Queer people in Kelowna say that hate towards 2SLGBTQIA+ communities is on the rise, and they are calling on the federal government for help.
But, locally, it is unclear what Member of Parliment for Kelowna–Lake Country, Tracy Gray, is doing to take action.
“It’s an issue here in the Okanagan,” said the founder of Kelowna’s Advocacy Canada, Wilbur Turner.
He said he has noticed an increase in hate against the queer community over the past few years.
“In 27 years of doing advocacy work, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
A 2021 analysis of 2SLGBTQIA+ people published by Statistics Canada states that police reported a 41 per cent increase in hate crimes targeting queer people in 2019, when compared to the year before.
Additionally, Statistics Canada reports that in 2018, queer people were twice as likely as heterosexual people to report experiencing inappropriate behaviours and harassment in public, online and at work over the past year.
Kelowna has seen protests at drag story time as well as performances and Turner said that he and his colleagues at Advocacy Canada and Pride Kelowna have been subject to hate speech.
“We have seen protests that were kind of ugly.”
“We’re scared… We’re scared about what could happen,” said Turner. “The people I worry about are the youth.”
Advocacy Canada has been working with the municipal and provincial government to ensure queer people in the Okanagan are safe.
The group has also joined the national #Act4QueerSafety campaign which calls on the federal government to address rising anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate.
The initiative was started by Momentum Canada and includes an online petition for the public to voice their desire for the federal government to take action and gives examples of what they believe should be done.
When Kelowna-Lake Country Member of Parliament Tracy Gray was contacted with a link to the petition asking what she is doing to address 2SLGBTQIA+ hate in her constituency, she responded by saying, “I’m unfamiliar with the activities of this national advocacy organization. I believe we need to stand against all hate, violence and discrimination towards any group. As with any federal legislation or policy, I’m always willing to meet with residents of Kelowna-Lake Country to hear what is important to them.”
Capital News then asked to schedule an appointment to meet with Gray and were told “MP Gray’s schedule is full and isn’t available for an interview as requested.”
Multiple phone messages and emails were left with Gray’s office over the past week.
In 2021 Gray was banned from all Kelowna Pride events after she voted against a bill that would ban conversion therapy. Gray later voted in favour of a bill that amended the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy in Canada.
Dan Albas, the Member of Parliament for Central Okanagan – Similkameen – Nicola, spoke with Capital News about hate towards 2SLGBTQIA+ people.
Albas said that he unequivocally condemns anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate. He said that he stands with queer people and hopes to speak with activists in the near future to discuss what he can do to help. Albas also noted that he is willing to help people create an official Parliamentary Petition, which the government of Canada is required to reply to should it garner more than 25 signatures.