Discrimination in the federal public service; one member’s story.

A Union of National Employees member shares a personal experience of discrimination as a member of the LGBT community and its lasting impact.

Greetings,

In light of the Prime Minister of Canada’s apology on November 28th regarding the federal government’s discriminatory practices toward the LGBT community, I wish to share my own personal experience with you and encourage other federal government employees to get on board with the class action.

At the end of the 70s, I applied to a competition open to university graduates at Foreign Affairs for foreign assignments. During the ensuing RCMP security investigations, I declared, in good faith, that I was homosexual.  Following the investigation, they refused to add me to the list of candidates for a position in the department. Through the Access to Information Office, I put in a request to have access to the investigation report. The entire report was essentially positive, but certain portions were struck out.  I then communicated with people who had been contacted during the investigation only to realize that the struck-out information was linked to confirmation of my sexual orientation. I called upon the Human Rights Commission and it rendered a positive decision against this discriminatory situation. Thereafter, the Department of Foreign Affairs accepted to put me on the list of candidates, but a few months later the list was eliminated. I never got the chance to work there.

On the strength of my master’s degree in International Relations, I resolved to work with various community organizations — the only positions available to me at the time. It wasn’t until 2000, at the age of 45, that I finally attempted once again to enter the federal public service. I then obtained a position at Human Resources and Social Development Canada. Six years later, in 2006, I got the opportunity to transfer to the Canadian International Development Agency and, thereafter, to Global Affairs Canada during the amalgamation of the two departments.

Such a long road travelled… from the initial competitive process when I was discriminated against to my entry at Global Affairs Canada. Thirty-three years have gone by!  Due to the missed opportunity of getting into my department at the end of my university studies, here I am, in my early 60s, having to work until I’m 65 years old to obtain a decent pension and this despite my 24 years of seniority. I can’t complain as life has nonetheless been good to me. However, I simply wanted to state what impact these discriminatory decisions have had on my life’s course.

I am convinced that many of you have also had a career path made more difficult due to the prevalence in the past of discriminatory policies within the federal government. Therefore, I encourage you to do the same thing as me and take part in the class action.  This obviously will not be a solution to everything. However, it will provide some compensation for the difficulties we have encountered.

I thank you for hearing out my testimony!

 

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

May 17, 2017 is a day to reflect on what makes us unique, what makes us proud, and where there is still work to be done. On international day against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, we remember the successes we have had in achieving human rights for LGBT people, as well as the struggles that remain.

The International Day Against Homophobia on May 17th is a reminder to challenge the stigma when we see it. This action helps to build solidarity with our LGBT clients, but also with coworkers, family, and friends who deserve a safe space. In an international climate of conservatism and right-wing extremism, it is now more important than ever to support those most marginalized within our communities. As employees of the federal public service, we are uniquely poised to serve as an example of inclusivity and tolerance. By fostering an environment that is accepting of sexual and gender diversity, we can demonstrate the value that a diverse population has for our Canadian heritage.

Despite inclusion in workplace protections and human rights legislation, homophobia still persists. As public servants, we must represent Canadian values in the work that we do. By serving as an example of tolerance, and refusing to be silent in the face of stigma and injustice, we can do our part to ensure that Canada continues to be a beacon of diversity for the LGBT and all communities.

For more information, visit http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/

May is Asian Heritage Month

By Shirley Torres

Xie Xie ( see see) – Mandarin,  Gamsahabnida ( gam-samnda) – Korean , Domo  arigatou ( doh-mo-ah-ree-gah-toh – Japanese, Camanba (gahm-un-ban)- Vietnamese, Dhanyabad ( dhan-naii-bat) Nepali, these are only a few of the numerous ways of saying Thank you in Asia.

In  Filipino, we say Salamat. In whatever Asian language we say it, we express the same gratitude  for having  an  Asian Heritage Month, an opportune time to  acknowledge and recognize the contribution of Asians to Canadian Society and to celebrate and appreciate their  culture.

A large percentage of immigrants like me are from Asia and we have made Canada our home. When we came to Canada, we were determined to strive and work hard to achieve our goals and realize our dreams and in our own little ways, we believe that we contributing to the growth and development of our workplace, our community, the society and the country. We also brought along with us our rich culture which we will always be proud of but at the same time we are also learning and appreciating the many diverse cultures in Canada.

There are many Canadians of Asian descent who have excelled in the fields of politics, economics, science, arts and service . One of them is Senator Vivienne Poy, the first senator of Asian descent. She proposed the observance of Asian Heritage Month and it was adopted by the Senate in 2001. The government of Canada signed a declaration designating May as Asian Heritage Month in May, 2002.

This month of May, I invite everyone to celebrate with us, have a taste of our various cultures and enjoy an Asian experience. Check out the various activities and festivities that have been organized by Asian Heritage Societies in your communities. This is a great opportunity to learn more and appreciate Asian culture.

Happy Asian Heritage Month!

Shirley Torres is the UNE Human Rights Representative for the B.C. and Yukon region.

Invisible Disabilities

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By June Dale

“What’s it like to live with invisible disabilities?”
“You look tired, didn’t you get enough sleep last night?”
“Haven’t you finished reading that yet? Come on, keep up! I haven’t got all day.”
“You can’t open the jar, here, give it to me.”

Some days are better than others. I can move about freely and with a minimum amount of pain, while others face anxiety or depression.

Standing for what I would consider a long period of time causes my leg to become numb, then painful, then the swelling begins. How I would love to go to an outdoor concert and stand with the crowd to enjoy the music. Spending time in big crowds causes some individuals an increase in anxiety. They would love to go to that party on Saturday night. Instead they will spend another Saturday night at home. People look at me as though everything is fine, when in fact I am in physical pain.

Then, of course, there is the medication. Too many for my liking, but that is what I need sometimes to get through the day. If I forget to take them at the right time, the repercussions are interesting. My face starts to hurt. My vision becomes blurry. My thought processes become foggy. I always have a dosage ready, stored in my bag or my desk drawer.

Some people “look” like the rest of the population. No one would ever know that the individual has a disability because it it’s invisible. The individual may have a hard time reading or performing simple calculations and tasks for daily living. Tasks such as typing or writing a document could be a painful and exhausting experience. It may be that the individual is straining to hear the conversation around them, or the voices are so loud it hurts to listen to others.

In this day and age of adaptive technology, many can function in a world where the majority can do daily tasks. However, some places do not have this technology and those who experience invisible disabilities struggle in their own way, day-to-day.

I once read a story about spoons. It is called the Spoon Theory. It resonated with me.
Today is a good day for me. My wish is that you have a good day as well.

June Dale is the Union of National Employees Human Rights Representative for the National Capital Region – Treasury Board.

Canadian Multiculturalism Day

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By: Shirley Torres

Diversity, unity, solidarity, mosaic, community, society, harmony, togetherness, equality: These are only some of the many words that are parallel to multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a blend of different languages, religion, race, colour, custom and tradition. Multiculturalism is the world.

Canada is a world within the world. It is a melting pot of different cultures. It is home to many people of diverse ethnic backgrounds but people having the same aspirations and dreams. They live and work here to build their future, to pursue their dreams, striving, working hard and sometimes struggling to achieve their goals and by doing so, contributing to the development of their communities, the society and the country, culturally, economically and politically.

In 1971, Canada, the first in the world, adopted multiculturalism as an official policy. This was formalized when on July 21, 1988 the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was passed “to promote the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and shaping of all aspects of Canadian society”. By Royal Proclamation, on November 13, 2002, June 27 of each year was designated as Canadian Multiculturalism Day. We celebrate this day to learn more about each other’s culture, to be proud of our own and to have a better understanding and acceptance of the diversity in our society.  This is a celebration of diversity, Canada’s strength.

June 27 is a day of recognizing, appreciating and celebrating each other’s culture. It is a day to pay tribute to everyone’s continuous contribution in building a stronger, united, diverse Canada.

Happy Multiculturalism Day!

Shirley Torres is the UNE Human Rights Representative for the B.C. and Yukon region.

 

National Aboriginal Day

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National Aboriginal Day is on June 21. You are invited!

Contributed by Ruby Langan, Genevieve Babineau and Sandra Ahenakew

We are three Aboriginal peoples in Canada – the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. We each have our own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. National Aboriginal Day is a day set aside to celebrate Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. The Union of National Employees has many aboriginal members in workplaces across Canada.

June 21 is the day of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. For centuries, many of the first inhabitants would celebrate the arrival of warm weather on this day. National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for June 21 to be National Aboriginal Solidarity Day. Canada’s Governor General proclaimed it the first National Aboriginal Day in 1996.

We welcome you to join local community events to honour, celebrate and learn about Canada’s original peoples. Check your local newspaper or the Aboriginal Friendship Centre for events near you. Come and join the fun. Eat, learn, play, volunteer, be entertained and get involved. This is your invitation.

National Aboriginal Day events across Canada are listed at the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website:

http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013322/1100100013323

Ruby Langan, Genevieve Babineau and Sandra Ahenakew are UNE Aboriginal equity representatives.

February is Black History Month – And Yes, it is still meaningful

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By Hayley Millington

As recently as January 20th, 2016, during a conversation about the 2016 Oscars, U.S. actress Stacy Dash said on Fox News that she wants to eliminate Black History Month (BHM). According to Ms. Dash as she addressed the ongoing outrage over the lack of minority nominees in major categories;

“I think it’s ludicrous,” Dash, 49, said about the response to the lack of diversity surrounding the Oscar nominations. “We have to make up our minds. Either we want to have segregation or integration. If we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the [NAACP] Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re black.”

Ms. Dash went a step further by saying “there shouldn’t be a Black History Month. We’re Americans, period.”

In 2005, Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman said that having a Black History month was “ridiculous” and that the best way to end racism today is to “stop talking about it”. When questioned as to why, Mr. Freeman stated “You’re going to relegate my history to a month”.

The statements quoted here are a set of widely used, tried and tested propaganda used in America daily. The ideas themselves are used at any given time in discussions with other proponents who would like to remove Black History Month from the calendar with the premise that it hinders us (black folks) more than it helps us in achieving the American dream, not as a black person in America but as an American.

On this side of the border, attitudes towards BHM differ. All Canadians are invited to participate in BHM festivities as the legacy of black Canadians are remembered and celebrated. Canadians take the time to celebrate what Canadian people of colour have brought to the cultural mosaic that is Canada’s multicultural diversity.

It is important to recognize and not lose sight of the fact that Black History Month carries a significance that far outweighs the negativity as it allows people of colour to showcase their past and their present.

So while some to the south of us continue to devalue and misconstrue the importance of Black History Month, my point of view is that it certainly has a role to play in educating Canadians about its historical context and perspective.

For the next 29 days I am engaging my colleagues and friends with a BHM quiz that has been ongoing for the past 13 years in my place of work. When it opens up and creates a space for dialog about black history, the conversation becomes an opportunity to share my experiences openly and proudly with all who are interested.

Hayley Millington is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Women.

December 6: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

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Being tasked to write this article presented me with a challenge. I wasn’t sure of the best way to approach the topic of violence against women in order to deliver a piece that was insightful to the reader and meaningful to me. In my brainstorming sessions, I kept thinking of the 14 women who were killed on December 6th, 1989 simply for the fact that they were women. Images and thoughts from that horrific day resonated so strongly within me and kept repeating like a song on a continuous loop.

A chance conversation with one of my closest and dearest friends provided me with a “eureka” moment that gave me focus and reminded me of the enormity and severity of violence against women and how some of our sisters are continually living this reality – this perpetual motion. When you think about it, everyone knows someone or about someone who has been the victim of violence. As I sat there listening and bearing witness to the experience of a domestic abuse survivor, I was reminded about that continuous loop. And I was reminded that this wasn’t the first time I’d been privy to such tales of violence and triumph. The importance of being there to listen and lend support is integral to the victim’s support network.

(Thank you, Stacy, for bringing into focus the direction I needed as inspiration for this article.)

According to Status of Women in Canada, these are the facts:

FACT: Women are 11 times more likely than men to be victims of sexual offences
FACT: Women are 4 times more likely than men to experience intimate partner violence
FACT: Women with disabilities are at 4 times greater risk of experiencing sexual assault
FACT: The RCMP reports that nearly 1,200 Aboriginal women and girls have been murdered or gone missing in Canada
FACT: Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 experience the highest rates of violence
FACT: Since 1980, the number of non-Aboriginal female victims of homicide has been declining while the number of Aboriginal female victims has remained relatively constant
FACT: 8 out of 10 victims of intimate partner violence are women
FACT: Data suggests that one quarter of female students in college or university have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault; 90% of these students knew their attacker
FACT: Women are 3 times more likely than men to experience criminal harassment
FACT: Aboriginal women are 3 times more likely to report experiencing violence than non-Aboriginal women
FACT: Aboriginal women are over-represented among Canada’s murdered women; they make up 4% of the female population but represent 16% of all murdered women
FACT: Sexual offences are 8 times more likely to be committed against girls ages 12-17 than male youth
FACT: 90% of Sexual assaults against women by a non-spousal accused are never reported to police
FACT: Women know their sexual attacker in three quarters of incidents

The facts here speak for themselves – women are targets simply because of their gender. So on this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women in Canada I strongly urge you to acknowledge without pride or prejudice, as an individual and a society, that gender-based violence is not just a women’s issue, it’s an everybody issue. Ignoring and sweeping it under the carpet is no longer an option or an alternative.

Instead, we must address the issue; face the FACTs head-on.

Together, we can root out this malignancy that has us hobbled and look towards engendering a society where respect for women is the new norm rather than the exception. It is left to us to facilitate spaces where victims feel free to express their experiences and lend support where we must to enable the healing of all those who have been affected by gender-based acts of violence.
In closing, I would like to share this poem with you…

Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us
In one way or another – Victim
The unknowingly conscious recipient of some or other crime against
humanity – Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us
Properly thrashed and subjected, to some or another of society’s ills
Dissected and Rejected, ready to occupy another space on humanity’s
landfill – Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us
Pillaged and Plundered, left falling, failing, floundering for – just give me
just one more chance, come on give me just one more chance, ready for
another option outside of that of – Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us
Desperate for movement, anywhere else but between a rock and its hardest
place
Rendered incapable, unable to gasp for breath as life holds us each
immobilized, comatose and in a state of suspended animation – Victim

VICTIMS, each and every one of us

Hayley Millington is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Women.

August 12 is International Youth Day

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If you knew me at all, you would have never thought that I would be active in the union. When I started working I was young, naïve and not at all educated on the worker’s movement.  All that I knew about it was that my parents were part of unions and they went on strike a handful of times.

BUT WHY?

Why choose to stop getting paid?  It prevented us from taking that great trip down the Oregon Coast when I was eleven because the strike meant no spending money: no drives to the beach, no volleyball in the sand, no maple walnut flavoured ice cream cones. When I started working for the government, I figured I would stay away from union activity. Members get so angry and riled up; I didn’t see what the fuss was about. We have everything that we could want or need in our workplace. Little did I know that if we didn’t fight for what we have and more, it wouldn’t just be the one time I’d be missing out on the Oregon Coast, it could be many more times.

I was dragged to my first local annual general meeting in the Spring of 2009.  I only went because I was social and wanted to attend with my friend – I thought maybe we’ll become closer friends after this. But I got involved – my first union event ever – and I was voted in as Treasurer.  I joined the local for my own selfish reasons – I had just graduated University and I wanted to keep using my brain and perhaps this would fill up my resume a little bit more.

December 6, 2009.   I turned 23 that day.  I was one of three young workers at the National Component’s BC/Yukon Regional Conference.  At the 2008 National Component Triennial Convention, a resolution was passed to have two young workers from each region attend the 2011 Triennial Convention and every one after that.  There were only three of us: one wanted to go but didn’t think that she would be in the government much longer. Another wanted to go but only if she was extended because she was a term employee. Then there was me – I was thinking “what was I going to be doing that night for my 23rd birthday?”

I was an indeterminate, so my peers agreed it only made sense that I would get one of the seats.  I remember heading home feeling awful.  Here were two young women who wanted so badly to be involved in these events and they had graciously agreed that I should have one of the seats.  In August 2011, I was the only of the three young workers to make it to the convention. I knew that I would have to be the voice for BC/Yukon young workers and bring the enthusiasm that the other two displayed in 2009.  In a sense,  I wanted to make them proud to have had confidence in me at convention.

Fast forward seven years… now I am the President of that same local and the 2nd Assistant Regional Vice President BC/Yukon for the Union of National Employees (UNE).  A few things have changed since that 23 year old rookie at a union conference.  I cannot believe that she and I are the same girl.  Was I wrong about my preconceived notions about the union? Yes!  Being active has taught me about so many important things about the worker’s movement and employee rights. Most importantly, we are not fighting for just ourselves but for all workers.  I couldn’t be more proud to be part of – and active – in a labour union that has made so many strides forward in the right direction and continues to do so.

As a young worker and a young adult, I believe that we have a stronger voice than ever.  Our more mature activists have extended their arms to help guide us in the right direction by sharing knowledge and advice.  I am thankful and proud that UNE has been a pioneer in the young workers’ movement.  At the 2011 Convention, our caucus consisted of 6 young workers.  We were all new and unsure what to do with our time.  Last year, our caucus consisted of over 30 young workers with an additional six of us as moderators.  Young workers are notoriously shy when it comes to being active but UNE has made it so much easier to have our voices heard and help us grow as activists.  Social media has also allowed the voice of the youth to be heard.  It’s the new way of speaking up.  Social media can allow a certain anonymity and this fosters individuals to voice their opinions and thoughts without fear of reprisal.  I know now that we DON’T have everything that we could ever want in the workplace.  We still have the working poor.  We need to be their voices as well as our own.

This year marks the fourth year that the government has discussed and proposed an anti-union legislation, Bill C-377. Unions are already regulated and held accountable by the membership. Bill C-59 is a bill to ‘balance the budget’ by proposing changes to federal civil servants’ sick leave provisions. This Bill will not only negatively affect civil servants but it could also become the standard for both public and private sectors.  We don’t want our gains to be taken away from us.  So, thank you for making it an easy decision to stay active in the union.  Thank you for inspiring me to get others involved in our message.  Thank you for allowing us to stand tall and in solidarity towards one common goal.

Getting involved in the union was the last thing that I ever wanted to do, but I’m so glad that I did.

Daphne Ho is the UNE’s Assistant Regional Vice President for the BC & Yukon Region.

Celebrate National Aboriginal Day

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By Ruby Langan

Have you attended a National Aboriginal Day celebration? National Aboriginal Day is on June 21. This year, the date falls on a Sunday. This is your invitation to join the festivities.

There are three Aboriginal groups in Canada – the First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. They each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. National Aboriginal Day gives us the opportunity to honour, celebrate and share knowledge about Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

National Aboriginal Day occurs on June 21, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. For many centuries, many of the first inhabitants would celebrate the arrival of warm weather on this day. National Indian Brotherhood (now the Assembly of First Nations) called for June 21 to be National Aboriginal Solidarity Day. Canada’s Governor General proclaimed the first National Aboriginal Day in 1996.

This is the one day of the year many, many people devote to Aboriginal-ness. My union sisters and brothers are happy to engage in this awesome community event in Vancouver. Come to our table and converse about Aboriginal, worker, family, public service issues and potential solutions. Bring your children to have their face or hands painted by our amazing artists. We will again have the beautiful and functional Water is a Human Right/Idle No More slap-fans/posters but be sure to get them early because they are in high demand.

Check your local newspaper or Aboriginal Friendship Centre for events near you. Come and join the fun. Eat, learn, play, volunteer, be entertained, get involved. Will you accept this invitation?

A Path of Light – Saturday, June 20, 2015 (Edmonton)

See the attached poster for the details on this large, exciting multi-phase event, ending in a grand entry welcome to the APTN Edmonton event described below.

APTN’s Aboriginal Day Live & Celebration– Saturday, June 20, 2015 (Edmonton & Winnipeg)

The 9th annual Aboriginal Day Live & Celebration is the largest event in Canada to recognize National Aboriginal Day. It includes a day-long program of free family-friendly activities, and a free evening concert held in Winnipeg (at The Forks) and Edmonton (at Louise McKinney Park) featuring a stacked roster of award-winning and up-and-coming Indigenous entertainment. All Canadians are invited to partake in this event – whether in person or via the live broadcast on TV, radio, or the live stream at  http://www.aboriginaldaylive.ca/

National Aboriginal Day – Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Vancouver)

Please join us as we celebrate National Aboriginal Day on Coast Salish Territories. This is a community-based, full day of events that showcase and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal people from across Canada. First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples gather to share their spirit, experiences, stories, songs, art and dance with each other and the general community. All events are FREE, and all Aboriginal community members and supporters are welcome. This is a family-friendly event.  No alcohol or drugs are permitted.  Make sure you bring your cameras and video recorders!

http://www.bcnationalaboriginalday.com/

Solstice Festival 2015 Friday, June 19 – Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Ottawa)

Vincent Massey Park, Ottawa Ontario

Festival & Pow Wow Hours:

Friday, June 19            6pm to 10pm

Saturday, June 20        10am to 10pm

Sunday, June 21          10am to 6pm

http://www.ottawasummersolstice.ca/

Métis and Heritage: Follow the Mi’kmaq trails, Sunday, June 21, 2015 (West Pubnico, NS)

Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Location/Venue: Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos, 898 Hwy 335

National Aboriginal Day, Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Boyd’s Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador)

Beothuk Interpretation Centre

Time: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Come and celebrate Aboriginal culture and traditions, past and present. Make a Beothuk pendant, sample Indian Brewis, visit our Spirit Garden to leave a handmade offering.

National Aboriginal Day, Saturday, June 20, 2015 (Dawson)

On June 21st the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre situated in downtown Dawson City, celebrates National Aboriginal Day with outdoor events including the Hän Singers, live contemporary music, tours, activities, refreshments and an opportunity to visit our heritage galleries.

Aboriginal Day has been set aside for all people to recognize, celebrate and learn more about the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and Aboriginal culture and heritage in Canada.

http://travelyukon.com/national-aboriginal-day-dawson

National Aboriginal Day, Sunday, June 21, 2015 (Iqaluit)

Full day of activities.

National Aboriginal Day events in other locations across Canada are listed at the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada website:

http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100013322/1100100013323

Ruby Langan is the UNE’s National Equity Representative for Aboriginal Peoples.