Election Season: 2SLGBTQ+ Issues Top of Mind
Without a moment's rest, summer's end brings election season.
"After this summer, we find ourselves on a queer/trans rights landscape scarred like a battlefield," says Ashley Smith, Rainbow Resource Centre's Director of Advocacy, "and the renewed struggle has only just begun."
Last spring, the school year ended like an explosive combat zone: attempts to ban books brought protests and counter-protests to schools across the province, and skirmishes in school board meetings were the scene of incendiary obscenities being hurled to the point police were called to restore peace. The escalation in anti-2SLGBTQ+ rhetoric has emboldened those in the fray to willfully promote hatred on their social media and others to commit hate-motivated crimes in small-town Manitoba.
We've heard throughout the summer stories of shocking violence toward our community and allies. We've seen to the south of us what following an anti-queer agenda can do, with Canada's recent travel advisory to the United States, where some states now have laws that put 2SLGBTQ+ people at threat of state-sanctioned discrimination.
And now we're back—poised at the edge of September, with students returning to schools where their curriculum, privacy, and access to information are all on the line. Some schools, like those in St. James Assiniboia, now have religion classes in public schools thanks to the work of the Children's Evangelical Fellowship. At a time when the popular discourse about parental rights—brought to you by groups like Action 4 Canada—is spreading from New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and now in Manitoba, putting kids in the crosshairs of a culture war.
As if all these issues weren't enough—now it's election season.
Attempts to ban books, mobs at board meetings, the idea of parents controlling curriculum are tactics from an extremist playbook.
Earlier in the summer, we asked 2SLGBTQ+ Manitobans what they think all parties in this election should be talking about when it comes to issues that impact 2SLGBTQ+ Manitobans. While combatting hate was number one, we boiled the findings down to four priorities:
- Combatting the rise of anti-2SLGBTQ+ hate
- Increasing access to safe healthcare / gender affirming care
- Increasing access to social supports for 2SLGBTQ+ Manitobans, and
- Prioritizing Diversity/Equity/Inclusion education for leadership, educators, and health workers.
Then, we shared those priorities with the PC Party of Manitoba, Manitoba NDP, and the Manitoba Liberals to hear their commitment to 2SLGBTQ+ Manitobans. Now, we've relayed those messages to you through our social media, website, media interviews, and even here (click here for the party statements). This campaign aims to have parties in this election take a stance that voters can then use later to hold them accountable and to educate voters on how those parties view the issues that impact 2SLGBTQ+ Manitobans. While also empowering voters in our community to make informed decisions.
"Though the current battlefields are schools," Smith continues, "in this fight, discrimination can be made a policy in various areas—sports, housing, mental health supports, programming, and more. Attempts to ban books, mobs at board meetings, the idea of parents controlling curriculum are tactics from an extremist playbook. These are not random attacks, they are the strategies of well-organized, well-funded, motivated groups. It is the same agenda used in the United States, which has now made it unsafe for 2SLGBTQ+ people to travel to."
All Manitobans have a role to play in what happens next.
This election should be the kind that inspires people to get out and vote. And with so many 2SLGBTQ+ new Canadians in Manitoba, with a generation of new voters who grew up in schools with Manitoba's first GSAs, with more DEI education in workplaces than ever before, there's a real opportunity for 2SLGBTQ+ issues to matter in this election.
"Canada is one of the safest countries for 2SLGBTQ+ people in the world and that is something to be proud of," Smith says, "but all Manitobans have a role to play in what happens next. At Rainbow, we work hard every day to empower our community to advocate for themselves and this election is no different."
Are you getting ready for the election? Take time to learn what your constituents say on the issues that matter to you. Make sure you're registered. Check out the Election Manitoba website to see where and what you will need to vote. And make a plan to vote. And if you have questions about voting, Rainbow Resource Centre is hosting a Vote PopUp at 545 Broadway, on Saturday, September 16, from 1 – 3 p.m. to help answer your questions in a safe space and motivate you to have your voice heard in this election. (Learn more here.)