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Canadian Labour Congress Launches Workplace Anti-Homophobia Campaign
Posters Promise $3 Bill to Readers Who Can Spot Who is Gay in Picture

A POSTER depicting seven men and women, including a mother of three and a competitive runner, was among the materials included in a campaign launched today to encourage acceptance, not just tolerance, of gays in the workplace.

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is spending $15,000 on posters and buttons to be circulated through their 85 affiliates and 2.2 million members.  The campaign was launched with a reception in Ottawa yesterday featuring the poster's activists.

"We're really striving to see . . . not just tolerance but acceptance," Frank Gillespie, a Vancouver nurse, told the Canadian Press.  CLC Secretary-Treasurer Nancy Riche added:  "Success is when being gay is no longer cause for distinction, like when  ... MP Svend Robinson is described simply as an NDP politician and not "a gay MP."

The campaign will attempt to use humour to encourage discussion of the topic believed still uneasy for many.  "It's generally to get the public - and the workplace is very much a part of the public - to understand that gay, lesbians and bisexuals are just like you and me," Riche said.  Making fun of the old joke with the poster demonstrates that, as with racism and sexism, stereotypes are as queer as a $3 bill, she explained.

Acts of homophobia continue to occur in the Canadian workplace, the pictured activists explained.  Stephanie Johnstone, a 49-year-old grandmother, described an incident at the General Motors distribution centre in Woodstock, Ontario, where she works.  "I remember getting off the truck and walking around and somebody had written in big, black magic marker across a box: 'I Am Gay.'  I should have just wrote underneath it:  'And Proud' and kept on driving."  She commented, however, that attitudes are improving.  Whereas coworkers never used to ask about her family because they assumed there wasn't one, "Now, they know I have a grandchild and they'll quite often ask how he's doing," she said.

The campaign is attempting to further these types of gains in order to complement the recent legal and judicial ones.  Ms. Riche declared:  "Gay and lesbian citizens have made enormous legal strides in Canada.  And we have our first openly gay mayor of a major Canadian city.   So many in the straight community then assume that gay and lesbian rights aren't an issue any longer.  In reality, the gains made in the courts and in some other venues have yet to filter down to the thousands of workplaces across Canada."