Equal Rights Coalition Global Conference on LGBTI Human Rights and Inclusive Development
Speech by Randy Boissonnault MP
Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 Issues at Global Affairs Canada
August 7th, 2018
What an exceptional conference!
Distinguished guests, friends and colleagues: Thank you so much! The progress we have made to date in gathering knowledge, developing networks and establishing standards has been possible thanks to your experience, your vision, and your efforts.
I would like to thank especially Chile, our co-chair for the Equal Rights Coalition. We have had the pleasure of getting to know their dedicated team at all levels, from the minister to ambassadors to diplomatic officials.
This conference, taking place as it has following Vancouver Pride, has provided an opportunity to see the celebration through the lens of those with us here who are unable to march in such events in their countries because such events cannot take place.
When Pride started forty years ago in Vancouver, being seen could mean losing your job or your family. We have come far, in a country where the Prime Minister marches at pride parades as a proud ally.
Participating in the Pride Parade can still be risky for some today in Canada. Every time we march during the celebrations, we show our solidarity with marchers elsewhere who are met with violence.
As we march, we are aware that we still have a long way to go toward the full respect of universal human rights for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and two-spirit persons worldwide. In every country and community.
Fortunately, this path to equality is more frequently chosen. We go even farther when we work together. Hence, the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC) was founded two years ago in Montevideo. Initially, it was made up of 29 countries. Now it consists of 40 countries, including Cabo Verde, our first African state, and Cyprus, our newest member.
But there is still room for growth. I expect more nations to join us. Moreover, it is vital that international organizations and civil society continue to be essential and equal partners.
In Montevideo, my colleague Parliamentary Secretary Pam Goldsmith-Jones shared a remark that I made to all 184 Government Caucus members. It was the Wednesday after the horrific shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. I told my colleagues that I felt destroyed. Empty. I shared that I had not felt so disheartened since the events of 9/11 in New York City. 49 people like me had been targeted and murdered in a place of safety and sanctuary simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and two-spirit. I urged my colleagues to reach out to LGBTI community organizations and spaces, particularly those for queer people of colour. They were doubly and triply vulnerable. I then said that, we still need safe spaces in 2016. If any of your constituents have never had to pause and think twice before grabbing their loved one’s hand in public, then they do not know what it is like to be LGBTI, and they do not know why we need spaces of sanctuary.
We only have to look at what is happening around the world to have hope on the road ahead. In corporate offices, in schools, in courts, in legislatures – our work and our stories are changing the world for the better. When we imagine a more loving world for us, when we assert our dignity against all risks, we move mountains. There is momentum behind ending colonial-era laws against same-sex intimacy. ERC members recently welcomed developments toward ending the practice of forced anal exams at national levels.
Yet, in too many places, LGBTI communities continue to face barriers to full equality and participation within society. You may hold hands briefly, only to face violence around the next corner. You may marry but you may not adopt children. You may be subject to unnecessary surgery upon birth, without your consent. You may seek ways to affirm your gender, only to find out the only options are thousands of miles and thousands of dollars out of reach.
Things will not change overnight. Many communities are not represented here today. It is unlikely that some of these communities will join us soon.
Our hope for a better future is what has brought us together here.
Having a variety of tools for persuasion and asking each sector to play its role are key. For example, as we heard in one discussion session, trade can be a powerful tool for change. Where the law and morals fail, economics can be persuasive.
A growing number of businesses are acknowledging this fact.
Last year in the United States, according to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the LGBT community spent $917 billion. That same survey determined that three in four LGBT adults and their loved ones would prefer to support brands known to be LGBT-friendly.
The value of being inclusive can no longer be ignored. Frankly, at a time when economies of the world are a little on edge, it makes no sense to exclude the economic participation of whole communities.
This is why I am honoured to join the Minister of International Trade Diversification, the Honourable Jim Carr, for Canada’s first LGBTQ2 trade mission. We will lead a delegation of LGBTI entrepreneurs to the U.S. National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s international conference, which is in Philadelphia next week.
The rise of the politics of division will ultimately be no match for the full weight of our movement. The international rules-based system. The economics of inclusion. The inherent humanity of each of us, when people look us in the eye.
Canada will continue to fight discrimination and maintain its commitment to focusing on diversity and inclusion in decision making and policies on the national scene. Internationally, we are working to advance LGBTI human rights with multilateral and bilateral partners.
We are proud to do so by collaborating with ERC member countries, international organizations and civil society.
To this end, I am pleased to announce, as a part of our government’s commitment to advance LGBTI rights, a path forward to improve Canada’s policy parameters on supports for international LGBTI work. In September, in Ottawa, the Government of Canada will convene a working meeting with Canadian civil society that work on LGBTI international development. I will chair that meeting. Officials from Global Affairs Canada will participate, from diplomacy and international development. We will build a path forward together.
I am also reaffirming our commitment to update “Voices at Risk”, which gives specific guidance for Canada’s overseas missions on supporting human rights defenders.
Furthermore, I am pleased to announce new funding in the amount of one million dollars for the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program. This is a new initiative for LGBTI communities. Canada will launch a call for proposals in the coming months to address LGBTI rights during violent conflict by: protecting LGBTI people during conflict, involving LGBTI people in responses to conflict and stabilization; and stabilizing post-conflict societies while advancing the rights of LGBTI communities. This is another concrete step on Canada’s path towards defending and promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and two-spirit rights, at home and abroad.
When the ERC first came together in Montevideo two years ago, we presented this guiding principle:
“Working together towards a world where all persons, born free and equal in dignity and rights, will be able to fulfil their precious birthright.”
We have recommitted to that principle here. When next we meet, may we be that much closer to making it reality on a global scale.
With no one left behind.
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