Fifty years after the legalization of homosexuality in Canada, Randy Boissonnault said the timing felt appropriate to be making a huge funding announcement for a pair of LGBTQ2 programs in Saskatoon.
“We know the work’s not done. We have a lot of work to do,” Boissonnault, the first openly gay MP elected from Alberta, said. “At the same time, it’s a milestone.”
OUTSaskatoon, the long-standing community-based LGBTQ2 organization in the heart of the city, received a huge funding boost from the federal government for new projects. The organization will get over $1.1 million for two projects over the next five years, as part of the $50 million in funding announced by federal Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef for community initiatives around Canada addressing gender-based violence.
The funding announcement was made publicly at OUTSaskatoon on Friday morning. OUTSaskatoon executive director Rachel Loewen Walker said the new level of funding is crucial to help run the new projects and to keep OUTSaskatoon moving forward for years to come.
“It was incredibly exciting,” she said. “The five-year timeline for the projects is a phenomenal amount of time to really do this work well.”
The Department for Women and Gender Equality is providing around $550,000 to a project focused on developing prevention and intervention services for LGBTQ2S people affected by gender-based violence. The second project is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which is giving more than $560,000 to an OUTSaskatoon program that takes aim at education and training to safely address gender-based violence against LGBTQ2S people.
Boissonnault, who holds the position of special adviser to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues, was laughing and smiling throughout the funding announcement. He said LGBTQ2S people have been “invisible” in the data gathered regarding gender-based violence, and funding these programs allows frontline organizations like OUTSaskatoon to be the ones adding to that data.
“It’s an excellent organization with a great track record,” Boissonnault said. “They did a fantastic job of applying … programs in the federal government are merit-based, and they made the cut.”
Loewen Walker and Boissonnault both stressed the importance of the federal government empowering local organizations to do this kind of work and further their connections in surrounding communities. Both projects started earlier this year and are slated to continue for the next five years.
Boissonnault said nearly 50 per cent of Canadians age 15 and older who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual have reported experiencing “physical or sexual abuse,” and noted that those statistics are worse for trans and gender-diverse Canadians.
Jessica Fisher, the gender-based violence education coordinator for OUTSaskatoon and the team lead for the upcoming projects, said there is a “huge gap” in understanding the LGBTQ2S community for those who are not actively involved in it.
With these new funded projects, Fisher said she hopes they can start to bridge that gap in Saskatchewan and nearby provinces.
“We are going to be able to … do the good work that is needed,” she said. “Because we have security for five years, we can really lean into and dig into this work.”
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