Canadian Gay Postal Workers Secure Union Protections Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers ratified a contract with Canada Post and the Canadian Treasury that includes a nondiscrimination clause protecting gay and lesbian employees, the first time federal employees, in any country, received such protection. The contract served as a catalyst for subsequent progressive measures regarding the civil rights of GLBT individuals in Canada.

Summary of Event

On June 2, 1980, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) ratified a contract with Canada Post and the Canadian Treasury Board that provided coverage under the union’s antidiscrimination code for gay and lesbian postal workers, marking the first time any federal government department provided these protections for lesbian and gay employees. [kw]Canadian Gay Postal Workers Secure Union Protections (June 2, 1980) [kw]Gay Postal Workers Secure Union Protections, Canadian (June 2, 1980) [kw]Postal Workers Secure Union Protections, Canadian Gay (June 2, 1980) [kw]Union Protections, Canadian Gay Postal Workers Secure (June 2, 1980) Canada;employment rights Employment rights;Canada Civil rights;Canada Postal workers, Canada [c]Civil rights;June 2, 1980: Canadian Gay Postal Workers Secure Union Protections[1390] [c]Government and politics;June 2, 1980: Canadian Gay Postal Workers Secure Union Protections[1390]

The seeds for federal reform in Canada were sown in 1967 by then-Justice Premiere Pierre Trudeau. Shortly before Christmas of that year, he proposed amendments to the criminal code of Canada, relaxing laws against homosexuality. Trudeau stated “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. What’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code.”

Shortly after Trudeau’s 1969 election as prime minister, amendments to the criminal code were passed, decriminalizing homosexuality nationwide. The Parti Québécois that was elected in 1976 approved inclusion of sexual orientation under the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, Quebec, Canada making Quebec the first Canadian province to pass a civil rights law for gays and lesbians. A broader national attempt was proposed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 1979. Their proposal stated sexual orientation should be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act. One year later, Canadian member of parliament (MP) Pat Carney gave first reading in the House of Commons to Bill C-242, an Act to Prohibit Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation. The legislation, however, did not pass. The issue of sexual orientation also became the focus of collective labor agreements in both the public and private sectors across the nation.

It had been four years since the CUPW had participated in contract-bargaining with Canada Post and the Treasury Board. Issues up for negotiation were wages and working conditions in the 1980 collective agreement. The CUPW proposed to amend Article 5 of its contract to provide antidiscrimination protections for not only lesbians and gays but also left-handed employees and anyone holding a union position. The union’s rationale for adding sexual orientation under Article 5 was to bring the worker’s organization in line with advances made during the twentieth century that recognized individual rights.

At conciliation hearings, Canada Post and the Treasury Board argued against inclusion of the antidiscrimination provision, stating there was no problem or need. Both governmental bodies claimed that gays and lesbians were already covered by the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Anti-Discrimination Bureau of the Public Service Commission— claims that were incorrect.

In the final conciliation board report offered to the CUPW and Canada Post, chairperson Germain Jutras agreed to the union’s antidiscrimination proposal. Jutras stated, “We cannot see why employees should be discriminated against on account of their sexual orientation.” He further added that a person’s sexual orientation “has nothing to do with their work and concerns the private life of the employee.” While the union supported the final version of the report, the employer stood silent on the issue.

On May 20, 1980, extensive negotiations began on the new contract. Postmaster General Andre Ouellet, CUPW president Jean-Claude Parrot, and Dennis McDermott, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, hammered out the final details of the collective agreement. The union insisted that the final version of the conciliator’s report was the minimum package they would accept. Canada Post and the Treasury Board agreed, and the contract was ratified on June 2.

Under Article 5 (No Discrimination) of the Agreement Between Canada Post Corporation and the CUPW, prohibitions against discrimination based upon sexual orientation are clearly defined. The agreement reads,

It is agreed that there shall be no discrimination, interference, restriction, coercion, harassment, intimidation, or stronger action exercised or practised with respect to an employee by reason of age, race, creed, colour, national origin, political or religious affiliation, sex, sexual orientation, or membership or activity in the Union.

Significance

Agreement by the Canadian federal government to the 1980 postal contract acted as a catalyst for continuing progressive measures across Canada regarding antidiscrimination based upon sexual orientation. Among these measures was the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada (Section 15), which came into force on April 15, 1987. It declared,

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.

In a unanimous ruling in May of 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that these provisions also shall be applied to the category of sexual orientation. On June 20, 1996, Bill C-33 was signed into law by royal assent, adding “sexual orientation” as a protected status under the Canadian Human Rights Act. Canada;employment rights Employment rights;Canada Civil rights;Canada Postal workers, Canada

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lahey, Kathleen A. Are We “Persons” Yet? Law and Sexuality in Canada. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">MacDougall, Bruce. Queer Judgements: Homosexuality, Expression, and the Courts in Canada. Toronto, Ont.: University of Toronto Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pierceson, Jason. Courts, Liberalism, and Rights: Gay Law and Politics in the United States and Canada. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Posties First Federal Employees to Win Protections for Gay Workers.” The Body Politic no. 65 (August, 1980), p. 13.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smith, Miriam. Lesbian and Gay Rights in Canada: Social Movements and Equality Seeking, 1971-1999. Buffalo, N.Y.: University of Toronto Press, 1999.

1885: United Kingdom Criminalizes “Gross Indecency”

August 26, 1969: Canada Decriminalizes Homosexual Acts

1972-1973: Local Governments Pass Antidiscrimination Laws

August, 1973: American Bar Association Calls for Repeal of Laws Against Consensual Sex

December 19, 1977: Quebec Includes Lesbians and Gays in Its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

January 1, 1988: Canada Decriminalizes Sex Practices Between Consenting Adults

December 30, 1991-February 22, 1993: Canada Grants Asylum Based on Sexual Orientation

April 27, 1992: Canadian Government Antigay Campaign Is Revealed

October, 1992: Canadian Military Lifts Its Ban on Gays and Lesbians

April 2, 1998: Canadian Supreme Court Reverses Gay Academic’s Firing

June 17, 2003, and July 19, 2005: Canada Legalizes Same-Gender Marriage

Categories: History Content