From the Editor: We must stand against the hate that is present and growing in Canada

Art by Kristen Frier

Art by Kristen Frier

What to write for my first editorial has been on my mind since I was elected on June 8. I thought of several ideas, ranging from my love of bees that are at-risk to my support for four-day work weeks to the importance of Pride Month. But I could not ignore the recent most pressing event that occurred in North America or the danger it poses to Canadians and the 2LGBTQ+ community. 

My heart clenched and my stomach sank when I read that the Supreme Court in the United States overturned Roe v. Wade, undoing a federal constitution to protect abortion rights that had been in place since the 1970s. 

This has already resulted in 13 states restricting the right to choose and limit access through “trigger bans” that were set to become law as soon as Roe v. Wade was struck down. These anti-choice laws are going to disproportionately impact low-income families, people of colour, and 2LGBTQ+ people. 

But before we could process the horrid news and comprehend the devastating impacts it will have, conservative justice Clarence Thomas gave a preview of possible future rulings that suggested the right-wing controlled U.S. court will revisit the Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell cases. 

Griswold v. Connecticut established a married couple’s right to use contraception without government interference in 1965. Lawrence v. Texas resulted in the ruling that states could not criminalize sodomy — anal and oral sex — in 2003. Obergefell v. Hodges won the right for same-sex couples to marry just seven years ago in 2015. 

Canadian culture and values are incredibly influenced by the U.S. When Donald Trump was elected as president in 2016, we saw the growth of far-right and white supremacist groups in Canada. And that growth has continued to fester. 

This year we witnessed the siege of Ottawa by “freedom” protestors against mask mandates, a movement that quickly attracted white supremacists and far-right groups. In our last federal election, support grew for the People’s Party of Canada — the most far-right federal party in our country. This support caused the federal Conservative Party to compete with their far-right values, because the vote was being divided. 

Anti-choice Members of Parliament (MP) are designated as such based on their vote, public anti-choice statements, participation in anti-choice campaigns, or if a member is rated as “pro-life” by the anti-abortion organization Campaign Life Coalition. 

Of the 119 Conservative MPs, 82 are designated as anti-choice by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. Liberal MPs are required to vote pro-choice on any abortion-related bills or motions, and only four of the 158 are anti-choice. 

Local anti-choice MPs include Tako Van Popta, Brad Vis, Mark Strahl, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Marc Dalton, and Ed Fast. 

The right to choose an abortion is protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms thanks to the R v. Morgentaler case in 1988. Over the last four decades, conservative-leaning politicians have tried again and again to limit abortion access because that’s the only way they can attempt to restrict and prevent people from getting abortions — this is why it’s a good thing abortion is not law in Canada, which some anti-choicers are calling for. The most recent attempt was in 2020 to amend the Criminal Code to criminalize “sex-selective” abortions, which would have likely forced people to prove their reason for an abortion and therefore make access more difficult. 

It’s important to know who we vote for in our ridings, because with enough anti-choicers in Parliament the greater the threat to our rights can be. What’s happening in America is after decades of work by anti-choicers chipping away at abortion rights and access. We need to be aware of who shares those same values in Canada, because they are here too. And abortion access in Canada is not accessible for many people, so we need politicians who will support improvements to the health service, and to advancing equality too. 

Anti-choice supporters are almost always anti-2LGBTQ+ as well. 

Since Trump was elected, transgender rights have been under attack in the U.S., particularly in the last six months despite the election of Joe Biden. That hate has grown in Canada in that same time, and in British Columbia too. 

We saw a protest last May against transgender healthcare for youth, and there are and have been MPs and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in B.C. that do not support this access or trans rights overall. 

A non-binary teenager was beaten by their schoolmates last year. And there are parents and teachers against SOGI 123 being included in school topics. 

Anti-trans messages were left around my neighbourhood last summer, and in Ottawa earlier this year. 

During Pride Month, family-friendly drag shows were cancelled because the vendors received threats of violence and hateful calls for hosting the event. 

The ban on conversion therapy passed in Canada, but 62 of the 119 Conservative MPs voted against it. 

And students in B.C. public schools are still being silenced by the Teachers Union when they try to promote 2LGBTQ+ representation. 

Now as the likelihood grows in the U.S. to overturn a couple’s right to contraception and the right for same-sex couples to marry, we need to be diligent in advocating for our rights, our friends rights, our families rights, and our communities rights in Canada. 

You can write to your MP and your MLA to inform them of your concerns and let them know that their advocacy, or lack thereof, will affect how you vote for them in the next election. It is not too late for our votes to say enough to our governments in Canada. 

I never thought this kind of fear would be present in my lifetime for my generation, for my kids’ generation, or for our futures together, but it sits in my gut today. We must protect our rights, our loved ones rights, and our communities rights. We must be united to ensure the situation in the U.S. does not happen in Canada, because it could.