‘All people should be safe’: International day focuses on rollback of rights for LGBTQ2S+ people

'All people should be safe': International day focuses on rollback of rights for LGBTQ2S+ people
A Pride flag flies on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 8, 2023, during a Pride event.

While there has been progress made on advancing LGBTQ2S+ people’s rights, there has also been recent movements to rollback those hard-fought wins, advocacy groups say.

In B.C., the premier and parliamentary secretary for gender equity used the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia to reaffirm that the rights of LGBTQ2S+ people in the province are not at risk, but note the same can’t be said for elsewhere in the world.

“Our diversity strengthens us, and our province is made better when everyone is welcome and valued,” David Eby, B.C.’s premier said in a statement on Friday. “While 2SLGBTQIA+ people have made tremendous gains over the past few decades, these hard-fought rights are at risk, within Canada and outside our borders.”

“More than 60 countries still criminalize same-sex relationships with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment and death. In some parts of Canada, transgender communities have faced increasingly regressive policies that put 2SLGBTQIA+ youth and their families at risk of violence and discrimination.”

Eby notes that LGBTQ2S+ people have a higher rate of bullying, mental health issues and thoughts of suicide.

In data released in March 2024, Statistics Canada noted that hate crimes targeting people for their sexual orientation were on the rise. In 2022, there were 491 of these types of hate crimes reported to police, up 12 per cent from 2021 when there were 438.

Kelli Paddon, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for gender equity said LGBTQ2S+ people are too often the focus of discrimination, harassment and violence due to their identity.

“The International Day Against Transphobia, Homophobia and Biphobia is an important reminder that all people should be safe and treated with respect and inclusion,” Paddon said in a statement.

“Ending homophobia, transphobia and biphobia involves making it clear that people of every gender and every sexuality are welcome in our province.”

“This is more than a goal, it is a commitment because each of us should have equal opportunities to succeed in life and to feel safe to live as who we are on this day and every day.”

Fondation Émergence launched a campaign this year highlighting that rolling back rights for LGBTQ2S+ people affects society as a whole.

“We often hear that there’s been progress when it comes to the rights of LGBTQ+ communities,” said Laurent Breault, general manager of Fondation Émergence.

“While that’s true, it’s also undeniable that the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ hatred has become more apparent in every part of the world. From discriminatory public policies to an increase in hate crimes targeting our communities, we know that this backlash is real. It’s crucial, now more than ever, to speak out against these rollbacks and to continue raising awareness.”

Within Canada, politicians have made statements or introduced legislation that have been criticized as rolling back rights for LGBTQ2S+ people.

New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Alberta have introduced legislation to require parental consent if a student wishes to change their pronouns or name in school.

Advocates say these rules would harm gender-diverse students as it would force students to come out before they are ready, or require teachers to misgender students.

READ PREVIOUS: Judge rules challenge of Saskatchewan’s pronoun law can proceed

Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the federal Conservative Party, recently made statements saying he does not believe that transgender women should be allowed to use women’s changerooms or compete in women’s sports.

Amnesty International Canada says this rhetoric from Poilievre puts trans people at greater risk, and obscures the fact that trans people are more likely than their cisgender peers to be the victims of gender based violence, as shown in a 2018 Statistics Canada report.

READ PREVIOUS: Pierre Poilievre against trans women in female bathrooms, changing rooms, sports

In B.C., legislation introduced by provincial Conservative leader John Rustad that would require publicly funded sports to classify the categories by the biological sex of participants was quashed, when members of the NDP and Green parties as well and independent MLAs set aside a longstanding tradition to always give private members bills first reading and it failed to be introduced.

Ravi Kahlon, the NDP house leader, told reporters the bill was voted down because it was “hateful and discriminatory.”

READ PREVIOUS: ‘Biological sex’ sports bill is quickly quashed in B.C. legislature

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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