Outreach to Provincial Parties Regarding LGBTQ2s+ Issues

In the last 3 months, St. John’s Pride Inc. sent 4 questions out to our provincial parties; the Progressive Conservatives, the Liberals, the New Democratic Party, and the NL Alliance.

As the election is on Thursday, May 16, we are pleased to present the responses we have received in that time. Namely, the PC’s did not respond, nor the Liberals. The NL Alliance promised to respond, and did so by sending an invitation to a rally on April 23, without further comment.

While we would welcome further input from all parties in question before the election takes place, and update this note accordingly, allow the St. John’s Pride Board to show the response we have thus far:

Question 1 – Bullying and Violence Prevention

In 2018, events in Botwood came to light where queer youth were the target of bullying, harassment and violence perpetrated by their peers. Sadly, even in 2019, these events are not isolated. Hatred and violence against the LGBTQ2S+ community happen in the home, at school, in the workplace and on the sidewalk.

If your party were to form the next government, how would you address the issue of bullying and violence directed at the LGBTQ2S+ community?

NDP: The NDP would work for an increase in the Human Rights Commission budget for outreach and education in schools and communities on LGBTQ2S+ issues, for an LGBTQ2S+ curriculum in the schools, and funding for provincial My Gay Straight Alliance leadership conferences. We will encourage all municipalities to adopt in their constitutions an LGBTQ2S+ statement regarding inclusion and human rights.

Question 2 – LGBTQ2S+ Community or Resource Centre

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the few provinces – if not the only province – in Canada that does not have a dedicated community space for LGBTQ2S+ persons. Elsewhere in Canada, LGBTQ2S+ community centres and resource centres serve as a reminder of the precious rights we have secured and must continue to protect and – to the many in need of help – as a symbol of hope that things will get better. These centres also give visibility to the community, providing its members with a safe space from which to plan, advocate, rally, celebrate and receive various programs and services.

Where does your party stand on the issue of working with the LGBTQ2S+ community and organizations such as St. John’s Pride Inc. to ensure LGBTQ2S+ persons have a community centre or resource centre that is all their own?

NDP: We support the establishment of a provincial LGBTQ2S+ community centre, that would be an essential resource to the LGBTQ2S+ community and an information centre for schools, businesses and communities throughout the province.

Question 3 – Access to Gender-Confirming Services and Surgery Currently, a transgender person seeking gender-confirming surgery must first undergo an assessment at the Gender Identity Clinic, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Without a recommendation from CAMH, which is located in Toronto, gender-confirming surgery is not an insured service and is therefore difficult for most to access. Wait times for CAMH assessments can run anywhere from one to several years. For those seeking gender-confirming surgery, such wait times are unacceptable and lead to circumstances where those waiting are subject to anguish, illness and, especially if they are unable to work, cost. Even the fact that assessments are only available outside the province is very disruptive and costly to those in need.

If successful in the 2019 election, how would your party improve access to gender-confirming services and surgery for transgender individuals?

NDP: The NDP, and Gerry Rogers as an out MHA, have worked with the trans community and health care professionals to change regulations and policies so that assessments for gender-affirming services and surgery can be done by qualified professionals in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is no reason to require trans people to go to CAM-H in Toronto for assessments. Ms. Rogers tabled a petition in the House of Assembly to change this process, and spoke both publicly and behind the scenes about the issue. We will continue to work on getting an in- province assessment process.
In 2012 we advocated for stronger human rights for the LGBTQ2S+ community, including a petition in the House of Assembly calling for amendments to the Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination. The amendments were made in 2013.

Question 4 – Inclusion

Usually, conversations around inclusion focus on accessibility for persons living with a disability. While this is obviously a very important issue where there is room for much improvement in terms of appropriately designing products, services and environments for persons living with a disability, unfortunately we do not tend to engage in conversations about inclusion more broadly. Those who stand to benefit from inclusive processes, services and physical spaces include people of races, ethnicities, ages, religions, abilities, sexual orientations and gender identities that are different from the majority.

How does the LGBTQ2S+ community fit into your view of inclusion and how would you give life to that view if you won the election?

NDP: Inclusion in all aspects must extend to the specific needs of LGBTQ2S+ people. One important step would be that the members of this community be represented on all agencies, boards and commissions concerned with inclusion issues. It would also be valuable to continue to have out Members of the House of Assembly speaking on behalf of LGBTQ2S+ communities. The All-Party Committee on Democratic Reform needs to look at these inclusion issues.

Please direct all comments, questions, or concerns to internal@stjohnspride.ca, or to our facebook page.

Voting in this province opens on May 16: further information available at https://www.elections.gov.nl.ca/elections/

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