Over the weekend, Yellowknife was paid a visit from the recently appointed special advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues.
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Edmonton MP and special advisor Randy Boissonnault was in the city as part of the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife’s ‘Days of Pink’ week, an outreach initiative focused on speaking honestly and openly about bullying and violence faced by people of the LGBTQ2 community.
The week wrapped up with a leader’s luncheon on Saturday.
Local leaders, along with Boissonnault representing the federal government, sat down with young LGBTQ2 people and their allies to speak about the issues their community faces and what can be done to fix them.
Congrats & TY @RainbowCoYK for bringing youth 2gether 2 discuss their issues with leaders @R_Boissonnault #nwtpoli pic.twitter.com/veilycizsW
— Julie Green (@juliegreenMLA) April 16, 2017
“Yellowknife’s a really special place, and I was really impressed by the voices,” Boissonnault told Moose FM.
“I was impressed by the advocacy that youth are demonstrating in the school system, impressed by the work that [the Rainbow Coalition has] been able to do here and the support that wraps around the youth… and the response from the city council, municipal council has been fantastic.”
Sexual health, safe spaces and gender identity discussed
The topics of discussion brought up by Yellowknife’s youth?
Boissonnault says they spoke frankly about issues such as access to sexual health education before they need it, creating safe spaces for LGBTQ2 people in homeless shelters and affordable housing spaces, and gender identity markers on official government documents.
“I think it’s an example of a best practice that can be shared and leveraged down South and in other parts of the North is when youth speak up passionately, when they’re supported by parents and allies, it’s incumbent on legislators and decision makers to create that space,” he said.
‘Oh wow, do we ever have work to do’
Boissonnault says that when youth spoke, local leaders all listened, something that’s an important step moving forward in making Canada more inclusive.
“At the end of the day we’re talking about people and we’re talking about each of us being able to enjoy our human rights,” he explained.
“We’re all citizens. If you’re going to make a law or you’re going to make a set of policies, just make sure that you have the LGBTQ2 lense. Make sure you have a gender-based lense. Make sure that you’re having an Indigenous lense.
“You could just see the leaders going ‘Oh wow, do we ever have work to do’.”
Despite all that still needs to be done, Boissonnault says that this weekend’s luncheon showed that the territory’s capital is on the right track to making things better for LGBTQ2 peoples.
“Without the support of government, our youth would feel less safe, and our LGBTQ+ community would feel like they had to be in the shadows, and rainbows don’t survive in the shadows,” he said.
“That’s why we need people to know that they can take their full place in society. It takes a village, and Yellowknife is showing exactly what it takes to step up.”
Representatives from the federal government are being sent across the country to communities to speak with LGBTQ2 citizens and their issues while they go through a review.
Boissonnault said that review will take at least a few more months.