Pride flag raised on Parliament Hill as politicians warn Canada is at a crossroads

OTTAWA — As the Pride flag was raised over Parliament Hill Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned what he called "rising hate" against LGBTQ+ people in Canada, particularly transgender youth.

"In the last year, we've seen too many people — including some politicians — showing that they're willing to target vulnerable trans youth, to deny them the freedom to seek life-saving gender-affirming care, all for narrow political gain," he said.

Premiers in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have introduced changes to the way schools must deal with children who change their pronouns or names.

Broadly speaking, the policies require educators to get parental consent to use a child's preferred name or pronouns at school if they are under 16, while parents of older students must be notified of such changes.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's government has proposed similar changes to pronoun and name policies in schools, along with a plan to ban gender-affirming medical treatment for some transgender youth and ensure there are sports leagues only for biologically female players.

Critics say these policies put transgender and nonbinary students at risk of being outed without their consent and can cause serious harm.

Jordan Ames-Sinclair, a Cree youth and the two-spirit policy lead for the Assembly of First Nations, said homophobia and anti-Indigenous racism are both on the rise in Canada.

"The beginning of Pride is a joyous occasion. However, I cannot discuss how far we've come as a community without acknowledging the lived realities of so many young queer and (two-spirit) people in Canada today."

Ames-Sinclair thanked political leaders in attendance, while warning of another reality in which leaders are "committed to backwards policy proven to harm the 2SLGBTQIA+ community."

Trudeau said when he was the first prime minister to march in Pride parades in 2016, people questioned if his participation was relevant.

"This summer, nobody's going to ask me that question," he said.

The federal government set aside $1.5 million in its recent budget for Fierté Canada Pride to cover the rising security and insurance costs of Pride events this summer. The group received the same amount last year and distributed it to 50 Pride organizations.

Trudeau lamented the need for that funding, and said it is a reminder of "how vigilant we need to be."

Sen. René Cormier, co-chair of the Canadian Pride Caucus, noted that more than 60 countries around the world still criminalize homosexuality and said Canada stands out as a beacon of hope for many despite the challenges.

"It might be the time for Canada to have a special envoy to advance the human rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ persons," he said, as the small crowd in front of the Peace Tower cheered.

"At a time when issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are under high tension in our country and elsewhere, due to the unprecedented rise in hatred toward 2SLGBTQIA+ communities, we are at a crossroads. We must be there, speak out and act."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2024.

The Canadian Press