MP Stephen Fuhr

All Canadians deserve to feel safe and to have their most fundamental rights protected. But for decades, Canada failed countless individuals who had their lives and livelihoods shattered for simply being who they were or because of who they loved.

Canadians who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer,or two-spirit were unjustly treated. They were fired from jobs, denied promotions, put under surveillance, arrested, convicted, and shamed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. People lost their livelihoods, their families, and, some, their lives.

Since the late 1960s, Canadians have worked to bring about change. It’s a road that has been long and arduous, but as people have become more aware and educated, we have made slow progress.

Every June, we recognize Pride Week, a time to celebrate our LGBTQ2 communities and to look back at some remarkable achievements: the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969, the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Charter in 1996, the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in 2005 and, in the last three years, the legal protection of trans rights, the prevention of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, and a formal apology to the LGBTQ2 community for the wrongs suffered as a result of federal legislation, programs and policies.

But progress can be fragile, and as a society, there is more to do.

Today, members of the LGBTQ2 community are still facing opposition from populist political entities that not only fail to support the LGBTQ2 community publicly, but actively work against LGBTQ2 rights when it comes to adopting or amending social and economic polices. This is unacceptable.

Locally, many of you will march this weekend in our local Pride parade to show your support for friends, family and co-workers. I applaud you for it, but it will take much more. It will take standing up against those who willfully promote discrimination at work, at school and online or those who choose to do nothing to advance inclusive and progressive policy.

In 2016, it was my privilege to be Kelowna-Lake Country’s first Member of Parliament to participate as an Okanagan Pride Grand Marshall and as Co-Marshal of the Trans Pride March. I am extremely proud to be a member of a government that recognizes and supports the efforts of local organizations who organize local Pride events and contribute positively to the social cohesion of our local communities.

Refusals to participate in pride parades or celebrations from our political leadership is not only out of place, it signals a threat to the progress we want and deserve as Canadians.

It will take continued co-operation, compassion and understanding to maintain a civil society and by recognizing the strength inherent in diversity, and seeing the value in every citizen, we are in a much better position to find solutions and harness our potential to address our biggest challenges.

Stephen Fuhr is the Liberal Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country .

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