September 2022 / Toronto
Community organizations working with 2SLGBTIQ+ communities have been advocating for many years to be recognized in federal government priorities, plans and funding. Finally, the government of Canada has introduced a national plan with funding. But it falls short in many areas including the exclusion of im/migrant and refugee Queer folk. I've invited my colleagues from OCASI-PSI to share their thoughts in my blog.In Solidarity
OCASI-PSI Response to the Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan 2022
On August 28th, 2022, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s first Federal 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan in Ottawa. Described as a historic first in Canada by many commentators, the action plan aims to advance the rights of gender and sexually diverse+ people and creating a more equitable Canada for 2SLGBTQI+ communities. With the release of the plan, Canada positions itself amongst a handful of countries in the world that have made steps to develop LGBQTIA+ action plans or strategies on the national level.
This plan was developed after nearly a year and a half of community engagement and consultations with various stakeholders, including 2SLGBTQI+ organizations, community groups, and individuals, who have generously shared their experiences and made valuable recommendations. OCASI-PSI was actively involved in this consultation process and made an online submission, highlighting key policy issues and priority areas for LGBQTIA+ refugees, im/migrants, and newcomers, as well as sharing recommendations to address some of the particular issues faced by this community. As OCASI-PSI, we have been long waiting for the unveiling of this plan since we submitted our recommendations in 2021. The following is our initial reflection on the Action Plan.
First and foremost, we welcome the strong focus on community action and direct support for communities. We are happy to see that the Government of Canada recognizes the vital role played by the 2SLGBTQIA+ community organizations in serving and advocating for the needs of the diverse communities. Likewise, we applaud the particular emphasis on and prioritizing funding for 2SLGBTQI+ communities experiencing additional marginalization, including "Black, racialized and Indigenous 2SLGBTQI+ communities, 2SLGBTQI+ persons with disabilities, seniors, youth, official language minority communities, and those living in rural communities." This prioritizing is crucial and aligns with the overarching premise of our submission and two of our recommendations specific to 2SLGBTQIA+ Francophone communities and anti-racism related initiatives.
Similarly, it is significant that the Plan acknowledges the Two-Spirit people as the first 2SLGBTQI+ communities. It is long due to have this acknowledgement and adopt the use of 2SLGBTQI+ acronym that brings the Two-Spirit (2S) people at the front. We are optimistic that the Plan’s promise to implement a dedicated Two-Spirit Senior Advisor position within the 2SLGBTQI+ Secretariat and the establishment of a senior-level interdepartmental table can make a meaningful contribution to Indigenous 2SLGBTQI+ resilience and resurgence.
On the other hand, it is disappointing to note that LGBQTIA+ refugees, im/migrants or newcomers are not listed as groups who experience additional marginalization. Indeed, nowhere in the Action Plan is there a mention of LGBQTIA+ refugees or im/migrants other than in the Annex 1 that provides a summary of community engagement findings. This omission is disheartening, given that particular challenges faced by LGBQTIA+ refugees and im/migrants were raised in the community consultations, including in our submission, and acknowledged by the report under the Global protection and promotion of 2SLGBTQI+ rights section in the Annex 1. We are left wondering what kind of message this omission sends to the LGBQTIA+ refugees, im/migrants, and newcomers, who face numerous barriers as they navigate their way through the complex migration and settlement processes.
Despite the collaborative, coordinated, and holistic approach the Action Plan purports to take, a lack of a coordinated response that engages all the ministries, particularly in the areas of health, youth, education, housing, employment, immigration, and global affairs is disconcerting. The Plan is quite vague in terms of specific action items and mainly reiterates the ongoing work the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE) has undertaken with 2SLGBTQI+ communities since 2019. We welcome the expansion of funding for the 2SLGBTQI+ Secretariat at WAGE and implementation of senior-level interdepartmental structures, which will facilitate the integration and coordination of 2SLGBTQI+ issues within the Government. From the perspective of access to settlement services, most significant is the commitment to formally engage Provinces and Territories in advancing 2SLGBTQI+ equity evenly across Canada. This is one of the key points we highlighted in our submission, specifically recommending "[w]orking with provinces to address inequities in accessing settlement services based on status, SOGIESC, and location." We hope that this commitment will address the current discrepancies LGBQTIA+ refugees and im/migrants experience in accessing settlement services, particularly in health care, across the provinces.
On the global front, we share the sentiments expressed by Rainbow Railroad and other colleagues, and echo their disappointment with the lack of commitment for the global protection and promotion of 2SLGBTQIA+ rights. The disregard of the recommendations made by organizations that diligently work to support the human rights of 2SLGBTIQ+ people around the world is a missed opportunity for Canada to take a strong leadership role on the international arena.
Overall, we believe this plan has the potential to serve as a solid foundation to build on and keep the government accountable. We will continue our ongoing efforts to engage with the government to advocate for the recommendations we have put forth, in collaboration with diverse 2SLGBTIQ+ communities, organizations, and networks, for the well-being of our communities.