The Yukon government has released an action plan to make the territory more welcoming for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and two-spirit people.
“It will take time, hard work, perseverance and meaningful relationships to bring about the change that is needed. However, I believe in the Yukon and in our ability to work together to build a safer and more welcoming home for us all,” said Joe Wickenhauser, executive director of the Queer Yukon Society, during a press conference on July 15.
The plan has 100 actions the government has pledged to take in order to make the territory more inclusive. It was presented on Thursday by Minister for the Women’s Directorate Jeanie McLean alongside Wickenhauser and representatives from the All Genders Yukon Society.
One of the steps is to change the name of the department from the Women’s Directorate in order to acknowledge the wider mandate.
“Many items are small administrative types of changes, such as updating forms and changes to legislation for the equality of spouses, for example,” McLean said. “Other actions, such as training, are being worked on through the existing budget and the costs of some other long-term actions, like supporting a pride center, or improving access to gender-neutral washrooms, will be determined as the action plan proceeds.”
Other items in the package include modifying the way the Yukon government collects data on sex and gender, including allowing for a gender-neutral ID, such as a driver’s license, that would offer a third option outside of F for female or M for male.
The province of British Columbia, for example, allows individuals to choose the marker “X.”
This would provide an option for non-binary or two-spirit people, who may not feel comfortable with existing options.
“Systemic discrimination is not the same as individual cases of overt harassment. Systemic discrimination involves organizational practices, policies, or other rules that create disadvantages or harms for specific groups of people like the queer community,” said Wickenhauser.
“Coordinated action [is needed] to bring about change in systems that were not set up with queer, trans and two-spirit people in mind,” he said.
Wickenhauser said the goals in the plan are all urgent items, but in conversations with community members he has heard that health care and education are the most pressing areas for improvement.
He said challenges being faced by individuals include untrained healthcare providers, students being bullied in the classroom, public servants nervous to come out in the workplace and people being harassed in washrooms.
In March the government announced it would improve access and funding for transgender healthcare, including hormone therapy and surgery. McLean remarked on Thursday that there is more to do.
Listed within the action plan is providing appropriate training to health care practitioners for interacting with trans, non-binary and two-spirit patients. The department will also improve access to resources around family planning
On education, the plan commits to encouraging clubs like Gender and Sexuality Alliances, updating school policies on pronoun use and addressing gender-identity inclusion in sports. The plan also commits to sexual education that includes LGBTQ2S (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirit) students.
The government also plans to update legislation to include common-law couples and invest in gay- and trans-friendly tourism.
For public servants, the action plan suggests training and more gender-inclusive washrooms in public buildings.
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