— The OHRC (@OntHumanRights) June 13, 2016
This morning we see the faces and hear the stories of the women and men killed and wounded in Orlando. They look and sound like us, our neighbours, our friends, our families. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre, as well as to their loved ones.
But even as we mourn our collective loss and express outrage at the hate crime that has caused so much suffering, the Ontario Human Rights Commission is committed to continuing our work. We will continue to push for stronger protections in law for LGBTQ persons. We will continue to push for an end to the heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia which limits people’s full participation in society.
We have come a great distance, in Ontario, since the injustices of the Toronto Bathhouse raids and criminalization of the LGBTQ community. We were one of the first jurisdictions to allow same sex marriage, and explicitly protect sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in our human rights legislation. In many ways, Canada and Ontario in particular have become a refuge for LGBTQ persons who continue to be persecuted, harassed, assaulted, and killed around the world because of who they are.
But, clearly, our work is not done and we must not be blinded to the corrosive prejudice that continues to hurt our most vulnerable communities – not only in Orlando but here at home too. Approximately 8.8% of all hate crimes in Canada in 2014 were committed against people because of their sexual orientation, and these crimes are often the most violent.
The LGBTQ rights movement has taught us that public displays of love can be acts of courage and strength. So, during Pride Month and beyond we will march and dance and celebrate. But, we will not take for granted what has been accomplished; we will strive for inclusion and for the elimination of hate. Ontario’s human rights system has an important role to play and we will make our best efforts to ensure that the culture the Code envisions, one of “understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person,” not only survives but becomes stronger as a result of this great tragedy.