On the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), more than 80 civil society groups across Canada are calling on the federal government to take more concrete steps to defend LGBT rights around the world.
The groups say a new volunteer coalition of human rights advocates, #ENDHatelaws, has been established to raise awareness of what it calls “an epidemic of hate.”
A May 16 letter to Foreign Minister John Baird includes a 10-point plan of action the groups are urging the government to execute.
Listed steps include a temporary recall of Canada’s ambassadors from countries that have adopted anti-LGBT legislation for consultations, review of development assistance to government bodies that promote or support discriminatory legislation, investigating and freezing the Canada-based financial holdings of legislators who incite violence against LGBT people, facilitating asylum of LGBT people fleeing persecution, and supporting the work of human rights advocates.
While the document’s signatories welcome the Canadian government’s statements condemning the enactment of anti-gay laws in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria, they say “a more concerted, ongoing response to legislated discrimination and public hatemongering” is necessary.
In many instances, media have been complicit in intensifying the “vitriolic” rhetoric of religious and political leaders, the groups say.
“Speaking out is important, but we need a strategic and ongoing response to these blatant human rights abuses that are destroying lives the world over,” says Richard Elliott, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, one of the statement’s signatories. “The vitriol and violence are escalating, as we’ve seen most recently in a report from Uganda documenting abuses since the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. We need to work in concert with local human rights advocates in affected countries, letting political and religious leaders know that legislating and inciting hate will not be allowed to continue with impunity.”