Message from the Executive Director - July 2014


This past two weeks exemplified what makes Ontario one of the best places to live, work, worship and play. The province and particularly the City of Toronto put out its welcome mat to the world for the International Human Rights Conference and World Pride 2014.

At the risk of sounding like the cheerleader in chief, there has been no better example than that of the proactive, intentional planning that went into ensuring an inclusion agenda, which paid off in spades if we can go by the energy generated by our visitors and those of us who live here, as we met each other and celebrated our victories of minority communities around the world and cried and commiserated about how far we still have to go to ensure legal, political and social equality for too many.

After a concerning hiccup, even the federal government got onside by reversing the decisions by bureaucrats to refuse visitors from many from the Global South (particularly Africa) coming to share their experiences of struggle for LGBTI+ rights. Attended by over 450 participants from fifty countries, the Human Rights conference was a resounding success. Workshops and panels covered every topic imaginable and they were interesting and informative, speaking to the experiences of the diverse LGBTI+  communities of the Global north and south. The public afternoon plenaries were oversubscribed and served to introduce many not versed in LGBTI+ politics to the issues of concern to the various communities here at home and around the globe.

I presented on a City of Toronto-organized panel on competing interests and rights. This is quite topical as Ontario and Canada must continue to engage in a balancing act of rights. The Ontario Human Rights Commission took the lead in the debate when it introduced its policy on competing rights about two to three years ago.

 I had the most fun however, moderating an auxiliary Pride 2014/International Human Rights Conference event. Titled “Inclusion in the Caribbean Dream” the panel was composed of representatives from Jamaica, St. Lucia and Belize. The discussion focused on what those of us living in diaspora can do to assist the terrific political organizing work going on in the various countries in the Caribbean basin.

The event also reminded us that there is much those of us living in the developed world can learn from our colleagues in developing countries. The show was stolen by an elder sister ally from Jamaica who has dedicated her life to supporting young Gay and Transwomen and Transmen (many as young as 14) who have been made homeless by families and communities' rejection of who they are. It was a powerful evening of storytelling, of witnessing and of renewal of political commitment to progressive struggle.

The weekend celebration of marches and parades leading to Canada Day was a fitting end to a fortnight of political talk by day and celebration by night. Canada and Ontario put their best foot forward. It was heartening to see our newly elected Premier front and centre at many events; to have elected municipal officials play host to couples taking vows of commitment, and to feel the pride of the communities in all their diversity extend the welcome mat to the world. World Pride, World Cup (Football/Soccer) and our own Genie Bouchard in the finals of Wimbledon! It's a good time to be Canadian.  Happy Canada's Day!!