The Gulf Islands’ senior elected officials were in Vancouver over the weekend for the largest Pride event in the province.
Elizabeth May and Adam Olsen may have been wearing the colour of their Canadian and B.C. Green parties, but their energy was 100 per cent rainbow. Their enthusiasm for diversity and equality in Vancouver will soon be matched at this island’s Pride celebrations in September, and the brand new Pride event that comes to Pender Island Aug. 15-17.
Many signs suggest mainstream culture continues to shift to inclusion. Lil Nas X, the Atlanta rapper who paired up with Billy Ray Cyrus for the astronomically successful hit Old Town Road, stepped out of his hyper-masculine zone and came out as gay on World Pride Day, June 1. Closer to home, the current season of the Amazing Race Canada includes a pair of married First Nations men, who have become good friends with a more traditional young Indo-Canadian couple.
But despite these encouraging examples in popular culture, counter viewpoints are still in play, and can cause deep harm to young people. Conversion therapy, a forced psychological and sometimes medical treatment to turn gay people straight, is currently getting attention at the political level.
Conversion therapy is not covered by the Medical Services Plan or recognized by professional colleges. The B.C. Greens introduced legislation in May that would make the decisive step of banning it outright for anyone under age 19. Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have passed laws to restrict conversion therapy for minors, and the cities of Vancouver and St. Albert, Alta. have implemented complete bans.
On Aug. 1, the B.C. government wrote to federal Justice Minister David Lametti asking the federal government to add conversion therapy to Canada’s Criminal Code. And Lametti had already written to provincial governments asking them to do what they could to end the practice in their jurisdictions.
Pender’s Pride Parade is described as a festive way for LGBTQ+ folk and their allies to be visible and support a diverse community, but also to support those around the world who still do not enjoy equality and safety.
Senior government efforts to ban conversion therapy show there is still plenty of work to be done at home. As we get ready for local Pride events in the islands, we should encourage our leaders to get that work done.