Quebec has always been at the forefront of LGBT equality, and this only goes to further their forward thinking that puts them way ahead of the rest of North America, and more in parallel with European acceptance.
The government of Quebec has studied the problem of homophobia for years and is now poised to implement new policies to move beyond "tolerance" and toward "acceptance."
Quebec Justice Minister Kathleen Weil was cited in a Dec. 11 Montreal Gazette article as saying that the aim of the program was to promote societal, as well as legal, equality. Homosexuality as decriminalized in Canada four decades ago, but homophobic attitudes persist.
Despite decades of gains for GLBT Canadians, "sexual diversity is still widely misunderstood," Quebec Premier Jean Charest writes in his introductory remarks to the newly published Quebec Policy Against Homophobia. "Cultures and mindsets remain
marked by homophobic prejudice and sentiment. In families, schools and workplaces, it is not unusual for individuals to face rejection, bullying, and even violent behavior triggered by homophobia. This, in turn, forces them to keep their sexual orientation a secret in order to avoid social disapproval."
Charest’s commentary continues, "An inclusive society such as ours must take the necessary steps to combat homophobic attitudes and behavior patterns, and move towards full acceptance of sexual diversity. By introducing this Québec policy against homophobia, the government hopes to trigger a firm commitment, by institutions and the general population, to fight all forms of homophobia. The policy sets out the government’s goal of removing all the obstacles to full recognition of the social equality of the sexual minorities, at all levels of society. The message is clear: our society has everything to gain from accepting sexual diversity and fighting intolerance."
The new policies are based on the findings of a 2007 report looking into the prevalence of homophobia in Quebec’s schools, workplaces, and medical care facilities, an Aug. 16 Canadian Press article reported. That report found that GLBT youth were particularly hard hit by homophobia, with a suicide rate of up to sixteen times greater than straight youth.
"Minorities are often confronted with obstacles, obstacles that stop them from reaching their full potential as human beings," Weil said. "Society can’t afford that, can’t afford to lose these great people."
The next step is the development of a pan-ministerial committee that will create a comprehensive "action plan," the article said, which is expected to take another year. After final evaluations, the plan will be put into effect.
"By creating this policy, we need the adherence of the community at large," Weil said.
Gai Écoute crisis phone line chair Laurent McCutcheon told the Montreal Gazette that although Quebec was at the vanguard of GLBT equality, society was still only at the point of "tolerance" for gays and lesbians and their families. "What we are seeking is acceptance," said McCutcheon.