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New program available for Hamilton businesses to identify as safe spaces for LGBTQ2 community

Hamilton businesses that want to make sure members of the LGBTQ2 community feel safe will now have a way to physically demonstrate their support. Lisa Polewski / 900 CHML

There’s a new way for Hamilton businesses to demonstrate that they’re safe places for those who are part of the LGBTQ2 community.

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is now offering the Rainbow Registered Accreditation program, which recognizes businesses and organizations that meet a national standard of being welcoming and inclusive to those who are LGBTQ2.

Launched in June 2021, it’s a federally-funded program developed by Canada’s LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC) and Tourism HR Canada.

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Loren Christie, who’s in charge of business development for CGLCC, said the hospitality and tourism industries are embracing it, but it’s something that can be beneficial across multiple industries.

“Surveys that we’ve done from the chamber, for LGBT+ travellers, for example, their number one concern when travelling is safety. And they don’t mean COVID, the survey was done prior to that. What they mean when they say safety means feeling safe, feeling welcome, feeling included in where they go.”

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He said it’s not necessarily about creating new LGBTQ2 spaces, but about making existing spaces safer for people in those communities who aren’t always certain they’re welcome.

“It’s about being a mainstream bar or restaurant or business – or whatever it may be – that is offering a safe space. That you’re an ally. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the bar owner or whoever it is, has to be part of the LGBT+ community. It just has to mean that they’re offering a safe space and understand what it is to be inclusive of the community.”

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The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has already been accredited as a Rainbow Registered organization and is holding a free online session on April 5 to help businesses that are interested become familiar with the accreditation process.

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Businesses need to pay a fee, which varies based on the size of the organization, and must go through a review to determine whether or not they meet the standard for accreditation.

If businesses don’t meet the criteria, they’re allowed to try again without paying another fee for up to a year, and the accreditation lasts for three years.

“I always say it’s really important for businesses, whether they get the accreditation or not, to go through the process because then they understand where maybe they could do better or where some of their holes are,” said Christie.

Businesses that qualify will also be highlighted on a soon-to-be-launched website that maps out all Rainbow Registered organizations in the country.

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