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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 20, Number 1, September 2007

Vancouver teachers’ contract first to include support for transgender employees

"We are very proud to have the first teachers’ collective agreement in the province to include antidiscrimination language that recognizes discrimination on the basis of gender identity," says Glen Hansman, president of the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers’ Association (VESTA). "There may not even be another one in Canada."

VESTA and its secondary counterpart, Vancouver Secondary Teachers’ Association (VSTA), bargain collectively as the Vancouver Teachers’ Federation. They signed a memorandum of agreement with the Vancouver School Board recently that was ratified by teachers on April 12, 2007. No other teachers’ contract in BC mentions gender identity.

"As teachers, we have been very active for the past five years working with management and trustees of the Vancouver School Board to make schools welcoming for all members of our school community," says Hansman. "Having this new language is a significant step in protecting transidentified and gender non-conforming employees against transphobia and other forms of harassment."

Significantly, the new contract language states that nothing "requires the affected employee to actually possess a characteristic that is the basic for discrimination."

"Because of the Azmi Jubran vs North Vancouver School Board case, we thought it was important for this point to be specifically stated in our collective agreement," says Hansman. "Thanks to Jubran’s persistence, it is absolutely clear now that one does not have to be a person of colour to be affected by racism; that one does not have to be gay to be a victim of homophobia, and our new collective-agreement language reflects that."

"Collective bargaining is an important form of social justice work" says Hansman, "and we are very happy to have achieved this at the local level for our teachers."

For more information, contact Glen Hansman at 604-873-8378 (Monday-Friday), 604-813-5318 (cell), or glen@vesta.ca.

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