Amnesty International weighs in on Pride Week

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Amnesty International representatives stand with Prince Albert Q-Network president Jennifer Brockman at Sunday’s flag raising ceremony that welcomed Pride Week. At left is Regina-based volunteer field worker Gord Barnes, and at right is Ottawa-based staff campaigner for the rights of indigenous people Craig Benjamin. 

Sunday’s Pride Week flag raising in front of city hall came with a political flair, with two Amnesty International members sharing their insights.

 

In town for a separate human-rights-centred event, Craig Benjamin is Amnesty International’s Canadian staff campaigner for the rights of indigenous people.

Although his main focus is on indigenous people, he said that another large gap in human rights comes with the LGBTQ community.

“If we want to confront discrimination, we all have to stand together,” he concluded.

“We know around the world that discrimination, oppression and violence faced by people in the LGBTQ community is among the most serious human right issues of our time.

“Fortunately, we’re also at a time where there’s a groundswell—a movement to reverse that discrimination -- to end that discrimination.

Although Russia’s human rights record when it comes to law and policy around the LGBTQ community has received media attention lately due to the Sochi Olympics, he said that various other countries around the world leave room for improvement.

In Saskatchewan, Regina-based volunteer field worker Gord Barnes said that things appear to be improving.

“I think there’s been a shift in terms of support for Pride events over, say, the last 15 years or so,” he said. “That’s a good thing and very positive. People are standing together with the community.”

However, he notes that bullying remains prevalent, both in-person and on social media.

“The harassment and stuff just needs to stop, and that’s what we need to all stand together and work together towards that,” he said.

Pride events, such as what the Prince Albert Q-Network is hosting this week, remain important, Benjamin said.

“We talk about a pride season -- event after event throughout the world, and there’s a momentum that builds from event to event and it has global repercussions,” he said.

“It’s building as safer, fairer, more just world for everyone.”

It’s building as safer, fairer, more just world for everyone. Craig Benjamin

With the rainbow-coloured Pride flag flapping in the wind at city hall, Prince Albert’s Pride Week festivities have begun.

A scattering of events will take place throughout the week, which will culminate with the pride parade and community rally at Kinsmen Park, beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

For a detailed listing of events, visit the Prince Albert Q-Network website at www.paqnetwork.org.

 

Our Dreams Matter, Too

In addition to attending Sunday’s flag raising, Barnes and Benjamin spoke at an event at the Prince Albert Multicultural Council centred on aboriginal equality.

Organized by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, the two speakers marked the residential school apology anniversary with a presentation tiled “Our Dreams Matter, Too.”

“It’s a call for basic fairness in access to services for First Nations kids and making sure the services they do receive are appropriate and culturally based and meet their needs,” Benjamin summarized.

With an obvious gap between the main population and First Nations people in specific when it comes to education, health care and child and family services funding, he said that the public needs to push the government toward enforcing equality.

“There is this systematic underfunding of services to First Nations,” he said. “The only way that such a profound inequity could continue to exist year after year is if the Canadian public is apathetic about it.

“We think this is an issue for all Canadians, because it really goes to the heart of, are we a fair and just society?”

Organizations: Amnesty International, Prince Albert, First Nations Prince Albert Multicultural Council First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

Geographic location: Russia, Saskatchewan, Kinsmen Park

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