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Canadian activists plan events to coincide with US National Equality March

Organizers hope to draw attention to issues at home and around the world

A few Canadian gay activists are planning solidarity events in support of the US National Equality March in Washington, DC on Oct 10 and 11.

The Equality March aims to put pressure on Washington to address queer issues on a federal level. Organizers are demanding action on employment non-discrimination, ending the HIV travel ban, repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and eliminating the ban on gays in the military, among many other issues.

Some US-based activists have suggested that Canadians could play a role.

“When mobs in Caribbean countries attack LGBT people, when there are violent protests at Pride celebrations in Eastern Europe, we are obligated to help them in some way,” suggests San Francisco-based grassroots activist Seth Fowler, who is involved with the group One Struggle, One Fight.

While Fowler recognizes countries around the world have their own queer issues to deal with, he would like to see activists in Canada and other countries organize solidarity marches on the same weekend. Fowler sees it as an opportunity to focus on queer rights in their own countries, but also as a platform to put pressure on their governments to act on injustices that are happening to queer people elsewhere.

“Coming together and fighting for rights and awareness of issues is a powerful thing,” says Fowler. “It would be interesting to see hundreds of thousands of people descend on Toronto… and to get [the government of] Canada to step up and help create an international outcry when human rights are violated.”

Recent Canadian rallies in support of US issues have typically drawn small, but vocal crowds. When the California Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 in May, a few dozen protestors turned out to the US Consulate in Toronto to express their anger.

Canadian-based writer and activist Thom Vernon organized Toronto Prop 8 protests in May 2009 and November 2008. A former US resident, he has taken the first steps to creating a solidarity event in Toronto.

“Queer problems down there [in the US] are queer problems everywhere,” he suggests.

Roger Chin was one of the main organizers of the Vancouver Prop 8 rallies in November 2008 and May 2009. He thinks that a Canadian-based event in support of the National Equality March would also remind Canadians to not take our rights and freedoms for granted. “It’s not good to assume. Rights have been taken away before,” says Chin, who suggests one need to look no further than Prop 8 to see how rights can be given and then taken back.

Chin suggests harnessing the power of the web to create action and organize, pointing to sites such as Jointheimpact.com. “I think last November’s worldwide [Prop 8] rallies were the first time the internet was used on such a scale to organize a grassroots movement,” says Chin. “The internet is a great way to access people from outside the gay ghettos. There are open-minded people who can’t voice their thoughts in suburbia and in rural areas.”

The timing of the upcoming march marks the 30th anniversary of the US 1st National March for Lesbian and Gay rights that happened on Oct 14, 1979. The Equality March also falls on the same weekend as the National Coming Out Day.

To connect with Seth Fowler email him at Seth@onestruggleonefight.com.

To contact Roger Chin visit the Canadians Against Prop 8 Facebook group.

For more info on the National Equality March go to: Equalityacrossamerica.org.

Thom Vernon has created a Facebook event for a Toronto solidarity event.