Salt Spring Island holds its 14th annual Pride festival this week.
While the emphasis is mainly on celebration and fun, the struggles faced by LGBTQ individuals in both Canada and around the world are never far from participants’ minds, and with good reason.
A Statistics Canada report released in June found that lesbian and gay people were twice as likely to be victims of violent crime than their hetereosexual counterparts, with bisexual individuals nine times as likely to be victims. The higher rates were even accounting for the fact that they were less likely to report such incidents. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people also reported experiencing some form of discrimination at much higher rates than the heterosexual population.
Around the world, as reported by the United Nations, progress towards equality has been made in recent years in some countries, like India and Thailand, while LGBTQ people continue to be persecuted in others, such as Nigeria and Malaysia.
As we head into local Pride activities this week, when awareness of equality issues is heightened, the timing of a new initiative called BC Safe Place couldn’t be better.
Salt Spring RCMP Const. Andrea Fitzpatrick has done the legwork to bring the program, which exists in some other B.C. communities, to the island. It sees use of stickers displayed to indicate that a business or other public premises is a safe space for people experiencing harassment due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Fitzpatrick was set to present the idea to Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce representatives on Tuesday night. They will then communicate the concept and details to their group’s membership.
Some islanders may view such a program unnecessary due to Salt Spring’s reputation as an enlightened or educated place, but the island is not immune to hate or discrimination. The BC Safe Place program not only has a practical application in case an individual needs a physically safe space to be but it also communicates broad support for LGBTQ individuals, equality and diversity, and a lack of support for intolerance.
Kudos to Const. Fitzpatrick for bringing the BC Safe Place program to Salt Spring. We hope it is embraced with the same kind of enthusiasm as this week’s Salt Spring Pride celebrations will be.