Over the past 25 years, Canadians have seen dramatic gains in the legal rights and social status of LGBTQ2 people.
Despite these gains, at least one in six of these people — or a quarter of a million Canadians — have attempted suicide at least once.
That’s four times higher than the rate of heterosexual people.
“These statistics indicate that more government action is needed,” said Dr. Travis Salway, research fellow at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health and witness at the hearing.
Dr. Salway was one of four expert witnesses at an April 9 House of Commons Standing Committee on Health (HESA) hearing, as Members of Parliament continue to study the health of LGBTQ2 Canadians.
He went on to explain how “minority stress” works to chip away at the confidence, self-esteem and sense of hope of queer people — even as the movement overall has made legal and social strides.
Disparaging comments from parents, discomfort using public washrooms, or feelings of social isolation still compound, driving LGBTQ2 people to decisions that increasingly put their health at risk.
Young people, for instance, turn to living on the streets, said the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Dr. Alex Abramovich, another witness at the April 9 hearing.
“There are approximately 40,000 young people experiencing homelessness in Canada… and up to 40 per cent identify as LGBTQ2S,” Dr. Abramovich said.
For adults, substance abuse is another way to deal with these stressors — especially among men.
“Gay men are also shown to have higher rates of tobacco use, heavier episodic drinking, and nearly twice the level of substance use disorder as the general population,” said witness and Executive Director of the Health Initiative for Men, Greg Oudman.
This demonstrates, the witnesses argued, that the LGBTQ2 community simply doesn't have access to the same quality of life as the majority of Canadians. Even with constraints between federal, provincial and municipal powers, the government should do more to protect and improve the health of queer Canadians.
“There should be no boundary between levels of government — there is no excuse,” York Region PFLAG President Tristan Coolman told the committee.
“You must push forward with all of them with the utmost urgency. It's not your place to pick and choose, but to listen and to take action.”
|Tristan Coolman, Travis Salway, and Alex Abramovich.|
HESA is also inviting anyone to submit their own brief on the topic, with a deadline of May 2, 2019.
To learn more about the study, HESA or the ongoing hearings, check our dedicated page.
To hear the testimony of all presenters at the Meeting No. 138 HESA - Standing Committee on Health, review the evidence or read the minutes, visit the links below to the HESA webpage:
• Alex Abramovich, Independent Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research
• Travis Salway, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia
Health Initiative for Men
• Greg Oudman, Executive Director
Pflag York Region
• Tristan Coolman, President