There’s no pride in hate

Dear editor:

The following statement can be jointly attributed to Rainbow Alliance Dryden, Kenora Pride, Borderland Pride, Rainbow Collective of Thunder Bay, and Thunder Pride:

“We are speaking today with one voice to express our grave concerns about the rise in transphobic rhetoric coming from certain political movements and the Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) response to them.

We are especially troubled by recent comments by Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre. His words appear to signal support for misinformed policies targeting 2SLGBTQIA+ people. These policies put trans, non-binary, two-spirit, and queer young people at risk of harm. We are equally troubled by the silence of members of the federal Conservative caucus who have previously spoken out against similar statements against our community. We have appreciated their support in the past but are concerned about their lack of response today, in our community’s time of need.

Last week, the protests against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community that Mr. Poilievre was referring to included swastikas and far-right hate symbols, adults coaching children to destroy rainbow symbols, to say that 2SLGBTQIA+ people were “psychopaths” and “disgusting” and to get out of “their” country. These followed closely behind the recent Conservative convention, where a number of transphobic policy resolutions were adopted by the party.

While Mr. Poilievre has stated that he is not bound to include those resolutions in any party platform, to-date he has not commented on them, nor has he repudiated them. For any federal party to clearly state that they are not bound to harmful views while refusing to distance themselves from those same views in clear terms is sending a mixed signal to the public. It puts those targeted at risk.

It saddens us that that despite the progress 2SLGBTQIA+ communities have achieved, a mainstream political party would stand aside rather than stand up against hatred and misunderstanding of trans and gender diverse young people that we are seeing. We are talking about some of the most vulnerable groups in Canadian society. Trans and gender diverse people live in all corners of this country, in all communities and are of all backgrounds. They are our friends, family, children, and parents. The political attacks on this community are a tremendous setback to all of those in our region and elsewhere who have worked to build more inclusive and understanding communities for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and forms of gender expression.

In recent years, the Conservative caucus in Ottawa has been among the voices raising the importance of mental health care for all Canadians, and has worked with government to bring forward important measures, such as the “988” line for those in need of immediate mental health crisis and suicide prevention intervention. Studies continue to show that trans and gender diverse young people have significantly higher rates of suicide and suicide attempts compared to the general population.

Incidents like the protests and rhetoric of the past week make youth feel unsafe, unwanted, and hated, and escalate existing risks of crisis and harm. Given the CPC’s position on these matters, we hope that they appreciate the impact their current actions are having on trans and gender diverse people, and that they will take this opportunity to correct course.

Every day we grow more fearful for the safety of our community, and especially for the risks that this dangerous rhetoric is creating for some of the most vulnerable queer and trans people. In recent months, many of us have been threatened with violence and harassed here at home in Northwestern Ontario. We are also fearful for those who provide support for gender diverse young people who are at risk, such as education workers. We urge Mr. Poilievre and his caucus to consider these risks and impacts when they determine their public position on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues.

As adult 2SLGBTQIA+ leaders we all take pride in calling Northwestern Ontario our home. It is because of the challenges we have faced in our own lives here that we believe it is our duty to protect today’s queer and trans young people. We want today’s youth to have a better future while feeling greater support and love in their hometowns. We hope that this aspiration is shared across the political spectrum. To that end, we have sent a letter to Kenora MP Eric Melillo asking that he stand with us.

So far, we have received no reply, though we remain open to dialogue.

It is now apparent that transphobia and misunderstanding of the real harms CPC policies and politics are creating for young people is a broader issue. For that reason, we are now requesting an urgent meeting between representatives of our collective organizations, Mr. Melillo, and representatives of the Kenora, Thunder Bay—Rainy River, and Thunder Bay—Superior North federal Conservative riding associations.

We can all agree that the safety and best interest of young people is paramount. However, that discussion must be rooted in facts, not hate and misinformation.”