Cana­di­ans still strug­gle with tol­er­ance

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - MARIO CANSECO

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.

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