LGBTQ issues lacking in federal election, say voters from Sask. community
Concern over issues such as conversion therapy and lack of trans and gender-affirming health care persists
LGBTQ voters in Saskatchewan say federal leaders have missed the mark on issues important to the queer community during the election campaign.
According to recent statistics, Canada is home to more than one million people who identify as LGBTQ.
Despite the national queer population being almost equal to the entire population of Saskatchewan, their issues and rights haven't been reflected proportionately in the party platforms, the Saskatchewan community members say.
Raylee Perkins, a queer educator from Regina, said a lack of federal funding is a critical issue for many organizations across the country.
As a board member of the UR Pride Centre for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, a non-profit at the University of Regina, she sees the benefits the organization provides to community members and their families.
"Currently we don't have the grant money. It's run out. The funding of those programs is critical because then we can do more work in the community beyond just getting those base level programs running."
Perkins said there is a huge need for mental health and other support in the community, and that the pandemic has only exacerbated it.
Jacq Brasseur, a non-binary bisexual resident of Regina, agrees.
Brasseur said the Liberal government had promised more funding than the $25 million provided in the 2020 budget.
"The unfortunate response that we often hear from the federal government on funding for LGBTQ+ health care or community-based organizations is that that's the role of the provincial and territorial governments."
Brasseur said LGBTQ issues are missing from federal leaders' agendas because of a lack of representation in the parties. Brasseur said catchy, easy-to-understand issues get the most air time.
"Things like conversion therapy, the suicide epidemic of trans and non-binary youth across our country, the opioid crisis, decriminalization of sex work, aren't as easily digestible and don't sound as good to mainstream Canadians who misunderstand the complexities," they said.
"In every mainstream political party platform is the significant lack of LGBTQ+ people who contributed to that platform."
Brasseur said it's a circle, where more diverse representation guarantees more issues being highlighted, resulting in more support and funding.
Need seen for mental health support
Taylor Carlson, executive director of Moose Jaw Pride, said a lot of mental and sexual health support is needed in smaller and rural communities.
"I don't feel that LGBTQ+ specific issues are on the radar of this election, which is a shame because we came into this election with the conversion therapy ban finally ready for its final reading in Parliament," they said.
Conversion therapy is intended to get people to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Bill C-6, which would prohibit conversion therapy practices, is yet to pass.
While the Liberals promise, if re-elected, to "re-introduce legislation within the first 100 days in office," Carlson said the party already failed on the promise of revoking the ban on trans people and men who have sex with men from donating blood.
The NDP and Conservatives also say they would ban conversion therapy. The Conservatives' platform opposes forcibly changing a person's sexual orientation. However, it excludes conversion on the grounds of gender identity and expression, which some LGBTQ people say is a deliberate exclusion of conversion practices aimed at trans and gender non-conforming people.
Carlson said Canada is failing to deliver the freedom enshrined in the Constitution to its LGBTQ citizens.
Cat Haines of Regina, who identifies as a genderqueer trans woman, said many LGBTQ health issues, especially surrounding trans folks, are not being addressed this election.
She said she sees an increase of anti-trans and trans-misogynistic rhetoric in the aftermath of the Trump era.
"The People's Party of Canada is talking about trans people as if we're a predatory and dangerous group of people, and the lack of discourse around trans issues from other parties has left a really critical gap in the conversation."
At a rally in Abbotsford, B.C., earlier this month, People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier criticized radical trans activists and said if elected, his party would repeal bills C-16, which recognizes gender self-identification, and C-6 to protect the public from a "radical agenda."
Haines wants a federal government that offers universal and accessible gender-affirming health care.
While the NDP is promising to make trans and gender-affirming health care free and accessible, and add "sexual orientation, gender identity and expression to the Employment Equity Act" to reduce the discrimination queer people often face in finding work, Haines said a lot is yet to be done.
She referenced Criminal Code Section 268(3), which allows parents and medical practitioners to undertake nonconsensual, cosmetic surgeries on intersex infants.
Haines said no federal leader is talking about these issues.
'I wouldn't know who to call'
Stuart Chutter, a gay farmer from Killaly, 130 kilometres northeast of Regina, has seen the discrimination LGBTQ people can face in rural areas firsthand. He said he was recently called a homophobic slur while grocery shopping.
"My first thought was, is this person calling me that because they've been given permission from our elected officials to treat people like that?" he said.
Chutter said that outside of Saskatoon and Regina, it is a real challenge to access safe and confidential sexual and mental health resources in Saskatchewan.
"If I looked at my community, for me to seek mental health resources would not be local, I wouldn't know who to call," he said.
He hopes federal leadership addresses these gaps.
LJ Tyson, a Cree and Métis bisexual musician from Prince Albert, wants leadership that truly consults.
"There have been some politicians that do a great job of that during June, the Pride month. It seems once Pride month is gone, it's not on everyone's mind," he said.
He said it surprises people in rural Saskatchewan to know that the LGBTQ community exists. He said he is not transfixed on the federal leaders, but is watching local candidates closely.
While he is undecided on his vote, Tyson urged others to make an informed decision by considering each party's promises to LGBTQ people.
"There is a lot of work left to be done when it comes to inclusiveness. I'm looking for a candidate who is going to add our voices to the table."