By Dora Chan
on March 27, 2013
The CCLA is used to doing work on equality and freedom issues across Canada, but the organization is also one of several on the international scene that engages in advocacy and education work on these issues. CCLA is part of a group of like-minded organizations that has submitted a brief to the United States Supreme Court on the issue of marriage equality. The International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) brought together groups representing four continents to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to find Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that barred same-sex marriages, unconstitutional.
This week, ICAAD filed its amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, highlighting how both foreign and international law are rapidly evolving to recognize marriage equality as a basic right. In building support for the brief, ICAAD brought together a group of international human rights advocacy organizations from the United Kingdom (Liberty), Canada (CCLA), South Africa (Legal Resource Centre), and Argentina (Center for Legal and Social Studies).
In its advocacy, CCLA has supported the right to same-sex marriage as essential to ensuring equality in Canadian society. Because of its geographical closeness to the United States, and the high level of travel and exchanges that characterize the relationship between Canada and the United States, the same-sex marriage issue in the United States has profound repercussions in Canada, including the trans-border validity of same-sex marriages contracted in Canada.
More importantly, the persistence of discriminatory practices in a neighboring country undermines efforts in Canada to end homophobic practices and hate crimes against the LGBT community. American discrimination against gays in the context of marriage is used to justify pernicious discriminatory practices and contributes to the continued and insidious discrimination against the LGBT community in Canada.
To read the full press release, click here.
To read the Brief of International Human Rights Advocates as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents, to which CCLA is a signatory, click here.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on November 20, 2012
CCLA has made written submissions to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, endorsing Bill C-279. This private member`s bill will, if passed, give explicit recognition to the rights of trans people, by adding gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code.
To read our submissions, click here.
on July 5, 2012
Should the government help fund a non-profit homophobia census that collects info about homophobic incidents? Is there a danger to free speech or privacy if the incidents can include “mockery” or media coverage? Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, director of CCLA’s Equality Program, squares off with Ezra Levant. Click on the image to launch video in a new page.
By Dora Chan
on July 3, 2012
On Friday, June 29th, CCLA was proud to join the trans community and its allies in Toronto for the Trans March and Rally. As Toronto Pride describes it, the trans spectrum “refers to anyone whose gender identities do not match the bodies they were born with.” Since 2009, the Trans March and Rally has provided a safe space for people to gather in solidarity and stand up for trans rights. The crowd gathered for the Trans Rally was so big that it was spilling out of Norman Jewison Parkette and onto the surrounding streets. A decade ago, it would have been unimaginable to have a gathering of such size assembled in support of the Trans community, and yet on Friday the crowd was easily in the hundreds. It was a joy to see such a diverse group – the full spectrum of sexualities, genders, skin colours, ages, physical abilities and cultural backgrounds – there to celebrate the freedom to live, love, and be true to yourself.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on May 23, 2012
CCLA presented oral and written submissions to the legislative committee looking into Ontario’s Bill 13, an Act to Amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters. CCLA’s submissions emphasized the fundamental rights and freedoms of all people in Canada, including young people in schools (subject to reasonable limits). These rights include freedom of expression, freedom of association, the right to equality, and the right to life and security of the person. In light of these protections, CCLA’s submissions included the following:
- support for the spirit and intention of Bill 13 to protect vulnerable students from bullying and harassment;
- endorsement of a requirement that schools support pupils who wish to establish and lead activities or organizations to promote awareness and understanding of and respect for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities
- concern that the bill should clarify the right of students, subject to reasonable limits, to choose the name of their club (gay straight alliance, rainbow club, etc).
- a recommendation that transphobia and gender identity be addressed throughout the bill
- concern that the definition of bullying as a punishable offence be revisited with protections for students’ basic rights; while educators should address bullying of all kinds (punishable or not) through various educational methods;
- concern with harsh and mandatory penalties that may have a disparate impact on minority groups
For CCLA’s full written submissions and recommendations, click here.
on May 14, 2012
Penelope Chester, CCLA
(416) 363-0321 ext 225
Anti-Bullying Bill 13 – CCLA To Make Submissions At Queen’s Park Today
TORONTO – May 14, 2012 – The Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Director of the Equality Program, will be speaking today at 3:30 p.m. to the Standing Committee on Social Policy during the public hearings for Bill 13, An Act to amend the Education Act with respect to bullying and other matters and Bill 14, An Act to designate Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week in Schools and to provide for bullying prevention curricula, policies and administrative accountability in schools.
>> Click here to download a summary of CCLA’s submissions to the Committee
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association applauds the spirit and intention of Bill 13 to protect vulnerable students from the kind of bullying and harassment that can transform an important educational and development experience into a terrifying and traumatic one. While CCLA does not challenge the merit of the new legislation, its submissions will focus on the following areas:
- The constitutionally protected fundamental rights and freedoms of young people (freedom of expression, freedom of association, equality, the right to life and to security of the person)
- Gay-Straight Alliances – and the rights of students to choose the names of their clubs
- The consequences of bullying
- The definition of bullying – creating a safe space for students that also allows them to engage in meaningful discussions about controversial issues of importance bullying
- Educational versus punitive approaches to bullying, and the disparate impact of mandatory punishments on minority students
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s submissions to the Committee will seek to reconcile the pressing and substantial concern of protecting vulnerable students from bullying, with a respect for students’ constitutionally guaranteed rights, such as freedom of expression, association and equality.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv will be available for comment following the presentation.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on July 5, 2011
A boisterous, multi-generational group of CCLA supporters marched in this year’s Toronto Pride Parade to honour the struggles and victories of LGBTQ communities. Having participated in some of these struggles just this past year, CCLA was proud to participate in this event.
Much has been said and written about the parade, so for this post, I will be sharing a few personal observations which I will call:
Moments of Pride
- Proudest moment: introducing my children to some of the students from St. Joe’s and other Catholic schools. This courageous group of high-schoolers has been struggling for several months simply to create a club for LGBTQ students in their schools. CCLA has provided some support. These young people continue to fight, and were rightfully treated as heroes at this year’s Pride.
- Favourite T-shirt: on a young man in the crowd. The shirt read “Proud to lo…” that’s all I could see because of where he was standing, so I moved closer. He caught my eye and leaned back. T-shirt said “Proud to love him” – and as I looked up, he pointed gently at the young man he was with.
- Best decorations: This is a tough one – there were costumes of angels, butterflies, and queens; vibrant, colourful balloons, ribbons, flags, boas, hats, feathers, and streamers. There was a rainbow flag so big it must have taken 40 people to hold it. And of course there was the new CCLA T-shirt – with a maple leaf made up of Canada’s many rights and freedoms.
- Most touching connections: As we marched, there were non-stop cheers and waves and high fives. But the expressions on the faces of some of the older folk were the ones that touched me most – enormous smiles of joy and pride, and something in the eyes that suggested it is not always this good. When they called out “Happy Pride”, it took on special meaning.
- Best music – from the truck behind us – as a result, CCLA’s children, students, grandparents and others ended up dancing down Yonge Street under the watch of over one million people.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on March 18, 2011
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association recently sent a written response to the Halton Catholic District School Board’s proposed new policy on Equity and Inclusive Education. CCLA told the Board that students have the right to form Gay-Straight Alliances and other gay positive clubs in their schools, and to call them by their name. The proposed policy no longer bans GSAs, but is silent on the question of whether or not students can create these groups. This is not good enough, CCLA responded. If the Board intends to allow GSAs in its schools, they need to do so clearly and transparently. Nor is it sufficient according to CCLA to create all-purpose equality groups if these exist alongside an unwritten but effective ban on GSAs.
For the full text of CCLA’s response, click here.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on January 19, 2011
The CCLA welcomes the decision of the Halton Catholic District School Board (HCDSB) to rescind its policy banning the formation of Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in its schools. The removal of this discriminatory policy sends a positive message to members of that school board, and to its students in particular. In its place, the Board adopted for the interim a template equity and inclusiveness policy that had been created for Catholic school boards.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Director of CCLA’s Equality Program was at the meeting in Halton, and submitted in writing a question that had been on several minds: with the change in policy, would students be able to form GSAs or other LGBTQ-positive groups in their schools. The answer of the Board chair was non-committal. The CCLA will continue to monitor the issue to ensure that an unwritten ban does not replace the written ban and that students will be able to exercise their rights to equality, free speech, and freedom of association. CCLA continues to invite students from across Canada to contact us if they are having difficulties creating such groups.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on January 13, 2011
In the past few days, we learned of a ban on Gay-Straight Alliances in the Halton Catholic School District . Fortunately, almost immediately after this news hit the media, a Board policy group recommended rescinding the ban.
It now remains to be seen what will happen in practice, whether students will be permitted to form LGBT groups – in the Halton Catholic School District and elsewhere.
If you are a Canadian high school student looking to create a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or other LGBT group in your school and you are being blocked by your school authorities, you may be interested to know your rights:
- Like all people in Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects you.
- You have a right to equality – in our view, this means that if other students have clubs that empower them, and allow them to discuss and share experiences about their topics of interest, so do you.
- You have a right to freedom of association – to get together with people of your choosing. Schools might prohibit groups that exclude others – but GSAs are generally bodies that seek to include members of the LGBT community and their supporters.
In order to support you and protect your rights, we invite you to contact CCLA if these rights are being violated.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
Director, Equality Program