OFL Statement on the Day of Pink, Anti-Bullying Day – April 10, 2013

Bullying Only Thrives in the Shadows

OFL Statement on the Day of Pink, Anti-Bullying Day – April 10, 2013

Last year, the Ontario government passed historic anti-bullying legislation, but the issue of bullying, and its traumatic consequences, remains a daily concern in the lives of too many people. The impact is often most targeted and most severe for LGBTQ youth (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning).

“Legal change has given us important tools, but like all bullying, homophobic and transphobic bullying cannot simply be banished by proclamation,” said OFL President Sid Ryan. “With the law and the legislature on the side of justice and acceptance, it is up to everyone to work together to challenge the deep-seated prejudices that give rise to abuse and intolerance.”

In Canada, three-quarters of students and 61 percent of students with LGBTQ parents report that they feel unsafe at school, according to a 2009 national school survey by Egale Canada.

Nearly 90 percent of transgender students see their school as unsafe and 74 percent report having been verbally harassed about their gender expression. The pervasiveness of this hate-motivated bullying is due, in large part, to the fact that homophobia and transphobia are often ignored and not categorized as bullying. These statistics provide the frightening back story to the alarming rates of depression and suicide within the LGBTQ community.

This year, LGBTQ students and their allies are celebrating April 10 – the second Wednesday of April – as the International Day of Pink. It is an annual day of awareness for communities around the world to celebrate diversity and challenge bullying in all its forms, including homophobic and transphobic bullying.

“Bullying, intimidation, prejudice and discrimination are toxins that affect us all. When we allow members of any community to be marginalized and dehumanized, we contribute to a hidden form of violence,” said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Hutchison. “Bullying can only thrive in the shadows. Each of us must expose injustice and acknowledge our responsibility to take action to defend the rights of all people, regardless of race, gender, age, abilities, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

The Day of Pink got its start in Nova Scotia when two straight high school students saw a gay student wearing a pink shirt being bullied. The two students intervened, but wanted to do more to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying. They decided to wear pink shirts in solidarity with their classmate and, a few days later, got everyone at school to share in this expression of support by wearing pink to class. By creating a “sea of pink” in their school, these students helped to trigger an international movement to challenge homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. Since then, the Day of Pink has continued to spread to schools and workplaces around the world and has drawn attention to the tragic impact of bullying and related teen suicides.

During the Day of Pink this year, teachers and education workers across Ontario will engage with students and colleagues on ways to end homophobia and transphobia. Workers in many other sectors will also participate by wearing pink shirts and organizing events to celebrate diversity and to challenge bullying.

“Every worker should wear a pink shirt on April 10 this year and take action in their workplaces and communities. Together, we can put a stop to homophobic and transphobic bullying and all forms of prejudice and discrimination,” said Hutchison. “Change is only possible when we stand together.”

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.

For further information:

Sid Ryan, OFL President: 416-209-0066 (cell)

Nancy Hutchison, OFL Secretary-Treasurer: 647-403-9799 (cell)

Joel Duff, OFL Communications Director: 416-707-0349 (cell) or jduff@ofl.ca *ENG/FRENCH*