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Queer StatsCan employees organize

This is not a social group

PROUD CIVIL SERVANT. "It has to be seen first and foremost by the GLBT employees as being there for them," says founder Larry Rousseau. Credit: Pat Croteau

Queer members of four unions under Statistics Canada formed a GLBT Issues Working Group to ensure their concerns are heard in the workplace.

Organizers point out that their group is not a reaction to workplace harassment or discrimination – but that the creation of such a group has simply been long overdue.

“It is very clear that what we are doing in this group has support from senior management,” says Larry Rousseau, an official languages advisor at Stats Can and a local executive for the Public Service Alliance of Canada. “We already have a harassment policy, Stats Can is very clear that harassment will not be tolerated.

Government departments like Health Canada, Public Works and Correctional Services already have GBLT groups in place.

Heritage Canada was the first department to establish a gay group ten years ago, when employees pushed to have the rainbow flag flown outside their place of work during Pride celebrations.

“I think that the establishment of this group should have a high profile to remind people that we do have GBLT individuals in our departments, they are employees and as employees they have every right to be treated equitably and equally as any other. Every manager should know that if you see or hear any homophobia you have to act,” says Rousseau.

Rousseau says that Heritage Canada’s queer group dynamic will be used as a template for the Stats Can group.

If enough interest can be generated among Stats Can’s queer employees, the jump from a working group to becoming a recognized sub-committee should be an easy one to make, he says

“I think the statisticians are among the more enlightened,” says Brad Thomas from the Household Survey Methods division. “I remember when one of my co-workers was in a same-sex relationship for a number of years, and when his partner died the department treated it with sensitivity and respect, just like they would have treated a similar heterosexual situation.”

Thomas also works as a steward for his union, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPS), for which he received a citation in 2001. After receiving the prestigious honor, Thomas successfully lobbied the PIPS Committee on Human Rights to get PIPS some visibility in Ottawa’s pride parade.

Although the group is in the early stages of development, members are certain the group can be a success, as all members who attended the first meeting Mar 14 agreed to take the group further.

At the first meeting, members decided on a mandate to present to management and discussed the idea of creating a publication similar to Heritage Canada’s Out & About.

Out & About is Heritage Canada publication that helps gays improve their well-being at work and offers basic information on the individual rights and obligations of all employees in a workplace that respects diversity.

“It’ll be a success if we want it to be,” says Rousseau. “We can’t just create this group, do nothing, and put it in the shelf. It has to be proactive, it has to be seen first and foremost by the GLBT employees as being there for them. It looks like we’re going to get a nice groundswell and move with it.”