Pink Shirt Day: 2SLGBTQI+ kids should be free to be themselves

February 28, 2024

Canada’s unions are marking Pink Shirt Day 2024 by calling on all governments to support the freedom of trans and queer children and youth to be their authentic selves. 

“We care about the well-being of children. We also know that it is tough for kids to feel different from others growing up, and how important it is to feel safe and included at school. Unfortunately, conservative politicians are trying to make it more challenging for kids and youth by undermining the ability of parents, caregivers, educators, and health care providers to support them,” said Bea Bruske, President of the CLC. “Unions are in the business of defending people’s human rights, whether they’re union members or not. We will not sit by as 2SLGBTQI+ kids’ rights are attacked.”

Bruske added: “Political leaders have a choice to either facilitate bullying and harm against trans children and youth or to protect their safety and well-being.”

In the past year, there’s been a rise in policies, legislation, and actions that undermine the ability of 2SLGBTQI+ youth to learn and grow in safe and affirming environments. Even before this recent increase in harmful policies, 2SLGBTQI+ children were facing difficulties at school. In 2021, Egale’s second national climate survey on homophobia, transphobia and biphobia in Canadian schools revealed:  

  • 2SLGBTQ students report more incidents of homophobic, biphobic, and/or transphobic verbal, physical, and sexual harassment and other forms of targeted bullying than their cisgender heterosexual peers;
  • 77% of 2SLGBTQ Indigenous students had been harassed at school in the year leading up to the survey, the highest percentage of any group, and they were more likely to report skipping school due to feeling unsafe; and
  • 2SLGBTQ Black students were most likely to be verbally harassed about their race and to indicate that they wished they attended a different school.
  • Overall, 62% of 2SLGBTQ respondents reported feeling unsafe at school, compared to 11% of cisgender heterosexual students.  

“Recent policy changes are fueling hate, forcing 2SLGBTQI+ kids and youth to hide their identities and go without support from their teachers. They’re losing access to critical education about gender identity and sexual orientation. It shouldn’t be a struggle for educators to create affirming, inclusive, and welcoming school environments, but educators are facing backlash, with many of them identifying this as a barrier to creating school-wide gender inclusivity,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of the CLC.

In Alberta, for example, parents and doctors are facing government overreach, disrupting their ability to provide quality healthcare to trans and gender-diverse kids and youth. 

Pink Shirt Day began as an initiative in a small-town Nova Scotia school in 2007 to counter homophobia and transphobia at school. It has since grown into a movement to create a more kind and inclusive world by raising awareness and funds for anti-bullying initiatives. 

This year, Canada’s unions remind governments that all children deserve the freedom to grow and express themselves without fear of bullying, ostracism, or violence. Anything less is unacceptable.

In solidarity with 2SLGBTQI+ leaders, we are calling on conservative politicians to stop bullying 2SLGBTQI+ kids: 

  • Repeal any legislation and rescind any policies that deny trans and queer youth the ability to be safe and thrive at school and in their communities; and
  • Collaborate with 2SLGBTQI+-led organizations to identify educational resources and best practices to create welcoming, safe, inclusive learning environments. 

You can take action too! Sign on to the Free and Equal Alberta letter writing campaign.

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