For Canada's LGBT community, acceptance is still a work in progress, survey suggests

Survey finds members of the LGBT community in Canada feel their sexual orientation is fairly well accepted among their families and friends but not necessarily always in the larger society.

Survey billed as first pan-Canadian look at LGBT communities

A woman waves a flag during Montreal's annual Pride parade in 2016. A Quebec-based foundation has released the results of a survey, billed as the first pan-Canadian look at LGBT communities. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

While members of Canada's LGBT community feel their sexual orientation is generally accepted among their families and friends, almost 75 per cent report they've been bullied at some point in their life, a new survey says.

Fondation Jasmin Roy, a Quebec-based anti-bullying, anti-discrimination and anti-violence group, commissioned polling firm CROP to conduct the study.

The results were released Wednesday ahead of Canada Pride, a nine-day, countrywide celebration of Canada's LGBT movement that begins Friday.

Billed as the first pan-Canadian look at LGBT communities, CROP surveyed 2,697 people aged 15 and older using an online questionnaire. Of the participants, 1,897 identified as LGBT and 800 as heterosexual cisgender people.

Alain Giguère, president of CROP, told CBC News that the value of the study lies in its highlighting of difference.

  "I think society as a whole has to witness diversity," he said. "We cannot expect everybody to be the same."

He noted that the majority of younger participants said they found it easier to express their sexual or gender identity, a trend he chalks up to changing generational attitudes.

  "We are witnessing a profound social change," said Giguère. "This social mould we had in the past is cracking."

Measuring acceptance

In the study, the majority of respondents who were out to friends and family said their sexual orientation was at least well accepted by their immediate family, friends, partners and co-workers, and that they get an adequate amount of support from their close family members.

But three-quarters of the LGBT respondents said they had been victims of bullying, much higher than the 45 per cent of heterosexual cisgender individuals who reported such treatment.

Of those who said they were discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, 40 per cent said the discrimination occurred at their workplace.

Society not that open, respondents say

Less than 10 per cent of LGBT respondents said Canadian society is "totally" open to sexual and gender diversity — 45 per cent said they view Canadian society as "not very" or "not at all" open.

However, 81 per cent of LGBT respondents said Canadian society has shown a willingness to try to integrate people from LGBT communities.

Other findings cited in the study include:

  • Young people are questioning their gender identity and sexual orientation earlier in life, resulting in a shorter coming-out process.
  • LGBT individuals who belong to non-Caucasian ethnocultural groups have a harder time getting their families to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The Atlantic provinces seem to be the most ill-equipped in terms of support resources, particularly when it comes to accessible organizations and models.
  • Fifty-four per cent of respondents from the LGBT community said they feel their life will be or has been more difficult than that of a person not part of a sex or gender minority.
  • And 81 per cent of LGBT individuals said they have felt or feel distress, loneliness, isolation or discouragement related to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In a statement, Jasmin Roy, the foundation's creator, said he hopes the survey results will be used to help governments and other organizations meet the needs of LGBT people across the country.

At a news conference Wednesday, Marc Miller, the MP for Ville-Marie–Le Sud-Ouest–Île-des-Sœurs, said there's a real need for this kind of data.

"Having the raw data and the ability to analyze it, and the methodological underpinnings, it's key to policy and decision-making," said Miller. "If anything, there's a key indicator that there's still work to do."