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Supporting the Gender, Sexual and Relationship Diverse (GSRD) Community in Manitoba

Thursday May 31, I spoke in the Manitoba Legislature on the GSRD community, the progress that has been made and the challenges which are still present.  My remarks (from Hansard) are below.  Below my remarks is a Petition that I read.  If you would like copies of the petition to get signatures, please email Shandi Strong in my office at
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the resolution from the MLA for Point Douglas on Celebrating Pride in Manitoba this week.
      We in the Manitoba Liberal Party agree and support the fact that Manitoba is a diverse and inclusive province which should recognize, affirm and celebrate joyfully all members of our society.
      There are several points that I want to make about the past and current state of affairs for people who are now referred to as the gender, sexual and relationship diverse or GSRD community here in Manitoba. Many people both in and outside of the GSRD community view Pride as a big party, a big celebration of the community and their many hard‑fought achievements over the past decades, and it is a celebration, and we should celebrate joyfully. But there remain challenges ahead which we need to look out for and to work towards addressing.
      Included among the many achievements are various protections under the Human Rights Code: the right to marry, the right to be parents and obtain spousal benefits. All of these came with much struggle and debate, and, as I've said, even though these are wonderful achievements, there still is work to do.
      I note that the NDP didn't recognize same-sex marriage in 2004 until they were ordered to do so by a judge, and that order came about due to the efforts of Richard North and Chris Vogel, who were the first same-sex couple to challenge Canada's marriage laws. Ontario and British Columbia had already legalized same-sex marriage two years earlier under provincial Liberal governments.
      The changes in 2004 were won by Rich North and Chris Vogel, who in 1974 became one of the first couples in Canada to be married in the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg. But the government of Manitoba refused to recognize and register this marriage. The two advocates have now been together for 44 years, longer than many marriages of any gender. Instead of receiving the simple recognition that any other non-gay couple would receive, instead of simply acknowledging and respecting these two human beings, both previous governments have hidden behind red tape and outdated laws to deny them the dignity that they have earned.
* (11:50)
      The dignity could have been bestowed in 2004 with the simple stroke of a pen like Ontario did. But even today Richard and Chris still fight for this right. While ironically the marriage certificate issued to them by the Unitarian church in 1974 is displayed at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
      British Columbia was the first province in Canada to open the door to same sex adoption in 1996, even before they were legally allowed to marry. But the NDP in May of 2001 introduced an omnibus bill to address some of the rights won by same sex couples. It completely omitted same sex adoption. It was only after days of protesting that they agreed to study the issue and then finally allowed adoption rights to same sex couples in 2002.
      The NDP also didn't update The Marriage Act until 2008, when in the statutes correction and minor amendments act an 'omnimus' bill, they replaced the words husband and wife with spouses, with little fanfare or attention to this changes, an important but significant change.
      Even though the NDP passed legislation in 2013 that protected the rights of all Manitoba students to organize gay-straight alliances and antibullying clubs in their schools, the current government has allowed the Hanover School Division to keep its policy that prevents teachers from talking about sexual orientation in the classroom and they did not expand the Roots of Empathy program to all schools in Manitoba, despite it's proven record to reduce bullying and improve prosocial behaviour.
      The provincial ban on conversion therapy didn't happen until the NDP's last year of government in 2016. And it happened only after a Liberal government in Ontario had banned it, and the NDP did so only after they were pressured by our own Liberal caucus.
      Even today, despite so much hard fought progress, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other sexually diverse people of all ages and skin  colours are subjected to hate motivated physical violence.
      They are still too often discriminated against in the labour market, in schools, in hospitals, often due to ignorance. And they are often still today even mistreated and disowned by their own families. Two-spirited people have been only slowly gaining recognition in their own culture after the effects of hundreds of years of colonization spent trying to erase them.
      Organizations like Pride Winnipeg, the Rainbow Resource Centre and community individuals who advocate and educate for change and improvement have increased their effort to assist the less visible members of their community. But their goals for education and inclusivity are all too often thwarted by outdated legislation and outdated attitudes. It's time to change the attitudes and to take action to assist their efforts. I'm pleased that there is some continuing progress.
      Transgender and non-binary people are among the many people who face struggles. Recent attempts to be more inclusive toward them in this House have failed under the guise of getting it right, when getting it right means simply acknowledging their existence with changes to identification and government forms.
      These changes would help them when accessing government services, dealing with persons of authority and accessing health care in a hospital without invasive, embarrassing and insulting questions or comments. As members of this community age, they fear going into nursing homes where they may be forced back into the closet because of ignorance and discrimination.
      All of these issues are part of the services and protections that we in this House need to support and protect for all of our constituents.
      Understanding and education is what is needed. Acceptance instead of rejection on technicalities and politicking is needed. But instead, cutbacks rule the day. When important programs like PRISM from the Big Brothers and Big Sisters which serves youth who are non-binary, trans, two-spirited and gender creative, have their funding reduced.
      So, despite some forced success and luck with Manitobans, basic human rights and the resultant policy and legislation for our gender and sexually diverse communities, this progress has come, but we still have challenges ahead. I'm pleased that the NDP in opposition has brought forward this resolution and is taking this area very seriously.
      The Legislative Assembly of Manitoba should be called upon to celebrate the advances made by the GSRD community and work with the GSRD community to combat and eliminate discrimination against GSRD people in society.
      We in the Manitoba Liberal Party urge the Assembly to support this resolution, to demonstrate our commitment to make Manitoba a more inclusive society which is welcoming and accepting of all.
      Thank you. Merci. Miigwech.

Petition on Gender Neutral Documents

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): I wish to present the following petition to the Manitoba Legislature.
      The background to this petition is as follows:
      Gender, sexuality and gender identity are protected characteristics of human rights, both federally and provincially, in Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and soon will be in Saskatchewan, Yukon and other places in Canada. These governments have realized the need for this option on identification for the benefit of people who   identify or who are identified by others as intersex, third gender, transgender, genderqueer or non‑binary.
      Identification in government documents should  reflect gender neutrality to prevent issues that may arise from intentional bias on gender, and   misgendering. The people described above face   anxiety and discrimination in many aspects of   day‑to-day life such as: (a) interactions with health‑care professionals; (b) interactions with persons of authority; (c) accessing government services; (d) applying for employment.
      Gender neutrality describes the idea that policies, language and other social institutions should avoid distinguishing roles according to people's sex or gender in order to avoid discrimination arising from impressions that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than another.
      Many newcomers to Canada may already have gender-neutral ID.
      Many indigenous persons are coming to identify as two-spirit as the effects of colonization are lessening, and this needs to be addressed in the process of reconciliation.
      Being forced to accept an assigned gender affects children and newborns as they grow and   become part of society. There are many psychological benefits for transgender and non‑binary people to be allowed to develop without the constraints put upon them by having their gender assigned based on purely physical attributes.
      The consideration to have a third option like X   or Other on documents was on the previous government's radar for several years, but the current provincial government has not taken steps to implement it.
      The City of Winnipeg is actively making its forms reflective of gender neutrality in respect to all persons who work for or come into contact with that government.
      The federal government now issues passports and is educating personnel about the correct language and references for non-binary persons.
      An Other option existed on enumeration forms for Elections Manitoba in 2016, was easily accepted, and provided a framework to provide accurate statistics of those who do not identify under the current binary system.
      The foresight, along with training and making changes on required forms, acknowledges and accepts persons who fall outside the binary gender so that governments and people can more effectively interact with one another and reduce the anxieties of everyone involved.
      We petition the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba as follows:
      (1) To urge the provincial government to immediately begin implementation of plans to convert systems and forms to be more inclusive of two-spirit and other non-binary individuals, whether it be to include a third gender option or no requirement for gender on forms unless medically or statistically necessary, including health cards and birth certificates.
      (2) To urge the provincial government to immediately instruct the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation to offer a third gender option or no gender requirement for licences or any other form of provincial identification.
      (3) To urge the provincial government to instruct Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living to offer the option of Manitoba Health cards with no gender in order to reduce the anxieties of transgender and non-binary persons accessing the health-care system as a first step.
      (4) To consider revisiting legislation that may need updating to meet the needs of its citizens in this regard.
      Signed by Shandi Strong, Alex Deezer, [phonetic] Matt McNeill [phonetic] and many others.


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