Talk­ing equal­ity at Pride event

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE STE­WART

Com­ments on social me­dia re­cently about the LGBTQ com­mu­nity only make the fight for equal rights harder.

That was part of the sen­ti­ment Wed­nes­day at a panel dis­cus­sion en­ti­tled “Bias Aside for Pride’’ in Char­lot­te­town, part of on­go­ing Pride Week ac­tiv­i­ties.

Ste­wart McKelvey, AIDS P.E.I. and Pride P.E.I. hosted the panel dis­cus­sion on the les­bian gay bi­sex­ual trans­gen­dered and queer (LGBTQ) social jus­tice his­tory in the prov­ince.

“One thing we’d like to con­tinue see­ing is equal rights for all peo­ple and en­sur­ing that peo­ple in the queer com­mu­nity have leg­is­la­tion that en­sures that they are safe and have equal rights in the work­place, health care . . . all as­pects of their life,’’ said Chelsey Roger­son, com­mu­ni­ca­tions co-or­di­na­tor with Pride P.E.I.

A Summerside busi­ness owner re­cently came un­der fire for com­ments he posted on Face­book against painted rain­bow-coloured cross­walks in Char­lot­te­town.

Roger­son said they would pre­fer to fo­cus on com­pa­nies that are sup­port­ive of Pride.

“There are many of them, and we are very ap­pre­cia­tive of the sup­port that we have from our lo­cal com­mu­nity. We are sad­dened to see those types of com­ments and we hope that it will be used as a teach­ing mo­ment. Hope­fully, peo­ple can learn from it and grow from it and we can move for­ward.’’

Nola Etkin, chair­woman of the AIDS P.E.I. board and found­ing co-chair­woman of the Abeg­weit Rain­bow Col­lec­tive, said the rain­bow colours sym­bol­ize equal­ity for all.

“I think that there’s a lot of fairly hate­ful and ig­no­rant com­ments that have been made and that white wash­ing, which is im­ply­ing the colour of white rep­re­sents ev­ery­body, is prob­lem­atic,’’ Etkin said. “It hides di­ver­sity in­stead of cel­e­brat­ing it. The rain­bow has al­ways been a sym­bol of in­clu­sion, and its an in­clu­sion of ev­ery­body.’’

As for the le­gal fight, Etkin said there has been a lot of progress over the years — pro­tec­tion un­der the Hu­man Rights Act, mar­riage rights, ben­e­fits at the work­place for same sex part­ners, pro­tec­tion for fam­i­lies and laws for trans­gen­dered peo­ple, just to name a few ex­am­ples.

“I think trans rights are still a work in progress,’’ Etkin said. “There are still chal­lenges for any­one who is dif­fer­ent.’’

Chera-Lee Gomez, an as­so­ciate lawyer with Ste­wart McKelvey, said it’s the firm’s first time host­ing af­ter form­ing a di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion com­mit­tee last year.

She said the panel dis­cus­sion was a chance to hear how the law has af­fected those tak­ing part and how they may have felt and con­tinue to feel about dis­crim­i­na­tion. “This (panel dis­cus­sion) al­lows us to get more knowl­edge and grow re­la­tion­ships so that we move for­ward in a pos­i­tive way,’’ Gomez said.

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