By George Harvey and Alex Xavier, LGBTI Coordinators
Summer is officially here, and with it some of the first Pride festivals of the year in Canada. We have a lot to celebrate this summer!
Last November, following efforts from Amnesty supporters around the world, openly gay Venezuelan politician Rosmit Mantilla was released. after more than two years in prison. Upon his release, he expressed gratitude to all those who took action on his behalf:
“I often woke up believing my strength was running out, believing I couldn’t keep going, and then I received photographs of Amnesty International human rights activists from all over the world requesting my freedom, respect for justice and for life. Infinite thanks, friends, without you I wouldn’t be here!”
This year, Amnesty released Do No Harm, its first ever report on the rights of intersex people. This report documents some of the human rights violations faced by children with sex variations in Germany and Denmark, an important first step in mobilising Amnesty members to take action in solidarity with intersex advocates.
On May 17th, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, whistleblower and trans activist Chelsea Manning walked free after President Obama commuted her 35-year sentence for exposing potential human rights violations committed by the US military. During Write for Rights in 2014, Amnesty activists around the world took action nearly a quarter of a million times, calling for Chelsea’s release and sending her more than 17 000 cards and letters. In a letter to Amnesty members, Chelsea said:
“These cards and letters literally flooded the mail room and my cell during my birthday, the holidays and Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign in December. I read each one! And I greatly appreciated all of your strong words of support, and your warm words of comfort.”
And after more than a decade of lobbying by trans activists and allied organisations, including Amnesty International, the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-16 last week. This legislation adds human rights protections for trans people in Canada by amending the anti-discrimination clause in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the hate crimes provisions in the Criminal Code to include gender identity and expression.
— AmnestyCanada (@AmnestyNow) June 15, 2017
However, the past year has also seen many challenges, with new and continuing threats to the rights of LGBTI people around the world. The Pride movement traces its origins to a riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a response to years of police harassment, raids, and violence. In the decades since, LGBTI activists around the world have taken to the streets to demand their rights; the right to live free from violence, the right to adequate and respectful healthcare, the right to freedom of expression and assembly, the right to form families and to have those families recognised by law. In this tradition, Pride continues to be first and foremost a protest – a call to action to communities here at home and around the world, to respect and defend the right of LGBTI people to live free from violence and discrimination.
How can you participate? We’re glad you asked! Pride events take place in communities large and small across Canada. Amnesty groups participate by marching in parades, tabling at street fairs, organising vigils, and partnering with local organisations to host workshops, panels, film screenings, and more.
Last weekend, Regina’s Amnesty International Group 91 had the honour of being designated as Grand Marshal of this year’s Queen City Pride Parade. A large Amnesty contingent led the parade with a red convertible, members carrying signs, and a portable sound system blasting dance music. Despite heavy rain, this year was Regina’s largest Pride Parade ever with over 2,000 participants and over 80 floats, groups, and organizations. Check out the photos from Regina!
— AmnestySaskatchewan (@aisaskfws) June 17, 2017
“It was an absolute honour for Amnesty International,” said Daylene Sliz, president of Amnesty International in Regina. “Every person in the world — Canadians and globally — everyone needs to be able to feel protected and safe regardless of their gender identity.”
This coming weekend, Amnesty International will participate in Pride Toronto and Saskatoon Pride (details for Saskatoon here)! In Toronto there will be a booth set up at the Street Fair on Church St, north of Wellesley, from 10am-6pm on Saturday June 24th and Sunday June 25th. There will also be a contingent marching in the Pride Parade on Sunday. If you’d like to join us, or want more information, email George at firstname.lastname@example.org or drop by the booth and say hi!
— AmnestyCanada (@AmnestyNow) June 14, 2017
To find out what Amnesty is doing for Pride in your community, contact your local Amnesty group or check out the events page on the Amnesty website. If your group is doing something, you can submit info on the events page to get the word out, and if you have a facebook event let us know – we’d be happy to promote it on our page! Not sure how to get started? No problem – we’ve put together a Pride Toolkit full of actions, ideas and resources for activists to bring a human rights focus to Pride festivities, and you can reach us at LGBTICoordinator@amnesty.ca to chat further.
For more information, actions, and news: