Some Calgarians marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by taking part in an event providing more information about the challenges facing LGBTQ people.
On Thursday, Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers was raising awareness about violence, discrimination and repression of the LGBTQ community.
Boban Stojanovic is from Serbia, but he didn’t become a refugee fleeing war. The gay man was seeking safety in Canada because of the persecution he was facing over his sexual orientation.
“My apartment was attacked twice by neo-Nazi groups and I was attacked physically and verbally and I received thousands of death threats,” Stojanovic recalled.
It’s why he helps guide other newcomers and is the LGBTQ settlement practitioner at the Centre for Newcomers.
“Most of them come here alone and they don’t want to be connected. Sometimes we are the only people they know,” Stojanovic said. “We feel privileged, it’s a huge responsiblity and every step forward brings happiness in our life.”
Kelly Ernst with the Centre for Newcomers said internationally, progress is being made but there is still a long way to go.
“We have 72 countries around the world that criminalize being LGBTQ,” Ernst said. “Even here, it’s taken decades to get full recognition of rights for diverse sexual orientations and you think internationally, that is an even greater struggle.”
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The centre’s own statistics document violence against their LGBTQ clients. About 90 per cent said they have experienced being severely beaten. Fifty per cent of the clients said they would be imprisoned if they returned to their country of origin.
The Calgary Police Service tracks hate crimes reported to them. Over the past several years, they say the numbers are down.
The highest number of documented hate crimes committed against LGBTQ persons in Calgary was in 2013 at 14 incidents. The most recent data provided to Global News was from 2016, when five LGBTQ-related hate crimes were reported.
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