On May 21st, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) hosted a press conference at The Junction courtyard in the Davie Village to launch the Trans Equality Now (TEN) Campaign and commemorate the first signatures for the Trans Equality Pledge. As part of Vancouver Pride 2015, the VPS is beginning a long term campaign for Transgender and Gender-Variant rights in Canada.
“By taking a visible stand for the human rights of Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians, the Vancouver Pride Society is seeking to right a historical wrong within the Pride community, where Transgender and Gender-Variant rights have largely been ignored,” says VPS Parade Coordinator Bry Leckie.
While at the federal and provincial level sexual orientation has been legally protected since the 1990s, Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians have not been explicitly protected. Discrimination and refusal of service remain everyday experiences for Transgender and Gender-Variant people in Canada, despite the growing acceptance by Canadian society.
In light of the recent move by unelected Senators to undermine legislation that would create specific legal protections for Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians, the Vancouver Pride Society will be requiring entries in the 2015 Vancouver Pride Parade to pledge public support for Transgender Equality legislation. The pledge is the first part of the VPS Trans Equality Now Campaign, which supports the creation of legislation at the federal and provincial levels of government that would amend laws to include explicit protection for Gender Identity, extending legal rights to Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians.
“By pledging public support, 2015 Pride Parade entries are showing their commitment to putting an end to the unchecked violence Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians face everyday,” says VPS Executive Director Ray Lam.
This pledge will be required for all 2015 Vancouver Pride Parade entrants. The Parade Committee will make exceptions in specific situations, such as charities that are mandated to restrict political messaging.
Lam explains, “We recognize the unfortunate reality that many organizations taking part in the Vancouver Pride Parade are at the mercy of Federal Ministries who provide their funding, and are not able to speak out for causes their funders may find controversial. As a result, exceptions will be made for entries in special situations like this.”
The second component of the Trans Equality Now campaign focuses on education and public awareness around ten prominent issues faced by Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians, and providing the public with concrete ways of showing support and taking a stand against those inequalities. These ten issues are framed in the context of what has been done, what still needs to be done, and what action an individual can take to support the Transgender and Gender-Variant community.
“Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians face rampant employment discrimination, without legal recourse available under Provincial and Federal Law. As a result, many are forced into the underground economy, further marginalizing and putting them at risk for increased violence,” says VPS President Tim Richards.
The reality is that Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians face significant obstacles to receiving employment opportunities, housing, legal protections, and sufficient healthcare.
“Despite the demonstrable need for competent Transgender and Gender-Variant healthcare services, Provincial medical systems consistently under-fund, deny, and discriminate against Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians,” says VPS Vice-President Chrissy Taylor.
Leckie concludes, “We can no longer afford to ignore the inequality facing members of our community, who have been long been discriminated against in Canada. We urge all Canadians to support equal human rights and protections for Transgender and Gender-Variant Canadians by taking the Trans Equality Pledge today, at www.transequalitynow.ca.”