“[Homophobia] is one of the really big issues that we deal with in the training and working through the youth facilitators,” Fairholm says. “We look at all aspects of discrimination, of which that is a huge one. Obviously, this is a critical issue and one that is definitely in all our literature and is highlighted, and we are addressing it with our kids.”
The specific program the Red Cross will use to combat homophobia within Stand Up to Bullying and Discrimination in Canadian Communities is one developed by AIDS New Brunswick: “bullying and peer harassment prevention supporting LGBTQ youth and strengthening their ability to live, learn and love safely.”
Additionally, Fairholm says the Red Cross engaged in informal surveying and testing with Alberta’s Camp fYrefly for queer youth, and with Youth Understanding Youth, an Alberta support group.
“When we were developing our activities, we reviewed closely the findings of a University of Winnipeg climate study of homophobia. We also accessed the Alberta Teachers’ Association website, looking at diversity, equity and human rights, and used some materials [on] understanding the term LGBTQ,” Fairholm says.
Gay NDP MP Dany Morin’s private member’s motion, M-385, sought to establish a standing committee tasked with studying the issue of bullying and would have eventually proposed a comprehensive national strategy to prevent it. His motion was defeated by a vote of 149 to 134 on Nov 21.
Morin says Monday’s announcement did not give “concrete details regarding how this program will prevent the different forms of bullying, including homophobia.”
The project is a step in the right direction, but it is “clearly not enough,” he says.
The Conservatives are simply allotting funds to an organization, rather than tackling the issue of bullying themselves, Morin contends.
Morin also questions how national the Conservative program really is. The youth-led forums will take place in British Columbia, Atlantic Canada and Ontario, something Morin says signals the project is not a “national strategy.”
“Every country that has enacted a national bullying prevention strategy has seen bullying, including homophobic bullying, go down,” Morin says. “When they had the chance last fall to vote in favour of my national bullying-prevention strategy, the Conservative government voted against it. This is not a national bullying-prevention strategy. This is a young leadership program in three provinces.
“If the Conservative government believes that they are doing all they can to protect our kids from bullying, they are sorely mistaken,” he says. “Calling it a national strategy is dishonest. This program is not going to help kids facing bullying in Quebec nor in the Prairies or in the territories.”
Fairholm says that although Monday’s announcement detailed the youth forums that will run in only three areas of the country, the project will build on existing anti-bullying work the Red Cross has in place nationwide, including its Beyond the Hurt program.
“Part of this money is to help us expand our reach,” Fairholm says. “This last year we have 3,300 youth facilitators and this last year we educated over 250,000 kids in bullying prevention. So that part of this new project is adding on to that work that is already happening.”
Youth from areas outside of where the forums take place can still attend the events, Fairholm adds.
When questioned about Morin’s private member’s motion following Monday’s press conference, Moore said M-385 was simply a study, and it is “time to act and support projects like this. This is a non-partisan issue.”