of the Criminal Code of Canada which allows a judge to increase the sentence of an offender where his or her crime is motivated by hatred on grounds such as race, religion, sex and sexual orientation. This section, s.718.2, was recently used in the trial of one of Aaron Webster's killers. Having found that this was a hate crime, the judge imposed a sentence longer than either the defence or the Crown had recommended. It is also important to note that this section can be used in cases of trans bashing.

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B.C. Supreme Court Overturns Nixon Decision

Kimberly Nixon, a post-operative male to female transsexual, filed a human rights complaint in 1995 against the Vancouver Rape Relief Society, arguing that her expulsion from the Society's volunteer training course was discriminatory. The Human Rights Tribunal ruled that, indeed, the Society had discriminated against Ms. Nixon based on her sex. In December, 2003, the B.C. Supreme Court overturned the Human Rights Tribunal's ruling.

Extremely difficult issues are raised both by this case and the B.C. Supreme Court decision. On the one hand, Rape Relief argues that because it is entitled to have a "women only" hiring policy for its peer counselling services, it is entitled to determine who is a woman. Rape Relief's political belief is that only persons who have been raised and lived their lives exclusively as girls and women are suitable as peer counsellors for female victims of male sexual violence. Ms. Nixon, on the other hand, argues that because she is medically and legally a woman she cannot be treated by Rape Relief as a man simply because she was not always anatomically been a woman. Nixon, and others in the trans community feel it important to self-worth and dignity, to be accepted as women.

The B.C. Supreme Court decision reaffirms that the protection against discrimination based on "sex" includes transsexuals. However, the Court found that exclusion from Rape Relief was "quite a different case from, say, Ms. Nixon being excluded from a restaurant because of her transsexual characteristics. Unlike a for-profit business providing services or recruiting employees from the general public or a volunteer organization open to all, Rape Relief defined itself as a women-only organization."

Nixon has filed a notice of appeal with the B.C. Court of Appeal.

Trans rights in employment are protected in every province and the CAW is committed to enforcing these rights. At our Constitutional Convention in 2003, we passed a comprehensive Pride Policy as well as a resolution specifically on trans inclusion.

HIV/AIDS in Africa: CAW Joins the Fight

Our community knows all too well the ravages of HIV/AIDS. A CAW Delegation to the International Metalworkers Federation Conference in December spent World Aids Day in South Africa and got a sense of the HIV/AIDS crisis sweeping Africa. In Africa, 30 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 are currently living with the virus and more than two million die from it every year. The rates of infection and death continue to climb each year with many hospitals and paediatric wards filled with 70 to 80 percent AIDS-related illnesses. The greatest percentage of the population infected is women.

In August, delegates and guests to the CAW Constitutional Convention were able to hear from United Nations special envoy Stephen Lewis who said the crisis is beyond belief especially considering that the knowledge exists now to turn things around. Drugs, education and resources can reduce the rate of infection as well as prolong the lives of millions of people. But the response of the international community is muted and resources haven't been marshalled. Now the pandemic is threatening to spread to other parts of the world.

CAW president Buzz Hargrove committed the union to involving itself in the campaign to stem the spread of AIDS in Africa. Part of the solution can come from amending drug patent laws to allow for generic anti-retroviral drugs to be provided to Africa. In October, 2003, CAW president Buzz Hargrove sent a letter to Locals urging them to fax and email their support for the generic drug amendment to the government. Everyone is encouraged to also write to their M.P. on this issue. To stay up to date on this and other actions, go to www.aidslaw.ca

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Caucus Corner

Oshawa & Area Caucus

CAW members in the Oshawa, Peterborough and Toronto East area can leave a message for the LGBT Caucus at Local 222, (905)723-1187 ext. 226 or e-mail: lgbtoshawa@hotmail.com

Western Region Pride Caucus

Our Caucus meets monthly. Contact us by leaving a message at the CAW Regional Office in Vancouver at 1-800-665-3553 or by e-mail: cawpridebc@hotmail.com

Windsor & Area LGBT Caucus

The CAW Windsor Area LGBT Caucus meetings are held every 3rd Wednesday of the month at 8:00pm at the CAW Regional Office, 2345 Central Ave. Contact us at 519-944-5866 or e-mail: lgbtcawwindsor@yahoo.ca
Web site: www.geocities.com/caw_lgbt_caucus

Golden Horseshoe Regional LGBT Caucus

Greetings! Contact us at stickman@iaw.on.ca or by calling (905) 714-7333.

London and Area Working With Pride Caucus

Our meetings are held on the second Sunday of each month. For more information call: Stephanie Johnstone (519) 536-9023, Laura Panther (519) 785-3108
e-mail: cawpride@yahoo.ca
website: www.geocities.com/cawlgbtcaucus

CAW Local 1285 Pride Standing Committee

Contact us at pride@caw1285.on.ca or (905) 451-8310 ext. 43.

CAW Local 199 Pride Standing Committee

Contact us at stickman@iaw.on.ca

or call (905) 714-7333.
CAW Local 27 Pride Standing Committee

Call (519) 455-3430.

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Anything to Contribute?

If you would like to contribute to Pride in Print, contact us by email at cawpride@caw.ca, or by phone, 1-800-268-5763, Human Rights Department.

To receive your copy of Pride in Print by mail, call or e-mail the Human Rights Department at 1-800-268-5763 / cawpride@caw.ca and have your name added to our confidential mailing list.

Occasionally we send out information to our Pride Activists by e-mail. If you are not receiving information in this format and would like to, please send your email address to cawpride@caw.ca


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