Province creates new gender-equity office to co-ordinate services for LGBTTQ+ community
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Premier Heather Stefanson has announced $250,000 in annual operating funding for Pride Winnipeg and a new gender equity secretariat to update, expand and rename the Manitoba Status of Women Secretariat to better co-ordinate services for the LGBTTQ+ community.
“Often times, the LGBTTQ+ community faces increased risk of negative outcomes,” Stefanson said at a news conference Tuesday at The Forks announcing the new department, named Gender Equity Manitoba.
“We envision a safe and equitable place for people of all genders to live to work and to raise a family by seeking to address those barriers,” said the premier, who was joined by Pride Winnipeg president Barry Karlenzig and Families Minister Rochelle Squires.
“Currently, Manitoba’s status of women secretariat’s mandate is to work to improve the economic, social and health status of women while also raising awareness of issues affecting women. We understand that the mandate must be expanded to provide a more inclusive approach to these important matters.”
The premier pointed to recent “negative outcomes” for the LGBTTQ+ community in Manitoba.
One involved a Pride flag being stolen from a Winnipeg elementary school with a letter that contained homophobic statements left behind claiming responsibility.
The other was a delegation appearing before the Brandon School Division that espoused transphobic views and called for a ban on books that include LGBTTQ+ representation.
“The incident that took place at Riverbend Community School and the violence and vandalism that occurred was completely unacceptable, and I condemn it in the strongest possible sense,” Stefanson said.
As for the brewing controversy in Brandon, she said: “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: we’re past that as a society, the banning of books. While there is no book ban currently in place, I assure you we will consistently and constantly be monitoring the issue.”
In question period Tuesday, NDP critic Lisa Naylor said “monitoring” the issue is not enough and called on premier to state on the record in the chamber her government won’t allow the banning of such books.
Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Obby Khan responded, saying there is no book ban and his government won’t allow one, and asked the NDP to stop fearmongering.
The new Gender Equity Manitoba will help address a gap that’s existed in the status of women secretariat by providing supports on issues involving the LGBTTQ+ or gender, sexual and relationship-diverse communities, Stefanson said.
It will have an expanded focus and increased budget to work across departments on issues and support the LGBTTQ+ community with a new granting program.
Manitoba joins the federal government and several other jurisdictions that have expanded their secretariats for women’s issues to be more gender inclusive, Squires said.
“We know gender-diverse people are often targeted,” said the former status of women minister, who now becomes minister responsible for gender equity.
“They have been on the receiving end of violence and hate because of who they are. It’s a very complex issue, eradicating hate in a society, that’s why it’s important to have a table and a council working through these issues.”
Gender Equity Manitoba will add three new representatives to include the young, two-spirit and gay or lesbian, she said.
“This group will be convening very, very soon and beginning discussions around that.”
One 19-year-old at the news conference said they’re looking forward to seeing action taken.
“It sounds like a good thing, however, words are words and actions are a separate thing and it’s important that Premier Heather Stefanson follows through on what she said today and continues to commit to gender equity and stopping violence,” said Brie Villeneuve, the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association’s LGBTTQ+ representative.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 11:32 PM CDT: Adds byline