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Special report on LGBTQ youth launched by Alberta child and youth advocate

A stock photo of a rainbow flag.
A stock photo of a rainbow flag. File / AP Photo

For the first time, the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate of Alberta (OCYA) will conduct a special report on “LGBTQ2S youth in the child welfare and youth justice systems.”

The office wants to hear from young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and two-spirited and who are receiving government services, involved in youth justice system or tried to get provincial help but didn’t receive it.

“LGBTQ2S young people often experience harassment, stigma and rejection while in care and these experiences largely contribute to placement instability, running way, social and emotional problems and limited support networks,” the office said on its website.

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As much as 40 per cent of the homeless youth population identify as LGBTQ2S. Studies have found they also face a higher risk of suicide and substance abuse than heterosexual peers.

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“In Canada, where individuals are protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTQ2S youth receiving services have a right to be respected as well, to have policies and procedures in place that ensure their safety and well-being,” the office said in a Jan. 4 post online.

The OCYA is working with community stakeholders who work and advocate for LGBTQ2S youth and some will be part of an advisory group for this special report. Youth representatives will also be involved.

The office says the goal is that the report’s recommendations will improve the experiences and outcomes of LGBTQ2S youth who have contact with the child welfare and youth justice systems in Alberta.

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“We believe you have important things to say… and we want to hear from you,” the OCYA said. “What you say will help us make recommendations to government.”

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Youth are asked to take part by calling the OCYA, visiting staff in person or completing an online survey. Young people can contribute feedback alone or in a group of other youth.

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“Your safety and privacy is very important to us,” the office said. “Your name or any information that would let anyone know who you are will not be shared with anyone (including your caseworker, advocate, etc.) unless you choose to share in a group and we will not share that you participated in the group.”

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The advocate says this feedback will help other children and youth.

Those providing services to LGBTQ2S children and youth – especially those in the child welfare or youth justice systems – are also asked to provide feedback.