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OFL Statement on the Day of Pink, Anti-Bullying Day

End the Silence on Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying

OFL Statement on the Day of Pink, Anti-Bullying Day – April 13, 2016

Today the Ontario Federation of Labour calls upon workers across the province to celebrate diversity by wearing a pink shirt and by organizing activities in your workplace, or support organizations working against homophobic and transphobic bullying in communities, workplaces and schools. Bullying, and its traumatic consequences, remains a daily concern in the lives of too many people, however, LGBTQ youth (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) are often singled out for the most severe forms of bullying.

“Alarming rates of suicide and depression among LGBTQ youth are a tragic indication of the destructive impact of homophobia and transphobia,” said OFL President Chris Buckley. “We have taken important legal strides in Ontario to challenge bullying, but real equality and acceptance can’t be won in a court of law, it is a collective responsibility.”

In Canada, three-quarters of students and 61 percent of students with LGBTQ parents report that they feel unsafe at school, according to the EGALE Canada national school survey.

Nearly 90 percent of transgender students see their school as unsafe and 74 percent report having been verbally harassed about their gender expression. The pervasiveness of this hate-motivated bullying is due, in large part, to the fact that homophobia and transphobia are often ignored and not categorized as bullying. These statistics provide the frightening backstory to the alarming rates of depression and suicide within the LGBTQ community.

Every year, LGBTQ students, workers and their allies celebrate the second Wednesday of April as the International Day of Pink. It is an annual day of awareness for communities around the world to celebrate diversity and challenge bullying in all its forms, including homophobic and transphobic bullying.

We know that the schoolyard bully often grows up to become the workplace bully. Almost half of Canadian workers feel bullied on the job. Many of those who reported being bullied suffered in silence. Just 44 percent say they reported the bullying to the employer. Of the workers who did come forward, half said nothing was done to address the bullying. One in four chose to leave their job because of the bullying.

“Bullying, intimidation, prejudice and discrimination has an impact on everyone, not just the people who are targeted by it. When we allow members of any community to be marginalized and dehumanized, we contribute to a hidden form of violence,” said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Patty Coates. “Bullying can only thrive when we are silent. Each of us must expose injustice and acknowledge our responsibility to take action to defend the rights of all people, regardless of race, gender, age, abilities, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

This day provides an important example of the power of student initiatives and solidarity in the fight against bullying.

The Day of Pink got its start in Nova Scotia when two straight high school students saw a gay student wearing a pink shirt being bullied. The two students intervened, but wanted to do more to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying. They decided to wear pink shirts in solidarity with their classmate and, a few days later, got everyone at school to share in this expression of support by wearing pink to class. By creating a “sea of pink” in their school, these students helped to trigger an international movement to challenge homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. Since then, the Day of Pink has continued to spread to schools and workplaces around the world and has drawn attention to the tragic impact of bullying and related teen suicides.

During the Day of Pink, educational workers and workers in many other sectors will participate by wearing pink shirts and organizing events to celebrate diversity and to challenge bullying.

“Every worker should wear a pink shirt on April 13 and take action in their workplaces and communities. Together, we can put a stop to homophobic and transphobic bullying and all forms of prejudice and discrimination,” said Coates. “Change is only possible when we stand together.”

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.

For further information:

Joel Duff, OFL Communications Director: 416-707-0349 (cell) or jduff@ofl.ca


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