Canadians have made huge progress in advancing LGBTI rights here. But what about the rest of the world? Is there something in our experience from which others could draw? How might we act in solidarity with people who live under more repressive regimes?

These were some of the questions that drew about 70 people from 30 organizations to the Dignity Initiative Roundtable in Ottawa June 1-2. The Dignity Initiative came about after efforts in 2014 to press the government of Canada to play a more active role in protecting LGBTI people. Delegates took time out to join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in raising (for the first time ever) the rainbow Pride flag on Parliament Hill.

Jim Hodgson, who has experience with the church’s international LGBTQI solidarity work, along with two members of Affirm United/S’Affirmer Ensemble, Collin Smith and Jenni Leslie, attended the Dignity Initiative Roundtable.

“In recent years, the United Church’s global partnerships program has expanded its work in support of partner initiatives to embrace inclusivity and overcome homophobia and transphobia. One of the issues in partnership dialogue is different global perspectives on sexual orientation and gender diversity,” says Jim Hodgson.

At the roundtable Jim reported that the United Church is working with partners on LGBTQI inclusion in South Korea, Philippines, Colombia, the Caribbean and East Africa. A key resource that supports the work for dialogue across differences is Moving Toward Full Inclusion: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the United Church of Canada (2014).

Collin shared that his focus at the roundtable was on the area of LGBTQ refugees. He sat in on discussions relating to the challenges facing those populations, the Canadian refugee process, and potential changes which would benefit LGBTQ refugees attempting to arrive in Canada. 

“As Affirm United ministries are often involved in sponsoring LGBTQ refugees, this information is invaluable to take back to our organization. I was able to meet with members of organizations that focus on sponsoring LGBTQ refugees, and meet with others who are doing work in LGBTQ Muslim communities to build ties between their spheres and ours. The opportunity to build these connections, acquire this information, and highlight some of the work we are doing was invaluable.”

The Partner Council of the United Church is coming to Canada in mid-July. Among other activities, they will experience, learn about and discuss the United Church’s journey towards full inclusion of all people, including LGBTQ people. At the end of a time of sharing, study and reflection Council members will join the Affirm United Conference in Ottawa. 

For more information on the church’s work and how to engage, see Gender and Orientation

Also see two reports from Dignity Initiative on human rights for LGBTI people:

 

Edited from reports received from Jim Hodgson and Collin Smith.

Jim Hodgson is the church’s partnership coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean. He is a journalist who has spent most of his career working within or alongside social movements, international development organizations and churches. See his blog Unwrapping Development.

Collin Smith is co-chair of Affirm United S’Affirmer Ensemble’s Council. He is a family lawyer in Calgary, who began his career working with marginalized populations including at-risk youth, street involved populations, physically and mentally challenged children as well as visible and cultural minorities.