By Gabriella Rodrigues
Canada is by far one of the best places for the LGBTQ community. In a recent report, called “The 203 Worst (& Safest) Countries for LGBTQ+ Travel in 2023”, it was ranked as the top LGBTQ-friendly country on earth. One of the main reasons for that is due to its laws since Canada has some of the most progressive and comprehensive rights in North America. The country was one of the first to legalize same-sex marriage and it has constitutional anti-discrimination protections, proof that the nation is at the forefront of diversity and inclusion. Although this is certainly encouraging, it is important to acknowledge that LGBTQIA2S+ people still face many social challenges, struggling with discrimination and mental health problems.
With that in mind and observing Pride Month, Latincouver has listed various resources available to the LGBTQIA2S+ community of British Columbia, ranging from agencies that provide support to refugees and new immigrants to specialized care to transgender and gender-diverse people. Check out the list below and don’t hesitate to reach out to these and other organizations that are willing to help all those going through difficult situations.
Chilliwack Gender Support Network
The Chilliwack Gender Support Network is a program of the Chilliwack Youth Health Centre committed to promoting and providing trans-competent, gender-affirming services in the Chilliwack community. This is an initiative that has the support of Trans Care BC, Sto’lo Nation, and the Chilliwack Youth Health Centre, with Envision Financial. The group helps with counseling, peer support, gender-affirming apparel, bus passes to assist those to take transit to attend the groups, medical advice, and other mental health services. GSN also holds varied support groups for people of all ages. More information about the groups and the other programs can be found at https://chilliwackyhc.com/.
Fraser Valley Youth Society
The Fraser Valley Youth Society is a non-profit society operating in the Fraser Valley since 2000. It runs weekly LGBTQIA2S+ and Allied Youth drop-in centres in the communities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Mission, providing opportunities for personal growth and leadership through workshops, programs, community connections, and peer support. It also offers school-based GSA support and local advocacy. All questions and support needs must be directed to [email protected]. More information can also be found on their website http://fvys.ca/.
Health Initiative for Men
The Health Initiative for Men is a non-profit that aims to strengthen the health and well-being of communities of self-identified GBQ men (Gay, Bisexual, and Queer) and gender-diverse people in British Columbia. Their mental health programs provide the communities with access to counseling and support through peer counselors who work with clients on matters relevant to their mental health such as loneliness, anxiety, coming out, racism, self-esteem/body image, aging, sex, substance use-related issues, and more. Additionally, HIM health centres in the Lower Mainland, as well as its anonymous testing events in the BC Interior, provide GBQ men and gender-diverse people with HIV/STI prevention and treatment services. You can find out more about the non-profit’s services on their website https://checkhimout.ca/.
The Prideline is a support, information, and referral phone line that operates 7 days per week from 7 pm to 10 pm PST and serves the province of British Columbia. The service offers peer support services; information on social and community events; and referrals to social service agencies, support groups, LGBTQS2+ friendly doctors, or therapists. Issues addressed on calls range from coming out, relationship conflict, and workplace difficulties to same-sex domestic violence and suicide. To talk to one of the volunteers call 1-800-566-1170 (Toll-Free).
Qmunity is a non-profit organization based in Vancouver, BC, that seeks to improve queer, trans, and Two-Spirit lives through an array of services such as free counseling, information and referrals, one-on-one peer support, access to gender-affirming chest-wear, advisory and consulting services, educational resources, queer competency workshops and many more. All the information on how to participate in the activities provided by the non-profit can be found on its website: https://qmunity.ca.
Rainbow Refugee Committee (RRC)
Founded in 2000, the Rainbow Refugee Committee is a Vancouver-based community group that promotes safe, equitable migration and communities of belonging for people fleeing persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status. RCC provides support, information, and system navigation to refugees and refugee claimants seeking refugee status in Canada by privately sponsoring refugees in collaboration with other LGBTQIA2S+ organizations in the Rainbow Coalition for Refuge. Refugees either inside or outside Canada can contact the organization through the email [email protected] and see more information on their website https://www.rainbowrefugee.com/.
Fun fact: RRC founder, Chris Morrissey, was the recipient of Latincouver’s Inspirational Latin Awards 2023 in the category Non Latino Making an Impact. According to Morrissey, everything started when she wasn’t allowed to sponsor her partner, an immigrant, as a family member and decided to challenge the Minister of Immigration and Canada’s Immigration Laws. While working to change the laws, the group she was working with began to receive emails from LGBTQ people who were living in different parts of the world and being persecuted. The group that she brought together to respond to these people needs is now called Rainbow Refugee Society.
Richmond Multicultural Community Services
As part of the many programs and services it offers, the Richmond Multicultural Community Services has one focused on the LGBTQIA2S+ community. The IRCC-funded (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada) program aims to help Permanent Residents and Refugees who identify themselves as members of the community to have a smooth journey settling in Canada. The initiative offers one-on-one session services such as assistance with government services applications, housing applications, employment counseling, mental health assessment, official language study, and more. There are also group session services to meet other members of the program. To book an appointment people just need to contact the program facilitator – contact can be found on this link: https://www.rmcs.bc.ca/lgbtqia2s-program/.
Founded in 2008, Sher Vancouver goal is to provide arts, cultural, and social service programs, and services to queer South Asians and their friends, families, and allies in Metro Vancouver. Some of the services and programs offered by the charity are counseling, peer support, referrals, resources, workshops, education, and more. To know more on how to participate in the programs and get in touch with the members of the charity access https://www.shervancouver.com/.
Trans Care BC
The Trans Care BC health navigation team helps Two-Spirit, trans, gender diverse, and non-binary people in British Columbia identify health care system pathways, get information and find services, resources, and supports related to gender-affirming care. More information on how to contact the health navigation team is available on http://www.phsa.ca/transcarebc/.
Trans Specialty Care
The Trans Specialty Care provides specialized care to transgender and gender-diverse persons living in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. The services include hormone starts and stabilization, surgical care planning and referrals, pre-operative information and education, post-operative nursing care, assistance with identity document changes, and counseling. Check out the official website to find a location near you and see the frequently asked questions regarding the program: https://www.vch.ca/en/service/trans-specialty-care.
Resources for allies
In order to create safer and more inclusive spaces for the LGBTQIA2S+ community, everyone, including businesses, must learn how to do that. To that end, companies and individuals count on organizations that offer training, workshops, and education programs focused on providing this knowledge. In British Columbia, the aforementioned non-profit Qmunnity gives education and training for individuals, families, schools, service providers, and businesses to identify and avoid discriminatory behaviours and to explore the complexity and potential of sexual and gender diversity. Expanding to Canada, Pride at Work Canada offers institutional education and guidance to organizations from coast to coast that commit to supporting LGBTQIA2S+ inclusion. Check out their websites to better understand the resources each organization provide: qmunity.ca and Home – Pride At Work Canada.
If you are a member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, remember that you are not alone and that there are many people working to create a world where everyone is accepted for who they are!