Elections are the time for promises, and you can bet many of them will never be fulfilled. Why is that? Is it because we let them get away with it? When the election is over, many of us lose interest and put politics on snooze until the next time.
Take, for example, two promises made by the Trudeau Liberals in the last election. One was to end the gay blood ban, and the other to ban conversion therapy. Neither of these happened. In these two cases, there were groups actively championing them, but the government either took no action or dragged their feet and were hampered by opposition tactics causing delays.
Engaging with candidates during a campaign is critical to ensure they are aware of what is important. However, it is equally important to continue the engagement with elected representatives and hold them to account for the promises they and their party made.
There are several important issues the queer community should be on top of during the current election campaign. According to Dr. Kristopher Wells, Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual & Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University, this list includes:
- End the blood ban.
- Ban conversion therapy. (Note: The Conservatives have promised to introduce this bill if elected, but it is expected they will water it down.)
- Standardizing gender-affirming healthcare and ensure equitable access to all
- Increase support for LGBTQ+ refugees. There are over 60 countries where being LGBTQ+ is a crime.
- End employment discrimination. LGBTQ2 Canadians are more likely to live in poverty and experience discrimination, which limits life opportunities. This is especially significant for trans, non-binary, two-spirit & racialized LGBTQ2 individuals.
- Better dedicated support for LGBTQ2 seniors. Those who fought for equality should not be forgotten. Many seniors are forced back into the closet in care homes/facilities and often face prejudice and discrimination. They deserve to live with dignity and PRIDE.
- LGBTQ2 youth are vastly overrepresented among the youth homeless population. We need dedicated funding and more LGBTQ2 inclusive shelters and programs. It costs a lot more to get a kid off the street than to prevent them from ending up there in the first place.
- LGBTQ2 youth need to see themselves, communities, and cultures reflected in the K-12 school curriculum. The federal government must work with provinces/territories to ensure a more modern & inclusive curriculum. Many schools are still not safe or inclusive spaces.
- What gets measured is what counts. We need to ensure that our Census and all data collection include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTQ2 people exist everywhere. Data drives policy. Count us in.
- Let's get tough on hate. LGBTQ2 people are one of the most targeted groups for hate crimes in Canada. We need to amend the criminal code to create a national hate crime definition with specific offences. Stop hate online. Hate is a learned value. It can be unlearned.
- It's time for a National LGBTQ2 Action Plan. We need a focused strategy with deliverables, accountability, and funding to ensure LGBTQ2 are supported in all aspects of Canadian society. The UK has an excellent plan to learn from and adapt.
- Another important LGBTQ2 election issue concerns the banning of non-consensual and medically unnecessary surgeries performed on intersex infants. There's currently a lawsuit against the federal government that hopes to force action on this issue.
Of course, other important election issues like truth and reconciliation and climate action go beyond the queer community.
For those who live in the Okanagan and surrounding electoral districts, you're invited to join me for a virtual queer community and allies town hall to meet your Liberal candidates, Sarah Eves for Central Okanagan–Similkameen–Nicola, Tim Krupa for Kelowna-Lake Country, and Shelley Desautels for North Okanagan-Shuswap. This will be an opportunity to hear from the candidates along with a Q&A. This virtual event is being held on September 2 at 7:30 pm. Facebook link here.
Whatever the outcome on September 20th, let's all stay engaged. Our voices matter and need to be heard.
Wilbur Turner (he/him) is the founder of Advocacy Canada, an organization dedicated to unifying and amplifying 2S-LGBTQIA+ voices on important advocacy issues. He identifies as gay and queer, lives in Kelowna on the unceded traditional land of the Syilx peoples, and contributes on many levels to 2S-LGBTQIA+ rights, both locally and internationally.