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Canada joins Global Equality Fund

by Heather Cassell

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: MTL Blog
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: MTL Blog  

Canada officially joined the Global Equality Fund with a $200,000 contribution to protect LGBT rights, Global Affairs Canada officials announced May 17.

The announcement marked International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which commemorates the World Health Organization's decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

"On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we join Canadians and people everywhere to call for a world free of stigma, persecution, and discrimination," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement. "Everyone deserves the same rights and opportunities in life no matter who they love or how they identify."

The funds are specifically designated to provide emergency assistance to LGBT people under threat of violence, according to a joint announcement released by the U.S. State Department and Canadian officials.

The Global Equality Fund is a U.S.-administered, public-private partnership that supports civil society organizations working to promote the rights of sexual minorities. It was launched by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011.

"The United States and Canada will continue to work to ensure that all people - including LGBTI people - can live in dignity, freedom, and equality," according to Thursday's announcement.

President Donald Trump's administration has been rolling back LGBT rights domestically and within its foreign policy despite criticism it has received from LGBT and human rights advocates. However, the State Department has continued to periodically issue statements in support of LGBT rights, including one from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recognizing IDAHOTB.

Along with the U.S., Canada joins fund partners Argentina, Australia, Chile, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Uruguay, along with a number of international corporations and foundations.

Canada also currently co-chairs the Equal Rights Coalition and is working alongside states, civil society, and international organizations to combat discrimination and violence against LGBT people, Trudeau noted.

In August, Canada will host the ERC Global Conference on LGBTI Rights and Inclusive Development in Vancouver.

Campaign launched for national Canadian LGBTQ2-plus Museum
The Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity announced last week its launch of a national museum dedicated to LGBTQ2-plus people.

The proposed 15,000 square foot museum will be housed in a condominium complex being built by Claridge Homes in Ottawa. It will include three galleries, event space, a theater, and healing room and will be fully accessible and easy to get to on public transportation.

Claridge Homes donated the space in LeBreton Flats valued at $7 million. The company is only charging development costs estimated to be $6 million.

The center estimates the balance of the project cost is an estimated $4 million, bringing the total capital campaign to $10 million, reported Global News.

The funds will be used to complete construction and a yearlong conversation with Canada's LGBT community about the best use for the space.

"This is not our space, it is yours," Calla Barnett, president of the center's board of directors, told reporters at the launch event hosted at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.

"We want to be challenged, engaged, and open," Barnett said, inviting Canada's LGBT community to submit its "ideas, wants, and needs" to "build a space that we all need and deserve."

The museum collaborated with the center on an LGBTQ section in its new Canadian history exhibit, reported the newspaper.

"A lot of the stories are stories of struggle. A lot of the stories are stories that are not known," three-term Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament Yasir Naqvi, said at the campaign launch. "It's extremely important that we learn of the struggle, that we learn of the oppression, in many instances, and the positive outcomes that have come out of those challenges, those marches, those movements [and] those legal cases that allowed for equal rights and equal opportunities for members of the LGBT community."

For more information, visit http://ccgsd-ccdgs.org/newspace.

Anti-gay proponent appointed to U.S. global religious panel
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) this month appointed Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as a hate group for years. It has a long history of promoting anti-LGBT rhetoric within the U.S., and globally, in the name of religious freedom.

As Perkins was appointed to a two-year term on the commission, SPLC released a detailed report about fellow hate group the World Congress of Families' work advancing Russian interests in the U.S. working with Russian Orthodox oligarchs.

Perkins thanked McConnell for the appointment.

"From my post at USCIRF, I look forward to doing all that I can to ensure that our government is the single biggest defender of religious freedom internationally," he said, reported the Washington Blade.

The federal commission is an independent bipartisan entity to defend religious freedom within the U.S. and abroad. The president and congressional leaders of both parties appoint commissioners.

LGBT and human rights advocates condemned Perkin's appointment calling him "dangerous" and the move "deeply disturbing."

"His well-documented bigotry has no place in any government entity," Heidi Beirich, director of SPLC's intelligence project, told the Blade.

Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD, noted Perkins' "extreme" views of LGBTQ people.

"The idea that Perkins would be making policy recommendations to an administration that is already anti-LGBTQ is dangerous and puts LGBTQ people directly in harm's way," she said.

To read more about Perkin's anti-LGBT record, visit http://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/05/15/10-things-you-need-know-about-tony-perkins-and-family-research-council. To read the report, visit http://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/05/16/how-world-congress-families-serves-russian-orthodox-political-interests.

Russia denies Chechen gay purge
Alexander Konovalov, Russia's minister of justice, told the United Nations Human Rights Council there weren't any gays in Chechnya during a May 14 meeting for Russia's Universal Periodic Review.

"We weren't able to find anyone," he said, reiterating statements from Alvi Karimov, spokesman to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, when he was questioned about the persecution of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya last year.

Konovalov's report goes against Russian LGBT and human rights experts who said there were at least 200 gay and bisexual men arrested, and as many as 26 killed, during detainment. Novaya Gazeta broke the news in April 2017.

Last month, the Russian LGBT Network published, "LGBT Persecution in the Northern Caucus: a Report," documenting the arrests, detainment, and torture of suspected gay and bisexual men throughout Chechnya by officials at high government levels.

The network evacuated 119 people, hosting them in safe houses until obtaining asylum in LGBT-friendly countries, such as Belgium, Canada, France, and the United States, according to the network.

Russian LGBT Network board member Svetlana Zakharova told Q News in April that the country's gay crackdown "is not over" and the group is demanding "justice for the victims in Chechnya, for their relatives and their loved ones."

The Bay Area Reporter previously reported on the persecution of Chechnya's LGBT community.

To read the report, visit https://lgbtnet.org/sites/default/files/chechnya_obnovlennyy_doklad._mart_2018_eng.pdf.

French minister comes out
Mounir Mahjoubi, the French secretary of state in charge of digital affairs, came out on Twitter on May 17, International Day of Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia.
The 34-year-old former tech entrepreneur led French President Emmanuel Macron's digital election campaign before he was named to his current government position.

On IDAHOTB, Mahjoubi, who is of French-Moroccan descent, tweeted about being gay.

"Homophobia is an evil that corrodes society, invades high schools and colleges, and contaminates families and lost friends," he wrote Thursday. "Worse, it haunts the minds of homosexuals, and sometimes forces us, often, to adapt and lie to avoid hatred to live."

Citing the 22nd annual report by SOS Homophobie, a French LGBT organization, that highlighted an increase in reported anti-LGBT attacks by 4.8 percent since 2016, he noted the importance for him to be open about his sexuality in an interview with FranceInfo following his coming out.

"It was necessary to recall the consequences of homophobia in everyday life, especially among the youngest," he said, pointing out that being open about being gay had consequences for him too. "We are in 2018; I live my life publicly and quietly."

"If I can send the message by reinforcing it by my personal experience, I think I will do it," Mahjoubi continued. He added that it is "important to offer visibility to homosexuals."

Mahjoubi entered into a civil partnership with his partner in 2015.

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at Skype: heather.cassell or oitwnews@gmail.com.

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