Canadians still struggle with tolerance
When Research Co. asked Canadians last month, 45 per cent of respondents thought people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse, queer, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2+) are “born this way,” while one in four (24 per cent) believe they are “making a choice.”
The “choice” reasoning is slightly more popular among men (27 per cent), Canadians aged 35 to 54 (28 per cent), Quebecers (27 per cent), Conservative voters in the 2015 federal election (33 per cent) and Canadians of East Asian descent (35 per cent).
Over time, the issue of legal recognition has no longer been problematic for most Canadians. Almost two thirds (64 per cent) believe same-sex couples should continue to be allowed to legally marry – a proportion that includes 72 per cent of women, 77 per cent of those living in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and 75 per cent of Liberal Party voters in the 2015 federal election.
This leaves just over a third of Canadians who hold different feelings about same-sex marriage. While 15 per cent of respondents would be content to go back to the concept of civil unions that are not recognized as marriage, 10 per cent of Canadians believe there should not be any kind of legal recognition to these partnerships. Another 11 per cent of Canadians are undecided.
The way these issues evolve is not confined to marriage licenses.
Some school districts in Canada have relied on “SOGI-inclusive education,” (including School District 57 in Prince George) which raises awareness of and welcomes students of all sexual orientations, gender identities and family structures.
Only one in five Canadians (20 per cent) are opposed to SOGIinclusive education being used in their province, while more than three in five (62 per cent) are in favour of it. There are no enormous age differences on this issue, with support remaining fairly stable among millennials (64 per cent), generation X (62 per cent) and baby boomers (60 per cent).
As expected, Canadians who voted for the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the last federal election are more supportive of SOGI-inclusive education (70 per cent and 63 per cent respectively) than those who cast a ballot for Conservative candidates (53 per cent).
A matter that is decidedly more contentious is gay straight alliances (GSAs) and/or queer straight alliances (QSAs). These are peer support networks run by students and supported by school staff in order to promote a safe place for all students.
When asked if school districts should be compelled to inform parents if their child participates in a GSA or QSA in school, there is a more uniform split. While 45 per cent of Canadians think parents should “definitely” or “probably” be informed about their child’s participation in a GSA or QSA, 37 per cent disagree and 18 per cent are not sure.
On a regional basis, the numbers are interesting. There are three areas where the number of residents who believe parents should be informed is higher than those who opt for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude: Quebec (49 per cent to 32 per cent), British Columbia (46 per cent to 35 per cent) and Ontario (43 per cent to 39 per cent). Atlantic Canadians are evenly split (40 per cent to 39 per cent).
On the Prairies, the numbers swing. There are more residents of Alberta (46 per cent) and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (54 per cent) who believe schools should not be compelled to advise parents of their child’s participation in GSAs or QSAs.
In Alberta, discussions about this topic grew louder after the NDP government passed Bill 24, which made it illegal for teachers to tell parents if their child joined a GSA or QSA. The new United Conservative Party government countered with Bill 8 in early July, which no longer provides legal protections for GSAs and QSAs in Alberta’s schools.
Change takes time, awareness and education. Policy-makers should be smart enough to understand what most Canadians and many companies already know: the only “choice” at hand on LGBTQ2+ issues is one between prejudice and acceptance.