IDAHOT Report 2014: Canada

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In Canada, 85 organisations co-signed a special May 17 open letter, calling on the government to affirm its support for LGBTI rights internationally, which included a 10 point plan for dealing with human rights abuses of LGBTI people around the world. Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, responded with an official statement underscoring the strong commitment of the Canadian government to continue to press for universal human rights. National television station, CBC, covered these initiatives, as well as the raising of the rainbow flag at Toronto City Hall to mark the Day.

Foreign Affairs Minister responds to 85 LGBTI and human rights organisations
After 85 organisations co-signed an open letter, ahead of May 17, to Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, he released a statement affirming the Canadian government’s support for respecting and protecting LGBT rights around the world. You can read the letter in full here.
Baird released a statement in honour of the IDAHOT 2014, on May 16, in which he said:

“This day is an opportunity to shed light on the significant human rights abuses to which sexual minorities are subjected worldwide.
“It is alarming that approximately 80 countries around the world criminalize homosexuality or have laws in place that have the intended effect of limiting the human rights of a targeted group. Canada has urged and will continue to urge these nations to review this regressive legislation.
“The criminalization of homosexuality is an incitement to intolerance, which breeds hate and, in turn, violence.
“Canada remains committed to standing up for the human rights of all individuals.”

Canadian television network CBC covered the campaign and Baird’s response in its evening news bulletin. They also mentioned Toronto City Council’s flying the rainbow flag for the IDAHOT. You can watch the bulletin here:
You can also read Canada HIV/AIDS Legal Network’s Press Release regarding the open letter campaign – here.
Communities gathered for a major event in the city for the IDAHOT 2014 – a flag raising ceremony, with speeches from community leaders, outside Toronto City Hall, on May 16.
Although city Mayor Rob Ford did not attend, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly attended and spoke at the event. He also announced that City Hall would be lit up in rainbow colours in recognition of the Day.

Toronto Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, speaking at the rainbow flag raising at City Hall on May 16. Source: Toronto Sun

PFLAG President, Irene Miller, gave a powerful and emotional speech underscoring the significance of the flag-raising. In her speech, Miller also noted that in February 2014 – when the Sochi Olympics were being held, Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford, refused for the flag to fly outside city hall. She also criticised Ford for sexist, racist and homophobic remarks he had made. You can watch her speech in full here:

Media coverage of the event was considerable (e.g. Toronto Sun, Globe and Mail, and City News).
The 519 Anti-Violence Program also hosted a community art event to mark this years’ IDAHOT, at the Church Street Community Centre. You can find out more here.
Various groups came together for a diverse series of events in Vancouver, Canada for the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia 2014. Communities gathered for a cultural event and panel discussion on LGBTIQ* refugees in Canada, as well as for ‘Gay & Grey’ – a conversation over breakfast about what it means to be LGBTQ, out, and aging. More info.
As ever, the Quebec region was particularly active around the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, with special support from the regional May 17 campaign, by Fondation Émergence. This year, the chosen theme for actions around the Day was “Same-sex parenting I love my two moms, I love my two dads”.
You can find out more about the campaign in this press release, and by browsing their website.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, LGBTQI communities – and their friends and allies – came together for an IDAHOT 2014 Rally, in the city’s South Park & Spring Garden on May 14. The Rally was organised under the theme “Speak Up & Speak Out!” and featured the participation of Scott Jones (and the Don’t Be Afraid campaign), as well as guest speakers from various community groups: Kate Shewan (Trans Activist & NSRAP Vice-Chair), Jessica Durling (Trans Activist & King’s PRIDE Co-Chair), Pedram Niakan (A “Rainbow Refugee” to Halifax), Keith MacMillan (The Halifax Refugee Clinic). There were also performances by Max Jones and The Youth Project Queerios, whilst people could also get their photos taken in the “Don’t Be Afraid” photo booth! More info.
Canada - IDAHOT - Nova Scotia
Communities “Speak Up and Speak Out!” at the Halifax Rally for the IDAHOT 2014. May 14, 2014. Source: Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project

Progressive voices of faith speak out in support of equality
The Right Rev. Gary Paterson, the first openly gay Moderator of the United Church of Canada wrote a popular and widely shared open letter to the LGBTQ community, stressing the existence of progressive voices of faith within Christian communities, and underscoring the need to support equal rights for LGBTQ people. You can read it here. He also spoke at a Vancouver event for IDAHOT 2014.
Canada gets top LGBT rights scorecard
On social media, many commented positively that Canada received top marks (5/5) on their LGBT rights scorecard, according to the widely shared Guardian newspaper infographic – a project developed in partnership with ILGA and All Out. More info.

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