Over the past 50 years, Canada’s LGBTQ+ community has made great strides in promoting its rights. These include the decriminalization of homosexuality in the 1960s, the entrenchment of equal rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, and the enactment of the historic Civil Marriage Act in 2005. The adoption of Bill C-16 by the Senate of Canada on June 15 adds gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination. Having sought this type of protection for many years, the transgender community welcomed the legislation with great emotion and gratitude.
Canada is known as an ardent defender of human rights — both at home and abroad. Although Canadians have been celebrating International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia every year since 2005 and significant gains are being made to protect LGBTQ+ minorities, the situation is quite different in certain other countries.
On June 15, 2017, just a few hours before Bill C-16 was passed in the Senate of Canada, The Globe and Mail reported that an 18‑year‑old Malaysian youth had died in a hospital in his country after being beaten, burned with cigarettes and sodomized with blunt objects by a group of young people his age who found him too effeminate. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case.
That is why, as an independent Acadian senator, I have added my voice to those who are committed to this cause and have agreed to be a spokesperson for the first Rendez-vous de la Fierté: Acadie Love (French only), which will take place from July 13 to 16 in Caraquet, on the Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick.
The goal of this new initiative is to promote inclusion, solidarity and awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and to celebrate sexual diversity through artistic, cultural and educational activities.
The impressive programming features well-known personalities, including Dr. Réjean Thomas, poet Jean‑Paul Daoust, internationally renowned Caraquet artist Léopold Foulem, singer Sandra Lecouteur, author Christiane Saint‑Pierre and the wonderful Mado Lamothe. Participants will be entertained while at the same time learning about the challenges surrounding respect for human rights. All are invited to attend the films, themed conferences and cabaret shows that will be taking place.
The municipality of Caraquet, where I was born, has always demonstrated creativity and innovation in hosting community-building events. The Festival acadien de Caraquet, the Festival acadien de poésie, the Festival des arts visuels en Atlantique and the Festival de théâtre jeunesse en Acadie are some of the flagship cultural events that have sprung up in this community and that contribute to Caraquet’s reputation. Acadie Love, this newest festival, is a further demonstration of the important place this dynamic, community holds in Canada.
Join us this summer in celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary in all its wealth and diversity!
For more information, please visit www.acadielove.ca.
René Cormier is a senator representing New Brunswick. He is a member of the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, the Senate Committee on Official Languages, in addition to the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications.