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Toronto Pride Float 2015

We the North
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Members of OPSEU’s Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel applaud and celebrate the many advancements made in obtaining legal rights for the LGBTTIAQQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, asexual, queer, questioning, two-spirted) community.  Unfortunately in spite of these achievements, legal rights do not automatically ensure social acceptance.  Violence and discrimination against members of the LGBTTIAQQ2S community continue to be a common occurrence.  In fact, even though a legislative framework may exist, many social policies continue to create barriers rather than open up opportunities of equal participation for all.

For example, Ontario proudly celebrates the protection of Trans* people through the addition of gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code.   Nevertheless, there still exists only one location in the entire province with the ability to approve gender reassignment surgeries.  Regardless of how far away one lives or how supportive their primary medical practitioner may be, people are obligated to travel to Toronto to consult with unknown and/or unfamiliar medical staff in order to gain permission to proceed with gender reassignment surgery.

The Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel recognizes that there is still much work that needs to be done.  As proud union activists, we have opportunities to influence change.  We also recognize that we have many privileges other members of the LGBTTIAQQ2S community may not have.

It is for these reasons that the Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel has always welcomed like-minded people and groups.  We have encouraged them to participate in meetings and/or forums that we have hosted, protests and/or rallies that we support, and in Pride events in which we have a presence across the province.  This includes being a participant on our Pride float.

Over the past year, André Marin, the Ombudsman of Ontario, has made many statements about the importance of public services.  He has also been a supporter of the LGBTTIAQQ2S community.  It is for these reasons that members of the Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel extended an invitation for him to participate with the OPSEU contingent at the 2015 Toronto Pride Parade.  It was a gesture of goodwill and synonymous with the mission statement that is PRIDE – embracing humanity and celebrating the things that make us all unique.

The concept behind our float was simple. Everyone, regardless of one’s socio-economic status, deserves a chance to be an equal participant in society.  Public services are essential because they give everyone the same opportunity.  André Marin believes in this and stood alongside that message.  The decision to include him was not a politically motivated one.  It was an attempt to stand beside a like-minded person and celebrate the progress we have made while realizing there is still more to be done.  The intention was to cultivate a positive experience but sadly, it has been misinterpreted as something other than that.

The Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel acknowledges the concerns that have been raised by some, related to this decision.  It was one that was never intended to be offensive or disrespectful.

In solidarity,

Robert Hampsey
Chair, Rainbow Alliance arc-en-ciel