By Adrian Morrow
Associate News Editor
The Ryerson Students’ Union has been discussing whether gays and lesbians should be protected under the RSU’s equitable hiring policy. The discussions have provoked anger by suggesting that queer people (gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals) don’t suffer from financial discrimination.
“There’s been an open debate about including queer people in the hiring policy,” said RSU President Nora Loreto, who firmly believes that queer people should be included, which they currently are.
The issue came up at a meeting of the RSU’s executive committee on July 5. VP Education Heather Kere proposed that the RSU discuss its hiring policy because they hadn’t hired many students of colour that summer.
The minutes of the meeting, which were released last week, include a statement by Kere that omitts queer people from a list of groups that should be covered by an equitable hiring policy.
Kere said that the discussion was about how to ensure the RSU was hiring enough students of colour, and not whether they should protect queer people under their policy. She wouldn’t say whether or not she believed they should be protected.
“I was just trying to address some things that were lacking in the RSU,” she said.
The issue came up again at a conference of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario the following month, during a discussion on equitable hiring policies. At the meeting, Luis “Spin” Mejicano, RSU’s events co-ordinator, cited information claiming that queer people are not an economically marginalized group.
“As a queer black man, I was dumbfounded that they could say that one minority was more disadvantaged than another,” said Oren Howlett, a Carleton graduate student who attended the meeting. “In [Mejicano’s] thinking, queer people shouldn’t be protected by equity hiring. It felt like he was trying to pit one minority against another.”
He said that the discussion was tense, and that the suggestion that one group of people was more disadvantaged than another was “ridiculous.”
“I think it shows a misunderstanding of disadvantage,” said Howlett. “As minorities, we should be working together.”
Rose Da Costa, a grad student at the University of Toronto, was also there.
“This was profoundly disturbing. They were saying there’s a hierarchy of repression, and that’s not true,” she said. “I have never heard this from another students’ union.”
Mejicano declined to say whether or not he felt queer people were a marginalized group, or whether they should be included in the hiring policy.
“I have no way of determining whether queer people are economically marginalized,” he said, adding that he was reading from a document passed around at an earlier session on housing issues.
The only document passed out at that session, a paper from the Ontario Human Rights Commission, doesn’t contain any statements that would indicate queer people aren’t economically disadvantaged, said Dave Molenhuis, national executive representative for the CFS-O.
The document lists sexual orientation as a basis for which people might be discriminated.
Currently, no one at the RSU has formally tried to change the union’s hiring policy, and Kere said that she doesn’t want to change it.