History in the making: PSAC fights for LGBT rights

The Public Service Alliance of Canada has a long history of standing up for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans rights. Whether at the bargaining table, in the courts or on the streets, our union has been fighting for LGBT rights for more than 30 years.

In our union:

  • PSAC adopted a policy on human rights in 1988 that included sexual orientation as a protected ground of discrimination.

  • In 1990, a group of union members founded the PSAC Lesbian and Gay Support Group (LGSG), which lobbied strongly for the rights of lesbian and gay members.

  • In 1992, our union added two seats to the Equal Opportunities Committee (now known as the Human Rights Committee) reserved for LGBT members. That same year, we adopted a policy to support and fight for the rights of members with HIV/AIDS.

  • In 1994, PSAC took on a union-wide campaign to educate our members about gay and lesbian rights and to negotiate these rights into collective agreements.

  • In 2003, PSAC members elected the first group of openly gay and lesbian executive officers. During the same year, the union pledged its support for equal marriage.

At the bargaining table:

  • PSAC was a pioneer in its efforts to negotiate human rights protections and benefits for gay and lesbian workers. Our first attempt to include sexual orientation in the “no discrimination” clause of a collective agreement was in 1980. It took until October 1986 for this clause to be added to the Treasury Board Master Agreement, setting the stage for future victories.

  • In 1989, our union sought to amend the definition of “spouse” in the Treasury Board Master Agreement. In 1998 the collective agreement for the PA group was finally amended to include a gender neutral definition, leading to a series of similar victories in workplaces across Canada. This definition is now standard as it corresponds with federal and provincial human rights legislation.

  • In 1998, PSAC negotiated “spousal union leave” to replace the gender-specific “marriage leave” for workers at the Museum of Science and Technology, National Gallery, Canadian Museum of Nature and Canada Post. This pre-dated the legal recognition of same sex marriage in Canada.

  • PSAC has been doing cutting edge work to negotiate human rights protection in collective agreements on behalf of our transsexual and transgender members. This includes adding “gender identity” to the protected grounds of discrimination in collective agreements and ensuring safe access to bathroom and changing facilities.

In the courts and on Parliament Hill:

  • PSAC started filing grievances against the federal government on behalf of our LGBT members in the early 1980s. We spent more than 30 years fighting representing our LGBT members in grievance hearings and in front of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

  • In 1993, the PSAC successfully argued in the Lorenzen case that a member with a same-sex spouse should be provided spousal related leave under the collective agreement. Treasury Board had refused to allow a gay worker to take time off to care for his injured spouse and to mourn his father-in-law’s death. We eventually won the case in front of the Public Service Labour Relations Board. This set a precedent for many other similar cases.

  • A few months later, PSAC forced Canada Post to provide spousal benefits for same-sex partners. This case arose from a grievance that was filed by Luc Guèvremont, a Vancouver-based clerk at Canada Post. His partner had been denied reimbursement for eye glasses that should have been covered under the vision care plan.

  • PSAC supported our member Dale Akerstrom in 1993, when he a filed complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, alleging that Treasury Board discriminated against him on the grounds of sexual orientation, family status and marital status by denying health and dental benefits to his spouse. He was victorious and the Tribunal ordered the employer to “cease and desist” any discriminatory applications of the term “spouse.”

  • Our union supported the campaign for equal marriage – engaging our members and working with national organizations such as Egale Canada for more than a decade.

  • Most recently, PSAC supported a series of private members’ bills that aimed to add gender identity and gender expression to provincial and federal human rights legislation and hate crimes laws. The latest, Bill C-279, was passed by Parliament in March 2013 and is awaiting Royal Assent.   


September 11, 2013