Canadian Union Refuses Member’s Right to Oppose Gay “Marriage”

By Gudrun Schultz

OTTAWA, Ontario, April 19, 2006 ( – One of Canada’s largest unions is refusing to recognize a member’s right to freedom of conscience, when that freedom involves opposition to same-sex marriage.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has denied the request of Treasury Board employee Susan Comstock to divert her dues to a charity, a request she made on the grounds that PSAC’s open support of Bill C-38, the bill to legalize gay marriage, went against Ms. Comstock’s personal beliefs.

Although PSAC’s collective agreement contains a clause allowing a member to divert their dues to charity for reasons of religious or conscience, the union refused to grant Ms. Comstocks’ request, saying the clause did not apply to her.

PSAC openly supports homosexuality. The union urges all levels of government to “recognize and protect lesbian and gay relationships and families.” The union’s policy on sexual orientation, PSAC policy 31, states:

“Internally, the Alliance will create a Union in which there is zero tolerance of homophobia and heterosexism.”

“Heterosexism” is defined by the union as “the presumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to other forms of loving.”

“Since by their definition I would be considered heterosexist, they were using my union dues to discriminate against me and had a policy to re-educate me,” Ms. Comstock told CCN in a phone interview from Toronto April 12.
“The policy is wrong,” she said. “In advocating for the rights of one group in union membership, they are discriminating against another group.”
“This is a contravention of the union’s own constitution,” she said, saying the union is supposed to treat everyone equally and respect religious rights.

Deborah Gyapong, reporting on the story for CCN, said Ms. Comstock, a Roman Catholic, has filed for a federal judicial review of the Canadian Human Rights Commission decision to not further investigate her complaint against her union. Last October the Commission stopped procedure on the complaint, saying the Catholic Church does not forbid trade union membership.
“Politicians have assured us that freedom of religion and freedom of conscience will be respected in the application of Bill C-38,” Comstock told the Catholic Civil Rights League. “My experience suggests that these so-called protections can prove very limited for those who actually try to exercise them.”

PSAC has over 150,000 members across Canada, in both federal and private sector positions.

To contact PSAC and express concerns:
  Public Service Alliance of Canada
  233 Gilmour Street
  Ottawa, ON
  K2P 0P1
  Email the national president of PSAC, Nycole Turmel, at:
[email protected]

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