The organization's current executive director is former Toronto politician Helen Kennedy. Past executive directors have included Gilles Marchildon, John Fisher and Kaj Hasselriis. Kennedy is the first woman to head the organization.
Egale's work includes lobbying for more equitable laws for LGBT people, intervening in legal cases that have an impact on human rights and equality, and increasing public education and awareness by providing information to individuals, groups, and media. Egale has over 3,300 members including people in every province and territory of Canada.
The organization was initially named "Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere". As they extended their efforts to include bisexual and transgendered issues, they felt that the acronym was not inclusive enough, and therefore changed the name from the acronym E.G.A.L.E. to simply "Egale" (égale being the French word for "equal".)
Egale successfully lobbied for the introduction and passage of Bill C-23, which amended 68 federal statutes to provide same-sex couples with the same legal status as that of opposite-sex married couples. They also supported union activities and lobbied the federal government in support of equal employment benefits to those in same-sex relationships; coordinated coalitions of equality groups in cases on same-sex pension benefits and equal funeral leave for same-sex families.
Additionally, they have on two occasions challenged the legal definition of the word "spouse." The first instance was when the group intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge the opposite-sex definition of "spouse" in the Old Age Security Act (Egan v. Canada). Although the challenge was unsuccessful, it did set a unanimous precedent by which sexual orientation was henceforth entered into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a grounds for protection from discrimination. The second challenge was successful, and revised the opposite-sex definition of "spouse" in Ontario’s Family Law Act (M & H v Ontario) so that the right to common-law marriage extended to same-sex couples.
They also convinced Statistics Canada to include same-sex families in the nation-wide census, and worked with LEGIT to advance equal immigration rights for gays and lesbians.
Combating censorship and promoting freedomEdit
Egale intervened to support efforts to have Pride officially proclaimed in many cities; supported community initiatives in response to the Calgary bathhouse raids; decried the heavy-handed censorship practices of Canada Customs and helped Little Sisters Bookstore win their court case.
Youth, education and familiesEdit
They were involved in cases like the Jane Doe alternative insemination challenge; supported a number of legal challenges involving the rights of youth in the education system, especially the case of Marc Hall who wanted to bring a same-sex date to his prom; fought against the ban by the Surrey School Board of books depicting same-sex families.
Human rights protection and combating hate crimesEdit
Egale successfully lobbied the federal government to add “sexual orientation” to the Canadian Human Rights Act to protect lesbians, gays and bisexuals from discrimination; lent support to many provincial and territorial efforts to have equal rights enshrined in legislation across the country; lobbied the Government to introduce more severe penalties for those convicted of gay-bashing and other hate crimes; supported the addition of “sexual orientation” to the grounds covered by hate propaganda legislation; intervened in the Nixon case to support the rights of transgendered people.
Community outreach and public educationEdit
They developed fact sheets on current issues affecting the LGBT communities; established a Website and manages six e-mail discussion groups to help keep our communities informed across the country; hosted an historic national conference in Montreal (Rainbow Visions); testified before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in support of diversity in Canada’s broadcasting policy and to oppose the limitation of access to lesbian and gay materials on the Internet through restrictive regulations; presented to the plenary session of the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna and participated in the World Conference on Women in Beijing.