As late November approaches, newly elected MPs prepare to assemble in the nation’s capital for the opening of the new parliament – getting ready to push an agenda across several portfolios of health, justice, the economy, and more.
If September’s campaign period is any indication, some of Ottawa’s attention will fall on queer and trans people in Canada. All four major political parties made pledges to LGBT2Q constituents. Their promise: give us your vote, and we’ll make life better for you.
The question is, will they know where to start? Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) has some ideas which are outlined in a new document intended to inform legislators and other decision-makers is attempting to close.
“When it comes to queer and trans priorities, political leaders tend to zero in on very specific topics,” says Jody Jollimore, CBRC’s executive director. “But as an organization that works across a spectrum of health and wellbeing needs for our communities, we know there are actually dozens of actions the new cabinet should take starting tomorrow.”
The document, titled Frontiers of Queer & Trans Health Advocacy, identifies five core areas the federal government should focus on in its new term, highlighting relevant statistics and making high-level recommendations. These five areas include:
- The stigmatization and criminalization of our communities. Many policies and laws continue to unfairly and unscientifically target queer and trans people – from HIV disclosure laws and discriminatory blood donation policies to punishing substance users and sex workers (both of which disproportionately include LGBT2Q people).
- Barriers to gender affirming and culturally competent care. The health-care system often fails queer people, especially trans people – specifically as it relates to gender-affirming care, cultural competency, and discriminatory practices. Too many LGBTQ2 people are pushed away from or priced out of much-needed care.
- Mental health and its determinants. More than half of queer and trans people want help for at least one mental health issue – often stemming from sexual violence, bullying and harassment, discrimination, or “conversion therapy” (in its many forms).
- Harm reduction in substance use. As communities more likely to engage with substances (both legal and illicit), improved and LGBT2Q2-specialized supports are needed – supports that are often correlated with improved access to HIV education, mental health services, and medical care.
- HIV and STBBI testing, prevention, treatment, and support. With public health resources redistributed to COVID-19 during the pandemic and more people avoiding going into health-care spaces, access to HIV and STBBI care – the rates of which are already disproportionately high for queer and trans people – only became worse.
“Our hope is that by putting these issues in front of the new government we can expand our leaders’ understanding of what our communities need – and ensure services that improve health outcomes are included in the government’s Action Plan,” continued Jollimore.
Frontiers of Queer & Trans Health Advocacy includes recommendations CBRC made as part of public consultations around the first-ever Federal LGBTQ2 Action Plan, promised to be completed in the Liberal government’s first 100 days in office. CBRC intends to use the document to call for meaningful policy changes to strengthen the health and wellbeing of all people of diverse sexualities and genders across Canada.
“We want this government to know, we’re watching,” said Jollimore. “Until clear and concrete steps are taken on all fronts, we will continue to speak up, using evidence to make the case for strengthening queer and trans health.”