A conversation on LGBTQ issues and the federal election is coming soon to a city near you.
A coalition of national and regional LGBTQ organizations will host town halls in Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton on Oct. 8, Ottawa on Oct. 9 and Montreal on Oct. 15 with the major federal parties to address how LGBTQ issues are integrated into their platforms.
According to organizers, this marks the first time in Canadian history that a federal election will include a series of national town halls or debates on LGBTQ issues.
The town halls are being organized by 9 groups: the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, the Canadian LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, the Community-Based Research Centre, le Conseil québécois LGBT, Dignity Network, Egale Canada, Fierté Canada Pride and ProudPolitics. Canadian LGBTQ publication Xtra will act as a media sponsor for the events.
The groups are preparing local and national topics for discussion with candidates and federal parties. Topics could include conversion therapy, health care and Canada’s role in global human rights for LGBTQ people.
WATCH: A bylaw officer took down a pride flag in this B.C. town. The neighbourhood put up more. Story continues below.
Doug Kerr is the executive chair of the Dignity Network, a coalition of Canadian LGBTQ groups that focus on global human rights. He helped organize the town halls and says that the four major parties — the Liberal Party of Canada, the Conservative Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party and the Green Party — were invited to send representatives to the discussions. The Bloc Quebecois was also invited to the Montreal town hall.
“We’ve heard from a representative from each of the four major parties that they will be sending or trying to send somebody to each debate,” he told HuffPost Canada.
“Canada is a big country, and queer people and communities are very diverse. And it’s important, as much as possible, to try and have people in different parts of the country speak to the issues they care about.”
We’ve heard from a representative from each of the four major parties that they will be sending or trying to send somebody to each debate.Doug Kerr
Kerr says that unlike the upcoming commission-organized debates, organizers opted not to invite Maxime Bernier or the People’s Party of Canada.
“We want it to be a conversation with the parties that we think will likely be elected and have representation in parliament,” he said.
Kerr says the events will be livestreamed so Canadians across the country can have access to conversations on LGBTQ issues and the election. He said local groups are taking the charge for each event, and more information will be released in the coming weeks.
‘Commit’ to ensuring human rights are secure
In addition to the announcement of the town halls, 216 organizations across Canada signed off on a statement calling on all major Canadian political parties to include LGBTQ2 people in their platforms.
We call on all political parties running in the Canadian Federal election to commit to ensuring that human rights for sexual and gender minorities are secure in Canada and that our communities continue to be reflected in all areas of federal policy, both domestic and international. There continue to be policy areas for Canada to improve in and we call on all future governments to continue to work with LGBTQ2S civil society organizations in moving forward to address issues that are still facing our communities.
The 216 organizations include pride groups, AIDS organizations, labour councils, arts societies and more.
Kerr says in the coming weeks each group will release specific calls and demands in terms of government policy.
“The coalition I work for, the Dignity Network, is going to be releasing a set of recommendations to Canada on foreign policy, and refugees support that’s specific to our work,” he said. “So we have 19 recommendations to Global Affairs Canada and Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada.”
But Kerr said despite their differences in terms of specific policies, it’s important the 216 groups issued a joint statement in solidarity.
“LGBTQ people, they’re involved in all kinds of organizations,” he said. “So many of the organizations are not LGBTQ-specific, but they care about these issues and agree with the statement.”
LGBTQ issues on the top of the mind
The announcement of the town halls comes following news that the Liberals turned face on LGBTQ conversion therapy, announcing that they would ban it after all if re-elected.
WATCH: Founder of major conversion therapy ministry comes out as gay. Story continues below.
“We will move forward on our promise to work with provinces and territories to end conversion therapy in Canada, including making amendments to the Criminal Code that will prohibit this harmful and scientifically disproven practice, especially against minors,” the party’s official platform, released Sunday, says.
Meanwhile, this weekend Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer confirmed to French-language talk show “Tout le monde en parle” that he would not attend pride parades if elected as prime minister.
“I will not walk,” he said, but again stressed he will stand up for those who are persecuted for their sexual orientation.
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story referred to Xtra as an organizer for the town halls. The publication is actually a media sponsor and not involved in the decision to hold the town halls.