Amid a wave of legislation in some U.S. states targeting the LGBTQ2 community, Canada has updated its travel advisory for the country specifically advising people to check state and local laws before visiting.
While overall travel advice around risk levels or health concerns has not changed for the U.S. by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the department updated its “laws and culture” section specifically to add a section on considerations for the LGBTQ2 community.
“Some states have enacted laws and policies that may affect 2SLGBTQI+ persons,” the advisory states, using the expanded term that includes reference to two-spirit, intersex and other sexualities.
The advice includes a link to the Canadian government’s webpage for travel safety and advice for Canadians who are LGBTQ2.
“Not all countries have the same values and legal system that we have in Canada. As a result, it is important for you to be informed about the legal framework and social customs governing sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics in your destination country,” that page notes.
The change marks a shift from just four months ago, when several pieces of legislation in Florida prompted organizations including Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign to issue travel advisories of their own against coming to the state.
When asked by Global News at the time if Canada intended on changing its own travel advisories or advising caution for the United States, GAC said it had issued advice specifically around threats to members of the community before, such as in Uganda.
However, in May, the department did not say whether officials were weighing a similar warning to make note of laws in states like Florida or Tennessee in the travel advice it issues for the U.S.
“Foreign laws and customs related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics can be very different from those in Canada,” the department had said to Global News.
“As a result, LGTBQ2 travellers could face certain barriers and risks when travelling outside Canada.”
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday that travel advisories are done “professionally” by those in government whose job is to look “carefully around the world” and monitor if there are dangers to certain groups of Canadians.
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She added the relationship with the U.S. is a priority for the federal government and it works to “manage that relationship regardless of the choices that the people of the United States make,” and that they are focused on protecting Canadians.
“Even as we work hard on that government-to-government relationship, every Canadian government very much, including our government, needs to put at the centre of everything we do the interests and the safety of every single Canadian and of every single group of Canadians,” she told reporters. “That’s what we’re doing now, that’s what we’re always going to do.”
The response also cited the webpage on travel and Canadians’ sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.
That page advises those who plan to visit other countries to be aware of potential restrictions they could face such as if they have an “X” on their gender marker in a passport, and potential difficulties in receiving certain services such as health care due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Research the laws, safety recommendations and social customs related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics in your destination country,” it states.
While no part of the U.S. has criminalized homosexuality, some Republican-led states have put in place laws restricting or banning gender-affirming treatment, limiting drag artists from performing in public spaces, and prohibiting classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation earlier this year noted a 35 per cent jump in hate crimes in its most recent 2021 data, led by a rise in attacks that targeted sexual orientation.
The U.S. State Department said the United States was committed to “promoting tolerance, inclusion, justice, and dignity” while advancing the rights of the LGBTQ2 community and was prepared to work with like-minded partners from across the world in doing so.
—With files from Reuters