Pride Month is celebrated in Canada and worldwide during June, serving as a time to honor and celebrate the 2SLGBTQ+ community while acknowledging the struggles they have faced in achieving equality in both legal and societal contexts.
The roots of Pride celebrations in Canada can be traced back to protests against discrimination. According to Women and Gender Equity Canada, the first demonstrations occurred in Ottawa and Vancouver in 1971.
In the present day, Canada celebrates 2SLGBTQ+ individuals in various ways throughout June. One prominent symbol is the rainbow flag, which is flown on homes, businesses, as well as at City Halls and schools across the country.
Toronto is particularly renowned for its Pride celebrations, culminating in one of the largest Pride parades in the world. This year, the parade will take place on June 25th and will feature over 100 groups marching. Numerous other cities across Canada also organize parades, parties, concerts, and discussions throughout the month.
The federal government fully supports these events and recently pledged $1.5 million to Pride organizations to ensure adequate funding for all planned activities.
On June 8th, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Immigration Minister Sean Fraser announced Canada’s partnership with the Rainbow Railroad, a non-profit organization that assists 2SLGBTQ+ refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Minister Fraser highlighted the severe discrimination faced by LGBTQI+ individuals in many parts of the world and emphasized Canada’s commitment to protecting their rights and freedoms. The partnership with Rainbow Railroad enables Canada to become a safe haven for at-risk LGBTQI+ individuals, making it one of the first countries to establish such an arrangement with an LGBTQI+ organization.
Furthermore, Canada has recently been ranked as the safest travel destination worldwide for 2SLGBTQ+ travelers and is considered a leading destination for 2SLGBTQ+ immigrants. This is largely due to its reputation for safety and tolerance. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is strictly prohibited under the Canadian Human Rights Act and cannot be used to reject immigration applications.
Same-sex couples can marry, sponsor their same-sex partners or spouses for family-class immigration, and adopt children. They are entitled to all the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex partners or spouses.
Statistics Canada data from 2018 reveals that over half of gay or lesbian immigrants (55.0%), as well as a significant proportion of bisexual (49.6%) and heterosexual (45.8%) immigrants aged 25 to 64, hold at least a bachelor’s degree. This percentage is higher than that of Canadian-born individuals of the same sexual orientations. The study also indicates that a larger percentage of gay or lesbian and bisexual individuals (6.3% and 5.0%, respectively) speak both of Canada’s official languages, English and French, compared to heterosexual individuals (3.0%).
The immigration process for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals is no different from that of any other applicant. Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) explicitly states that sexual orientation or gender identity is not a required disclosure during the immigration application. Instead, applicants are asked to mark their gender as ‘F’ for female, ‘M’ for male, or ‘X’ for another gender.
If an individual’s gender identity changes or differs from the information provided in their application to IRCC (which must match their passport, potentially preventing a change in their home country), they can apply to have it updated on their permanent resident card, work or study visas, or citizenship certificate without needing supporting documents.
The history of 2SLGBTQ+ rights in Canada has not always been positive, particularly in relation to immigration. In 1953, amendments to the Immigration Act prohibited “homosexuals” from immigrating to Canada. However, progress began with the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969, accompanied by Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s famous statement that the “state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.” It was not until 1978 that “homosexual” immigrants were considered admissible to Canada.
In subsequent years, advancements were made, such as the legalization of same-sex couple adoptions in 1995 and the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected ground against discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act in 1996. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples in Ontario should be entitled to equal benefits as married or common-law partners, deeming the definition of a spouse as a partner of the opposite sex unconstitutional.
Canada became the third country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2005, following Belgium (2003) and the Netherlands (2000). In 2013, Bill C-279 extended human rights protections to transgender and transsexual individuals, and in 2017, gender identity and gender expression were added as protected grounds from discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Through these significant milestones and ongoing efforts, Canada continues to promote inclusivity, equal rights, and protections for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals within its borders and beyond.