Canada’s unions are marking the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB) by calling for meaningful action to end violence and harassment against 2SLGBTQI people in Canada.
“Across the globe, we are seeing unprecedented attacks on the rights of 2SLGBTQI people,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “In 2022 alone, we’ve witnessed the introduction of more than 240 anti-LGBTQ bills in the United States, and increasing criminalization and violence against 2SLGBTQI populations in regions including Eastern Europe and West Africa.”
A concrete first step in advancing protections for 2SLGBTQI workers and reaffirming a commitment to protecting those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and sex characteristics is for the government to ratify ILO C-190 and affirm the right to a world of work free from harassment and violence.
The CLC and researchers from the University of Western Ontario and the University of Toronto recently released the initial findings of a national survey on workplace harassment and violence in Canada. The findings are unsettling, with 7 in 10 workers reporting having experienced a form of harassment and violence at work. The survey also found that women, trans, nonbinary and gender-diverse workers are experiencing higher rates of harassment and violence. 73 percent of gender-diverse respondents reported having experienced sexual harassment and violence at work, compared to 46 percent of women and 38 percent of men. Nearly 5000 workers took part in the survey.
“Violence and harassment is not part of the job. Governments and employers must do more to make workplaces safer and more inclusive for all,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice‑President of the CLC. “These eye-opening survey results should push governments and employers to address and prevent all forms of gender-based violence and harassment in the world of work, including homophobic and transphobic violence and harassment.”
ILO C-190 is the first international standard of its kind that acknowledges the universal right to a world of work free from violence and harassment, and establishes a clear framework for ending it. Once ratified, governments are accountable for preventing and addressing all forms of violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment. It also gives unions the tools they need to make work safer for everyone.
The Convention was adopted in June 2019, by the ILO at the International Labour Conference, and came into force in June 2021. To date, 12 countries have ratified the Convention.
In recent years and during the course of the pandemic, hate crimes targeting sexual orientation have increased. Statistics Canada reports that people belonging to sexual minority groups are almost three times more likely to experience violent victimization than heterosexual people. This reinforces reports of how COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing inequities and impacted various populations differently.
IDAHOTB was first recognized in 2004 to raise awareness and mobilize to end discrimination and violence faced by 2SLGBTQI people globally. May 17 was chosen to commemorate the day on which the World Health Organization decided to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990. Today, IDAHOTB is celebrated in over 130 countries around the world.