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Why one Toronto city councillor wants to bring back the LGBT advisory council

‘I would much rather be proactive and have the discussions ongoing year-round,” Kristyn Wong-Tam says

Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam announced her intention to bring back the LGBT advisory council at the annual City Hall Pride flag raising on May 31, 2017. Credit: Nick Lachance/Daily Xtra

Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam wants to bring back the city’s LGBT advisory council.

Wong-Tam, Toronto’s only openly gay councillor, believes the move is essential to bring diverse LGBT voices to council.

“The challenge that we see here is that there is not full understanding of who this community is,” she says. “This is not a monolithic group; we are hyper-diverse.”

Wong-Tam announced her intention to bring forward the issue at the annual City Hall Pride flag raising on May 31, 2017.

“Sexual liberation and human-rights work needs to happen each and every single day, and not just when we come together once a year,” she said.

Wong-Tam says that the debate around Pride funding demonstrated the need for a greater understanding of LGBT issues at city council.

“What I would have gleaned from this entire sort of situation is that if we have ongoing dialogue, and if there’s a proper venue for the community to bring forth their concerns, we would be in a better place to respond,” she says.

Toronto has operated without any sort of LGBT advisory council for over a decade. The community advisory committee on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues was created in 1999 and was chaired by Kyle Rae, Toronto’s first openly gay councillor. 

The committee’s mandate was eventually folded into the roundtable on access, equity and human rights, which hasn’t been active since 2006.

Wong-Tam hopes that an advisory committee would allow LGBT communities to have greater input on funding for public health programs, arts and cultural activities and economic development.

“I would much rather be proactive and have the discussions ongoing year-round as opposed to once a year during the symbolic and busy time of Pride, when we’re all pulled in many different directions,” she says.