Québec releases its Action plan to combat homophobia: community reacts
Years in the making, the Action plan to fight homophobia was finally unveiled today by Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier and key community members who consulted on the government’s Plan de lutte contre l’homophobie. The plan sets out a diverse set of action items including funding increases to community organizations, a Research Chair at UQÀM, and the creation of a Bureau for combatting homophobia.
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Four years after the Québec Human Rights Commission released its report “From legal equality to social equality”, the Action plan to combat homophobia (Plan d’action gouvernemental de lutte contre l’homophobie) was finally unveiled today by Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier, along with GaiÉcoute’s Laurent McCutcheon, sexology Professor Line Chamberland, and CQGL’s Steve Foster. The long-awaited 5-year Action plan was greeted by a standing ovation from the assembled community members, activists and researchers who were gathered to hear the details.
Justice Minister Fournier won over the crowd of LGBT community members and media, who gave an almost unanimous standing ovation to his carefully unfolded announcements of increased funding, bureaucratic structures, continued community consultation, and major public awareness campaigns scheduled for 2012 and 2014. In the off-years, $200,000 will be distributed to select LGBT advocacy groups to spearhead their own awareness campaigns, along with $500,000 of added funding per annum, and a special project fund of $200,000. Although the list of community orgs selected to benefit from the increased funding has not yet been announced, the presence of Fondation Émergence, the CQGL, and Fournier’s mention of media-friendly outreach org GRIS was a strong indication of which ones will be favoured by the Justice Minister’s newfound largesse.
Of the $7.1 million dollars allocated for the Action plan’s implementation over 5 years, $475,000 will go to the newly created “action-research and partnership-based” Research Chair on Homophobia at UQÀM, to be overseen by the eminent sexologist and community researcher Line Chamberland. Pr. Chamberland was visibly overjoyed at the outcome of the working group’s many years of collaboration with the Ministry, saying that she was “really excited” to share the Action plan and its back-story at upcoming conferences in Lyon, Madrid, and at the North American Outgames conference in Vancouver this summer.
But it’s not all about the money and the good vibes. Mr. Fournier spoke convincingly of having “learned a lot” since taking over from his predecessor Kathleen Weil about the suffering and challenges faced by LGBTTQ people in Québec, in spite of the many formal and legal civil rights victories that have been granted over the past 20 years. In keeping with the strategy of enriching legal equality with greater social equality, the Action plan includes the implementation of anti-homophobia measures in 11 different ministries, notably labour, immigration, public security, aboriginal affairs, the status of women, and the infamous État Civil. The Bureau de lutte contre l’homophobie, housed in the Ministry of Justice, will be responsible for coordinating government efforts to train, sensitize, and communicate the policy. There was no mention yet as to who would be pegged to head the newly found office.
Activist group PolitiQ Queers Solidaires, which has been lobbying for easier access to name and sex change rights for transgendered people, said in a statement that they were glad to see these issues named in the Action plan, but still urge the Ministry to redress its sterilization requirements for a legal sex change with the État Civil registry. Minister Fournier would not comment on the possibility of removing the requirement for gender reassignment surgery for trans people to obtain a change on their ID cards, but the Action plan does specifically mention “facilitating” name changes by coordinating efforts between ministries, and possibly loosening name change publication requirements.
Although Steve Foster from the Council of Québec Gays and Lesbians has been part of the working group for the Plan for years, he and other stake-holders were only provided with copies of the Action plan the night before. Nonetheless, they liked what they saw. “When the anti-homophobia policy was announced originally, there was no funding attached, and now there’s $7.1 million, only some of which will go to the operation of the government bureau,” Foster said. As the main liaison between the working group of community members and researchers set up to advise the Minister of Justice, Foster added that the CQGL is also happy to see more recommendations, over 60 in total, in the Action plan than they anticipated.
For Alexa Conradi, president of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, it was a long-awaited validation of the struggles the LGBTQ community have gone through, particularly with the endemic problem of being made to feel different, and having the effects of that ignored. “There are complex issues at stake when you’re dealing with homophobia,” she began, feeling the emotions in the room and the subject at hand. “It represents years of people’s work and years of people living with suffering, and there’s something touching about how we’ve gotten to the point of validating people’s struggles.”
Conradi was happy to see that the Action plan specifically addressed lesbophobia and homophobic violence against women, which is usually subsumed under mostly gay male experiences of prejudice. Even though the plan won’t “break down hierarchies,” she concluded, “this will send a message that discrimination is unacceptable.”
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