QBits
Rob Ford is the lone vote against LGBT homeless youth shelter proposal

Measure passes 37-1

CBC News Posted: Jul 10, 2014 3:48 PM ET Last Updated: Jul 10, 2014 3:48 PM ET

rob-ford-20140709

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in city council on July 9, 2014. (CBC)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was the only member of city council to vote against a report looking into a potential homeless shelter for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth in Toronto.

The shelter report recommendation passed on Thursday by a vote of 37-1. Several councillors, including the mayor’s brother Doug, were absent for or abstained from the vote.

The vote means that council has requested a report on the feasibility of allocating 25 per cent of shelter beds to LGBT youth in an existing shelter for the coming winter.

Alex Abramovich, a research co-ordinator with the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital, has spent eight years studying the issue and proposed a shelter exclusively for LGBT youth.

Ugandan gay activists denied visas to World Pride conference

The Harper government in action.

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Renowned Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha is the only Ugandan delegate who has a valid visa as the keynote speaker at the World Pride human rights conference in Toronto.

Renowned Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha is the only Ugandan delegate who has a valid visa as the keynote speaker at the World Pride human rights conference in Toronto.

Canada has refused to issue visitor visas to 10 Ugandan activists invited to Toronto’s World Pride human rights conference in June over concerns they would stay to seek asylum.

Gay rights advocates say the decisions by the Canadian visa posts in Nairobi and London speak to the hypocrisy of the Stephen Harper government, which, in February, joined other Western nations in condemning Uganda for passing one of the world’s harshest anti-homosexuality laws.

“We are shocked and appalled. These individuals from Uganda are some of the most courageous heroes,” said Andrea Houston of #ENDhatelaws, a coalition founded in response to homophobia/transphobia across the globe, amid the controversy over anti-gay laws passed in Russia prior to the Winter Olympics.

“They are here to share their stories and have every intention to go home after the conference, because they all have work to do in Uganda. The assumption is they are here to claim asylum. The question is: Why can’t they, coming from the most hostile place in the world to LGBTQ people?”

The 10 men and women — all working in precarious conditions to support Uganda’s LGBTQ community — are among 160 speakers and 400 delegates from over 40 countries invited to the June 25-27 conference at the University of Toronto.

Conference co-chair Brenda Cossman said the first visa denial was reported in early April, but concerns grew when other Ugandan invitees all had their applications rejected.

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Celebration of Love Invitation from Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam (by LibertyEntertainment)

Pretty sure Rob Ford won’t be there.
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"On June 26, 2014, The City of Toronto, Casa Loma, Tourism Toronto and Egale are inviting LGBTQ couples to make their commitments official. We are proud to welcome World Pride to Toronto and even more proud to host the biggest international LGBTQ wedding in history at historic Casa Loma."

Toronto announces attempt to break world record for largest mass gay wedding

Toronto will attempt to break the world record for a mass gay wedding at Casa Loma (Photo: Flickr user Skinnylawyer)

Toronto will attempt to break the world record for a mass gay wedding at Casa Loma (Photo: Flickr user Skinnylawyer)

Toronto’s deputy mayor has announced an attempt to break a world record for the world’s largest mass gay wedding.

Norm Kelly – second-in-command to the scandal-hit Toronto mayor Rob Ford – made the announcement at a press conference alongside Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam today.

The city is aiming for 200 LGBT couples to take part in the mass wedding, which is due to be held at World Pride, on June 26.

The mass wedding will take place at Casa Loma, one of Canada’s only castles and a usually expensive wedding venue.

Wong-Tam said at a press conference: “We’ve made international headlines perhaps for the wrong reasons.

“I think that it is time for us to show a different face of Toronto – demonstrate that this is a city of equality and inclusive values, a city that celebrates all of its diverse communities.”

Kelly said: “We’re inviting all LGBTQ and two-spirited couples from across the world, in love and commitment, to get married here in the beautiful grounds of historic Casa Loma, as part of World Pride’s Celebrations.”

The event, which will be available free aside from marriage license fees, will have Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, New Thought, and Humanist officiants to provide nuptials to couples.

Couples will be allowed to bring four guests to the reception, which will include cocktails, dinner and dancing.

The current record for a mass gay wedding is held by Rio de Janeiro, where 130 pairs got married in December.

Same-sex marriage has been legal across Canada since 2005, though it was first legalised in Ontario in June 2003.

Transgender youth clinic opens at Sick Kids

First clinic in the city to focus on medical care for transgender teens

The Canadian Press Posted: Oct 12, 2013 5:48 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 12, 2013 6:08 PM ET

Sick Kids says gender dysphoria is relatively rare, but increased awareness and acceptance has led more teens to identify as transgender. (CBC)

Sick Kids says gender dysphoria is relatively rare, but increased awareness and acceptance has led more teens to identify as transgender. (CBC)

A new Toronto clinic for transgender youth is seeing its first patients.

The clinic at Sick Kids hospital officially opened on Friday and administrators say it will help fill an important gap in care for teens with gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is diagnosed in people whose gender identity doesn’t match their anatomical sex.

Sick Kids says gender dysphoria is relatively rare, but increased awareness and acceptance has led more teens to identify as transgender.

It says while there are two mental health clinics that provide the diagnosis in Toronto, the Sick Kids clinic is the first in the city to focus on medical care for transgender teens.

The hospital says without proper care, transgender teens can experience “negative consequences” such as mental health issues and risky behaviour.

Patients will work with an interdisciplinary team to ensure they get counselling and in some cases, will receive hormone therapy to prevent the changes associated with puberty, the hospital says.

The team includes physicians specializing in adolescent medicine and endocrinology, a nurse practitioner, a nurse and a social worker as well as children’s mental health organizations.

Toronto homes with rainbow flags targeted by anti-gay vandals

Homeowners fighting back by ordering 200 rainbow flags for neighbours
 

A west-end Toronto community is coming together to fight back after vandals targeted three homes displaying rainbow flags.
 

On Aug 29 Sarah Harrison and her partner Pascal Murphy discovered that the rear tires on their vehicle had been slashed over night. Constable Tony Vella says Toronto Police are investigating the matter, but did not comment further.
 
Harrison and Murphy say they have been the target of anti-gay attacks for the past two years since they mounted rainbow flags on their porch. They say such attacks in the neighbourhood around Runnymede and Jane have recently escalated.
 
“We are very passionate allies. This vandalism is not a reflection of the whole community,” says Harrison. “We have called police throughout this whole thing. They don’t know who it is and they don’t have any suspects. I think that will be a pretty difficult thing to determine.”
 
Undaunted, Harrison has now ordered 200 rainbow flags and she is organizing a community barbeque with some other neighbours. She plans to distribute a rainbow flag to any family that wants one. “We are encouraging people to come out, get a flag, talk about why this is happening in our neighbourhood and what we can do to stop it.” 
 
Harrison says the attacks began about two years ago when the couple found their “Celebrate Diversity” bumper sticker had been ripped off their car and torn up. “Then our first rainbow flag was torn off our front porch,” she says. 

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(via Toronto Mosque to host LGBT friendly Ramadan prayer and dinner | Gay Star News)

Canada’s Universalist Muslims are an LGBT welcoming group of progressive Muslims and they are hoping to hold the 10th Salaam Peace Iftar later this month at the El-Tawhid Juma Circle Toronto Unity Mosque.
With 5 days to go group is just $152 short of its fundraising goal of $500 and the group is hopeful of possibly exceeding that target.
Donations:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/10th-annual-salaam-peace-iftar-dinner-sponsorship-fund?show_todos=true



Indiegogo crowd funding website.


Indiegogo crowd funding website.

(via Toronto Mosque to host LGBT friendly Ramadan prayer and dinner | Gay Star News)

Canada’s Universalist Muslims are an LGBT welcoming group of progressive Muslims and they are hoping to hold the 10th Salaam Peace Iftar later this month at the El-Tawhid Juma Circle Toronto Unity Mosque.

With 5 days to go group is just $152 short of its fundraising goal of $500 and the group is hopeful of possibly exceeding that target.

Donations:
http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/10th-annual-salaam-peace-iftar-dinner-sponsorship-fund?show_todos=true
Indiegogo crowd funding website.
Indiegogo crowd funding website.
(via Wynne to be first Ont. premier to march in Toronto gay pride parade | CTV News)
"Pride week is hugely important for some people who are shut out of family holidays and gatherings because they are not accepted for who they are, said Wynne.
"I’ve had people from the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community say to me that Pride is like the biggest celebration of the year for them because they’re not part of their families, they’re excluded from family holidays," she said.
"So Pride is like their extended family acknowledging them."
It’s important to celebrate Pride week to remind people that gays are still being persecuted in many other countries, added Wynne.
"Unfortunately we still need a Pride celebration because homophobia is alive and well, not just here in some places in Ontario, but in many parts of the world where you can still be imprisoned or beaten for being gay, lesbian or trans," she said.

(via Wynne to be first Ont. premier to march in Toronto gay pride parade | CTV News)

"Pride week is hugely important for some people who are shut out of family holidays and gatherings because they are not accepted for who they are, said Wynne.

"I’ve had people from the lesbian, gay, bi and trans community say to me that Pride is like the biggest celebration of the year for them because they’re not part of their families, they’re excluded from family holidays," she said.

"So Pride is like their extended family acknowledging them."

It’s important to celebrate Pride week to remind people that gays are still being persecuted in many other countries, added Wynne.

"Unfortunately we still need a Pride celebration because homophobia is alive and well, not just here in some places in Ontario, but in many parts of the world where you can still be imprisoned or beaten for being gay, lesbian or trans," she said.

Seems his fellow students are much more mature than the school officials.

Q.

Toronto school board introduces policy for transgender students, staff

A step in the right direction.

Q.

Published on Thursday October 04, 2012
Karissa Donkin
Staff Reporter

The Toronto District School Board has introduced a new set of guidelines that spell out what kind of accommodation the board must offer to “transgender and gender non-conforming students and staff.”

The policy says schools must keep a student’s gender non-conformity or transgender status confidential and should never disclose it to a parent or guardian without consent from the student.

“It is strongly suggested that staff privately ask transgender or gender nonconforming students at the beginning of the school year how they want to be addressed in correspondence to the home or at meetings with the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s)/caregiver(s),” the policy says.

It also says students and staff have the right to use a washroom that “best conforms to their gender identity” without having to “prove” their gender. Schools must also offer an “accessible all-gender single stall washroom” for any employee or student who needs “increased privacy.”

The guidelines were created as a result of a student’s recent human rights complaint, Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird said.

“A student was experiencing some difficulties with accessing programs and services specific to his gender identity. The student was provided an accommodation at the school and as part of the settlement … the board developed these accommodation guidelines,” Bird said.

A number of the guidelines were used on a case-by-case basis before, but Bird said this is the first time they’ve been officially spelled out in school board policy.

The guidelines, along with a fact sheet of common questions and answers, have been posted on the school board’s website. Bird said the guidelines are now being distributed to staff to use as a resource when requests for accommodation come up.

The guidelines also deal with use of pronouns when addressing transgender students or staff and says dress codes for students should be flexible, so students don’t have to choose between male or female clothing.

Ford picks cottage over Pride — again

No surprise here.

Q.

By ,City Hall Bureau Chief

First posted:Wednesday, April 18, 2012 11:44 AM EDT| Updated:Wednesday, April 18, 2012 11:56 AM EDT

Pride paradeA man waves a flag as he takes part in the Gay Pride Parade in Toronto, July, 3, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford will be skipping Toronto’s Pride parade for a second year in a row.

Ford told reporters Wednesday he won’t be attending the parade this year because he is going to the cottage with his family.

“I’m not attending Pride,” Ford said.”It is on Canada Day, I’m going up to the cottage with my family like I’ve done for as far as I can remember.”

Asked if he would attend any other Pride events during the 10-day festival, Ford didn’t rule it out.

“We’ll see,” Ford said. “We’ll take it event by event.”

Ford ignited a firestorm of controversy last year when he became the first mega-city mayor to opt out of the Pride parade. Both former mayors David Miller and Mel Lastman marched in the parade during their terms.

Ford’s firm refusal to attend the Pride parade comes a day after he was more cryptic on the matter.

Asked Tuesday if he would be attending the parade, Ford wouldn’t say.

“I take my invitations one day at a time as you know,” he said at that time.

Toronto’s Gay Community Teams Up To Save Glad Day Bookshop

There is a new uplifting volume in the saga of independent gay bookstores: Yesterday it was revealed that Toronto’s Glad Day Bookshop has a new owner, or 17 to be exact. 

A team of individual investors have joined forces and funds to buy the store and preserve its legacy of galvanizing queer activism in Toronto since 1970. The oldest operating LGBT bookstore in the world went up for sale last month after owner John Scythes couldn’t dip anymore into his savings to keep Glad Day afloat.

“Glad Day Bookshop was a crucial center for the gay and lesbian liberation movement in Canada,” said the youngest co-owner, 23-year-old Spencer Charles Smith. “I know I owe so much to the activists who came before me so I am investing my money and my time into Glad Day as a way to honor them.”

In the coming weeks, Glad Day’s new Board of Directors will reveal plans to revitalize the bookshop, including adding new technology and initiatives to foster the local queer-lit scene and stand up for good old same-sex love and justice. They are currently looking for a new store manager.

“Arts and culture give our community wings.” said co-owner Rio Rodriguez. “With creativity and representation, our communities find healing, inspiration, education and celebration.”

Feeling inspired? You can chip in too and help save a gay bookstore near you!

And next time you visit Glad Day, make sure to say hello and thanks to the rest of the gang: Andy Wang, Doug Kerr, El-Farouk Khaki, Fatima Amarshi, Jonathan Kitchen, Kim Crosby, Lisa Gore , Marcus McCann, Mark Schaan, Michael Erickson, Michael Went, Nat Trembley, Scott Robins, Tessa Duplessis and Troy Jackson.

Lady Gaga sends Toronto school anti-bullying video

Posted: Nov 25, 2011 1:01 PM ET

Last Updated: Nov 25, 2011 5:24 PM ET


Pop superstar Lady Gaga gave a high-profile boost to a Toronto student’s efforts to end bullying on Friday.

Jacques St. Pierre, 17, is in Grade 12 and is student council president of the Etobicoke School of the Arts.

St. Pierre endured bullying during his elementary school years and wanted to do something to raise awareness about the problem.

"I got called the gay kid, the fag, because I liked to be in the school plays," he told CBC’s Melanie Nagy. "I lost my best friend because he joined in with the bullies. It’s not fun, I’ve been there, I’ve been bullied. Before that, I didn’t know bullying could affect people so severely."

Motivated to do something about it, St. Pierre organized a school assembly with an anti-bullying theme. He also gathered pledges from fellow students, calling on them to agree to help combat the problem.

Grade 12 student Jacques St. Pierre was bullied during his elementary school years and wanted to do something to combat the problem.
Grade 12 student Jacques St. Pierre was bullied during his elementary school years and wanted to do something to combat the problem. CBC

But he also sent dozens of emails to celebrities, asking them to give their support.

That’s when he received an email he won’t soon forget.

"The subject line said ‘To Jacques from Lady Gaga,’" he told Nagy. "It said ‘click on the link below to download the video for your assembly.’ So no questions asked, Lady Gaga sent us a video. I watched it, and I started crying. I’m a huge fan. It’s kind of embarrassing because I love her so much. I couldn’t believe it."

In her video addressed to him, Lady Gaga praises St. Pierre for his work to combat bullying, particularly bullying directed at gay and lesbian students.

"I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you for being such a strong advocate of the LGBT community in your school," she said. "There should be more little monsters like you.

"My father always saves all the fan letters that I receive and I read yours and wanted to send this video to you. It is important that we push the boundaries of love and acceptance."

Lady Gaga said it was important given the recent suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer, a Buffalo teen who committed suicide in September. One of his last tweets before he died was to Lady Gaga, who dedicated a song to him at one of her concerts.

Students react

Lady Gaga’s message got a strong reaction from students at the school assembly.

"I’m starting to actually realize how big this problem is and I just want to make a difference now," said one male student.

"I love Lady Gaga and it means so much to me that she could do that for us and support us through this," said another.

St. Pierre said he was elated to receive such high-profile support.

"Young or old, people know who Lady Gaga is, because she’s such a character and she does so much to stand up against bullying in any way she can. And someone as inspiring as her, taking 20 minutes out of her day to write down a speech, sit in front of a Teleprompter, get all made up and read it to us directly at our school. It’s fantastic."

St. Pierre also got support from CBC comedian Rick Mercer, whose recent anti-bullying rant video on his show went viral after airing on the Rick Mercer Report. The video was played Friday during the assembly.

St. Pierre kept Gaga’s contribution secret prior to the assembly, which featured singing, dancing and a broadcast of her video.

"Last year when the It Gets Better project started on YouTube, I was inspired by all the thousands of videos that were put online by celebrities, politicians and regular people," said St. Pierre.

"And I wanted to do something like that, so I ran for student council president and my campaign for that was to host an assembly about equality and anti-bullying and spread the message that everybody should be loved and accepted no matter what or who they are."

Pride parade covers streets in rainbow of colours

Record crowd estimated for annual parade

Posted: Jul 3, 2011 11:29 AM ET

Last Updated: Jul 3, 2011 4:55 PM ET

More than one million people, many equipped with squirt guns, beads and rainbow flags, lined the streets of downtown Toronto Sunday afternoon as North America’s largest gay pride parade made its way through the city’s midtown core.

Pride parade participants mingle with revellers at Toronto's annual event.
Pride parade participants mingle with revellers at Toronto’s annual event. (Ian Willms/Canadian Press)

The multi-coloured floats began rolling at 2 p.m. winding their way down Yonge Street with politicians and celebrities gracing the floats.

And as they have done for the majority of the 30 previous years the parade has been held, “Dykes on Bikes” led the procession with the roar of their motorcycles.

But one man conspicuously absent from the proceedings was Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Despite public and private lobbying from many politicians, business figures and other city dignitaries, the city’s first-term mayor said he did not plan to participate.

Ford, the first mayor in 16 years to miss the parade, has faced heavy criticism for skipping the event in favour of upholding what he described as a family tradition of spending Canada Day weekend at his cottage near Huntsville.

Three previous mayors — Barbara Hall, Mel Lastman and David Miller — all attended the annual parade while in office, with Hall attending the first parade as mayor in June 1995.

"I believe in Pride because it says who we are," former mayor David Miller told CP24 as he marched in the parade. "We are a city that is open to everyone."

The 31st edition of the event caps a weeklong celebration of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities and culture in Toronto.

Roads in and around the event will be closed for a number of hours throughout the day.

Sunday’s parade, which is known for its spontaneous water gun salutes between float participants and revelers began at Bloor Street East and Church Street and headed west to Yonge Street. It will then head south on Yonge Street to Gerrard Street East and then east on Church Street.

But parties will keep the area around Church Street closed until Monday morning.

The annual event has grown over the years. When it began in the early 1980s, some 4,000 participants took part in the parade. But organizers estimated that the 2011 version featured almost 13,000 participants both marching and travelling on floats.

It is also North America’s largest pride parade and the third largest in the world.

Toronto is slated to host the World Pride parade in 2014.

‘We exist,’ Iranian Pride marchers say
Published On Fri Jul 01 2011

Ashram Parsi, executive director of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees and Ashraf, whose grandson, Aliraza Monavari, is now safely living in Norway after leaving Iran thru Turkey on the railroad. Ashraf will march in this year's Pride Parade.

Ashram Parsi, executive director of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees and Ashraf, whose grandson, Aliraza Monavari, is now safely living in Norway after leaving Iran thru Turkey on the railroad. Ashraf will march in this year’s Pride Parade.  RICK MADONIK/TORONTO STAR


Nicki Thomas Staff Reporter

Look for them on Sunday, marching down Yonge St. among the scantily clad and the corporately sponsored.

They’ll be the ones wearing white T-shirts, their hands raised in peace signs or waving rainbow flags bearing the name of the homeland they fled in fear.

And while other Pride-goers take it all off, some in this group will cover their faces, their open homosexuality too dangerous for family members back home.

It will be the first time an official Iranian contingent marches in Toronto’s Pride Parade.

“Iranian queers do exist,” said Arsham Parsi, executive director of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees. “We want to raise awareness for (their) rights.”

Through his Toronto-based organization, Parsi has helped bring more than 50 gay, lesbian and transgendered Iranian refugees to Canada since he fled the country himself in 2005.

Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran. Its ultra-conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once proclaimed there were no gay people in the country. It’s an atmosphere that puts even relatives of gay Iranians at risk; Parsi’s family had to move to Turkey after his activism led to threats against them.

But after marching in Ankara’s pride parade this May, Parsi was inspired to lead a group in Toronto. His friends in Turkey, many of them asylum seekers staring down an uncertain future, felt so relieved after marching, he recalled.

“They told me, ‘When we’re shouting and chanting in the streets, we do exist. We almost forgot all of the pressure,” he said. “We just shout and tell the world, I’m here and I would like my rights.”

About 35 refugees and supporters will march with Parsi on Sunday. Ashraf, 58, who moved from Iran to Toronto three years ago, will be among them. From her wheelchair, she will send an important message to the Iranian community without even saying a word, Parsi said.

Her presence is proof that being traditional and supporting gay rights are not mutually exclusive.

Ashraf, who asked that her last name not be published, is the grandmother of a gay teenager who fled Iran with his mother and is currently seeking asylum in Norway. Speaking in Farsi, Ashraf is overcome as she talks about her grandson. She cries and chokes on her words as Parsi translates.

“Loving your children is not only about feeding them and taking care of them. You have to support them as well,” she said, adding that many Iranians left their home because they could not bear living under “a dictator” like Ahmadinejad.

“When we cannot tolerate our children’s diversity … and we want them to be like us, it’s a kind of dictatorship,” she said.

Parsi knows that his group’s understated esthetic and serious message might get drowned out by more colourful parade entries. Pride is a time for picking up and partying for many people, Parsi said, and that’s just fine.

“But … for at least one minute they have to think that we have to be thankful that we are in Canada. There are many, many people all over the world that don’t have the same opportunities and are struggling for their rights,” he said. “It’s not about having fun or not, it’s about being alive.”