It’s 2019 – any discrimination is too much discrimination. So today, the UN’s Zero Discrimination Day, we reaffirm our union’s commitment to eliminating discrimination in all its forms.
Discrimination is a scourge.
The people targeted by discrimination are robbed of dignity, equality, and opportunity. In other words, they are robbed of a fair shot at a safe, healthy, and prosperous life for themselves, their families, and their communities. It is the very definition of injustice.
The people targeted with discrimination suffer the most, but they are not the only ones who suffer. When some people are excluded, we all lose out. We lose out on their creativity, their productivity, and their ideas – leaving our communities a pale shadow of what they might be.
The UN’s Zero Discrimination Day started out as a movement to end discrimination against people infected with HIV or AIDS. It has played an important role in the successful – but not yet finished — fight against the stigma and fear that they face.
But now, the UN is using the day as a call to arms against all forms of discrimination, and to issue an important reminder: the ultimate responsibility for ending discrimination doesn’t lie with those who suffer discrimination, but with those who benefit from it.
The focus of this year’s Zero Discrimination Day is on laws, policies, and regulations that allow or actively perpetuate discrimination. Sadly, they are everywhere. According to the UN:
- In 29 countries, women require the consent of a spouse or partner to access sexual and reproductive health services.
- There are at least 33 countries and territories that prescribe the death penalty for drug offences in law.
- At least 98 countries criminalize some aspect of sex work.
- 67 countries criminalize same-sex sexual relations.
- Only nine countries provide legal recognition for non-binary gender and give citizens who don’t fit in the male or female categories a legal status.
Canada and Ontario aren’t free from discriminatory laws, either.
For example, why aren’t those working in youth corrections and residential services covered by WSIB? Why are people working in only a few dangerous front-line positions eligible for public treatment for PTSD?
And simply having a law that is meant to reduce discrimination isn’t enough. That law must be enforced. For example, Ontario now has a pay equity law but many employers are not being forced to follow it.
You can count on OPSEU to continue its fight against discriminatory laws and for the enforcement of laws meant to end discrimination.
We helped win the fight against the law that prevented part-time college support workers from joining a union.
And we’ll keep on wining the fights against all the other discriminatory laws that continue holding Ontario back.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas
OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida