In a joint statement released ahead of the federal election, 216 organizations from across the country called upon Canada’s political parties to address issues of discrimination and include LGBTQ2 communities in their policies and initiatives.
“We call on all political parties running in the Canadian federal election to commit to ensuring that human rights and gender minorities are secure in Canada and that our communities continue to be reflected in all areas of federal policy, both domestic and international,” the statement released on Monday reads.
Among the 216 signatories on the statement are the Toronto HIV/AIDS Network, Planned Parenthood Toronto and Ottawa, Egale Canada, UFCW Canada, Dignity Network, ProudPolitics Canada and Capital Pride.
A press release issued alongside the statement says that over the past five decades, LGBTQ2 communities have seen “ongoing progress” regarding their basic human rights and a movement towards full inclusion in Canadian society.
The groups say legal advances, including basic protections against discrimination and recognition of LGBTQ2 relationships and families, have led to Canada being seen as a “global leader” in the advancement of human rights for sexual and gender minorities.
However, the groups say, there is work left to be done.
“There continues to be policy areas for Canada to improve in, and we call on all future governments to continue to work with LGBTQ2S civil society organizations in moving forward to address issues that are still facing our communities,” the statement reads.
Doug Kerr, executive chair of the Dignity Network, which organized the statement, says there are a number of policy areas that still need improvement.
“There’s a number of broad areas, from health to global affairs, immigration and refugee issues,” he said. “But in each of those areas, there’s a number of different federal ministries and different coalitions and organizations that are working on the rights and inclusion of LGBT people in each of those areas.”
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Now halfway through the federal election campaign, three of the four major parties in Canada — the Liberals, the Greens and the NDP — have released their full policy platforms.
Included in the platforms are commitments specifically focused on LGBTQ2 communities. Kerr says this is a “good start” and that he wants to see similar commitments from each of the remaining parties.
“They’ve highlighted specific issues that I think are really important and are important to LGBT Canadians,” he said. “I think there’s always a lot more room and a lot more areas to continue to develop.”
According to the release, representatives from all major political parties have been invited to attend town hall events on LGBTQ2 issues, which are scheduled to take place in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver in the coming weeks.
Kerr said his group is still waiting to hear back from the parties to confirm which candidates plan to attend the events.
What have the federal parties promised to the LGBTQ2 community?
Liberal Party: In its 2019 platform, the Liberal Party has promised to spend $10 million a year over three years to help more LGBTQ2 organizations hire staff and expand services. The party has also pledged to end the ban on blood donation by men who have sex with men and promised to spend an additional $2 million a year for the pan-Canadian 24-7 mental health crisis hotline.
Additionally, the Liberals have vowed to amend the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy.
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New Democratic Party: According to the NDP platform, the party will end the ban on blood donation by men who have had sex with men, develop a national action plan to ban conversion therapy for minors in Canada and work with provinces and territories to eliminate the practice across Canada.
The party also says it will work with provinces to ensure there is equal access to gender-confirming procedures across the country and that the procedures and medications are covered by public health plans.
Additionally, if elected, the NDP says it will add sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the Employment Equity Act in an effort to end employment discrimination.
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According to the party’s platform, an NDP government would also “establish a clear and permanent path for resettlement of LGBTQI2S+ refugees in Canada.”
Green Party: The Green Party has included in its platform a number of policies it says will advance the rights of LGBTQ2 people.
If elected, the Green Party says it will repeal all federal laws and policies that are “discriminatory on the grounds of sexuality, including Section 159 of the Criminal Code, and that refer to intersex reality as a defect, aberration or by any derogatory terms.”
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The party has also promised to establish a funding program within Health Canada to support community-based organizations offering targeted mental health and well-being programs for LGBTQ2 youth and to ensure that trans, non-binary and two-spirit people, without undertaking surgeries, are able to alter their appropriate sex designation on federally issued documents.
Additionally, the Greens have vowed to end the blood donation ban and to ban and condemn the practices of both medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children and conversion therapy. The party also promises to ensure there is access to comprehensive sexual health care and gender-affirming health care.
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Conservative Party: In an email to Global News, a spokesman for the Conservatives said the party will “continue to stand up for the rights of LGBTQ2S people.”
He said the party will “support the immigration of individuals who are being persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender” and that the party “will have more to say throughout the campaign.”