There is a misconception that queer issues are not on the ballot, especially for a municipal election. In reality, our City Council has immense power and influence over how the day to day lives of Ottawa residents. Policy decisions and funding priorities made by councils and school boards that impact one marginalized community impact us all. Whether you’re voting age or know people who are, this information hub can help you understand the local context for municipal issues that acutely impact 2SLGBTQIA+ lives in Ottawa.
In CCGSD’s Action Plan Survey report, three quarters of respondents (76%) identified healthcare as a top policy priority. 2SLGBTQIA+ youth have also been identified by a TRANS PULSE survey as experiencing “lower gender- affirming health care access, worse mental health, and fewer trans-inclusive experiences in primary care.” As hate towards trans people in general has increased drastically, and often targets schools and events for youth, it is horrifically understandable now more than ever that LGBTQ+ youth are at higher risk of suicide compared to their non-queer peers in Canada. COVID-19 has also hit these youth harder, as depression, anxiety, substance use, and barriers to care have impacted them at disproportionate rates.
2SLGBTQIA+ residents have not experienced the brunt of increasingly hostile public spaces alone. Disabled communities who face similar systemic inequities as LGBTQ folks like housing and income precarity, have also seen degradation in well-being due to mass deaths, sky-high inflation, and the growing yet unscientific adoption of a post-pandemic world by their municipalities. Additionally, as TRANS pulse identified in a 2020 study, 19% of survey respondents self-identified as disabled displaying how much our communities intersect. Of these disabled trans respondents, 63% reported unmet health needs in comparison to only 26% of non-disabled participants, once again displaying systemic inequity that has historically and disproportionately impacted disabled and LGBTQ populations alike.
“Disability justice is intertwined with queer liberation. This election, we must fight for our health and safety. Municipalities have a crucial role to play in protecting communities from the preventasble mass disablement and death caused by COVID-19, the toxic drug supply, and the ongoing austerity towards unhoused people.”
In a local context, many barriers to care that exist are entrenched in the policy and investment priorities of the City. The investment priorities that stray from preventing health crises have resulted in long wait times for gender affirming and mental health care as well as other negative implications that distinctly impact queer folks as well as seniors and racialized residents. Unstable and highly competitive funding for vital services, such as Community Health Centres, is a big factor in their abilities to keep up with the public’s needs and sustain upstream, crisis prevention approaches. The lack of public funding has also driven the continued privatization of long term care facilities posing a unique risk to senior queer residents as non-public sector homes, 99% of those available in the city and who are free to make their own guidelines, often include homophobic policies that discriminate against LGBTQ residents. Additionally, the lack of municipal action paired with systemic racism has greatly informed the pandemic’s impacts, targeting groups like Indigenous peoples. In Ottawa, this issue becomes visible when filtering neighbourhood data for racialized population and COVID cases per capita (select compare and list by descending.) Racialized residents are also often targetted with police violence when in need of mental health care, displaying that bigger investments in preventative measures and alternative emergency responses are needed.
It is crucial to note that the current neglect of COVID-19 public mitigation measures by our municipality, reflects the left for dead policies 2SLGBTQIA+ people faced during the 1980s HIV and AIDs crisis. We also see similar messaging around Monkeypox that pigeonholes the virus as exclusively impacting queer communities and creates stigma around the airborne epidemic that can infect all humans. Vaccine access and priority should therefore be expanded to include other vulnerable populations like people who enter emergency rooms and other clinical settings at high risk rates. As such, the longer scientific and collective care methods of transmission mitigation for pandemics like COVID-19 and MPX are ignored, the greater the implications on the racialized, disabled, and queer communities facing the brunt of the consequences and tragedy
It is time to turn to our municipal candidates and demand that:
1. Ottawa Public Health and the Medical Officer, supported by Council, declare transphobia, transmisogyny, and homophobia a public health issue.
2. Municipal funding for Community Health Centres is increased and stabilized to materially demonstrate its high priority status.
3. Funding increases for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth specific physical, mental, and social supports as outlined by Queer Vote Ottawa.
4. DNJO and Horizon Ottawa’s and other science-based approaches are followed to mitigate the harms of the current pandemics: COVID-19 and MPX.
Solidarity is crucial.
As long as the diversity of human expression, existence and bodily function remains coerced into hierarchies maintained by City infrastructure and policy, all who cannot conform to the exalted norms will continue to experience exclusion from public space, care, and prosperity.
“Every time I took care of somebody who was dying of AIDs related complication, knowing I was HIV+ I always questioned when is it my turn?”
“VIDEO: HIV/AIDS in Ottawa,” The Village Legacy Project | Le Projet de legs du village, accessed August 17, 2022, https://www.villagelegacy.ca/items/show/122.
“In 1985 I passed a motion at Pink Triangle Services that we establish an AIDS Committee of Ottawa for education and for care. Because by this time people were calling Gay Line with symptoms. So it was as though the world was waiting and Ottawa was waiting for someone to do this. I knew it would be a serious commitment and it certainly was, Bob Read, a good friend seconded the motion. He decided he would handle the prevention stuff with what we knew about it, by then we knew it was a virus, by then we knew we should be using condoms so we had a message. And I founded the buddies to provide care to gay men because hospitals weren’t doing it, meals were being left on the floor outside rooms.
People were being just left alone to die.”
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