First “gay rights” demonstration on Parliament Hill

August 28, 2018

On August 28, 1971 demonstrators presented a manifesto entitled “We Demand” that outlined a series of demands for equal rights for gays and lesbians. This was the first public march of its kind on Parliament Hill.

Summer is the time for Pride events and marches in Canada. But while these celebrations are now somewhat commonplace in many cities across the country, just over 45 years ago a small brave group of people marched on Parliament Hill to demand what was then referred to as “gay rights” in a manifesto entitled “We Demand”.

The labour movement in Canada has been, and continues to be, a strong ally and voice for LGBTQ2SI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, 2-spirited, Intersex) rights and in fighting homophobia and transphobia in Canada – in the workplace and beyond. This includes:

  • Hosting committees and working groups to fight against homophobia, transphobia and harassment. Many unions have changed their own constitution to reflect this.
  • Negotiating a range of clauses in collective agreements that protect the rights of LGBTQ2SI workers above and beyond the law.
  • Bringing to court violations of LGBTQ2SI rights such as individual grievances and provisions such as marriage leave, leaves of absence, spousal benefits, and pensions plan benefits.
  • Mobilizing and lobbying to change laws including the Canadian Human Rights Act, equal benefits, employment equity, equal marriage and gender identity and gender expression.
  • Collaborating with civil society organizations, within Canada and internationally, to fight for LGBTQ2SI rights through awareness campaigns and active participation in events.

Some of the work being done by unions and the labour movement:

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