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LETTER: Will province observe Trans Day of Remembrance Nov. 24?

Ontario government should continue to show support for Queer folx by passing the stalled Bill 17, to establish a gender affirming health care advisory committee, president of Pflag says
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This is a copy of a letter sent to York Region MPPs, members of the Standing Committee on Social Policy and the Ontario Minister of Health.

Hello, my name is Tristan Coolman and I am the president of Pflag Canada York Region, a charity with an over 25-year history supporting Queer folx and their families, friends and allies. I am writing to you today to impress upon you the importance of passing Bill 17 and of honouring your legislative commitments with the Trans Day of Remembrance Act, 2017.

The act, now a law, requires our legislative assembly to observe a moment of silence for the victims of transphobic violence every Nov. 20 on the Trans Day of Remembrance, or when the L.A. is not sitting, on the first Thursday thereafter. This year that would be Thursday, Nov. 24. The act is clear in its intention and its impact is powerful in requiring all future governments in Ontario to observe this day and reflect on their roles as elected officials to serve and support all underrepresented and marginalized folx in their communities, especially Trans folx.

A similar impact can be achieved with Bill 17, however, the bill since passing second reading in October 2021 has remained in committee with no actions yet to study the bill and continue its important work. To underline the importance of this legislation, there are many opportunities in York Region impacting access to gender-affirming care. 

It has become increasingly obvious though experiences shared at our support meetings that wait times continue to increase and more family and health-care providers need training to increase access to gender-affirming services. The gender-affirming clinic through CMHA York Region does not have the funding required to hire more staff to this clinic and, as a result, their intake had been paused for nearly 18 months. Families share that wait times to see counsellors to support with other mental health challenges impacting Trans Communities can be as high as 12 months. 

Studies into Trans lived experiences and in data collected by the Federal Standing Committee on health illustrate the health benefits for Trans folx who have timely access to gender affirming services and mental health care. Their rates of suicidal ideation alongside support from their families and friends are reduced by as much as 60 per cent. 

Passing Bill 17 will make it law the need to further study the issues of access for Trans and other Queer folx to health care and hold future governments accountable. Regardless of politics, it is your duty as elected officials to support and affirm the lives experiences of all Ontarians. It is our ask, but also our expectation, that Bill 17 is passed and the work begins as soon as possible.

A bill sitting in committee with a majority government at its helm for over a year does not illustrate that your government is supportive of Trans folx and their lived experiences. That perception can begin to change in passing this bill and beginning the work.

Tristan Coolman,
President, Pflag Canada York Region