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Canadian male teen arrested for mass shooting threat against Florida Pride

In regard to the suspect the West Palm Beach Police Deputy Chief noted; “I can say through his statement that there’s no remorse”

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Courtesy of the RCMP

TORONTO – A 17-year-old male adolescent was arrested by Canadian law enforcement after he threatened to commit a mass shooting at Pride on the Block 2022 in West Palm Beach, Florida.

A report was received Sunday, June 5, by the City of Miami Police Department that a video was online posted to the video chat platform Omegle where the teenager suspect was seen waving a gun in the video, making anti-LGBTQ+ comments, and he additionally claimed to be living in Palm Beach County, where he said he was going to commit the mass shooting that day.

After a joint investigation by Miami Police Department which had notified the West Palm Beach Department, the assistance of the FBI, New York Police Department, Toronto Police Service and Peel Regional Police was enlisted to locate and arrest the suspect.

A spokesperson for the RCMP acknowledged that the suspect was arrested Monday and that the weapon seen in the video was recovered. He was charged with threatening to commit a mass shooting and charges including written or electronic threats to kill, do bodily injury, or conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism. Charges are also pending in Florida.

ABC News affiliate WPBF 25 reported that West Palm Beach Police Department Deputy Chief Rick Morris said during the press conference that the suspect knew the area well and most likely had other areas in mind for other attacks, but was not in West Palm Beach at the time of the arrest.

“People were very scared. The Pulse nightclub shooting is still very much in people’s minds especially in our gay community, which is tragic. We want the LGBTQ community to know we stand behind them,” Morris said.

In regard to the suspect Morris noted; “I can say through his statement that there’s no remorse.”

West Palm Beach police had uniformed and plainclothes officers along with SWAT team members at the Pride on the Block event on Sunday, which was delayed one day due to severe weather WPBF 25 reported.

“We did ramp (our enforcement) up in addition to the operational plan that we already had in place but I can’t go into the details or the specifics,” said Mike Jachles, public information officer for the West Palm Beach Police Department.

He continued, “These were hate-filled threats targeted at a ‘gay event’ in Palm Beach County and the West Palm Beach Police Department is committed to ensuring the safety of our residents, visitors and anyone who comes to our city.”

He is in custody in Canada currently awaiting extradition to Palm Beach County Florida.

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Comedian Rob Schneider booed off stage for transphobic jokes

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation issued an official apology saying they do not “condone, accept, endorse or share Schneider’s positions”

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Former Saturday Night Live performer Rob Schneider telling transphobic jokes at a Turning Point USA gathering in Demember 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube TPUSA)

REGINA, Canada – Former Saturday Night Live performer Rob Schneider was a somewhat popular comedic actor who seemed to have it all. But one day, he became a transphobic anti-vax crusader. And he’s just found out that being full of hate ain’t so great.

While performing at a hospital fundraiser in Regina, Saskatchewan June 1, Schneider was asked to leave the stage after multiple guests lodged complaints with organizers over his transphobic material.

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation issued an official apology Wednesday night, saying they do not “condone, accept, endorse or share Mr. Schneider’s positions.”

“While we recognize that in a free and democratic society, individuals are entitled to their views and opinions and that comedy is intended to be edgy, the content, positions and opinions expressed during Mr. Schneider’s set do not align with the values of our Foundation and team,” the statement from the HRF read.

The fundraiser was a sold-out event that raised $350,000 for the city’s hospitals.

Tynan Allen, a DEI consultant who was in the audience, says the apology isn’t enough.

“What’s missing is an action plan. I love an apology, but it doesn’t mean a lot to show that they’ve learned anything,” Allen told CBC News.

“Not only is this completely inappropriate and offensive and really filled with hatred, but it’s also the first day of Pride and we have to recognize what that means to people, especially in a hospital setting where people go through gender-affirming care… and that’s being challenged and mocked and laughed at,” Allen says.

Attendees have posted on social media that Schneider’s set was mainly rants about COVID vaccines and complaints about the existence of trans people.

“Typical transphobic dumbassery and most of it was an attempt at indoctrination rather than comedy,” said one poster on Reddit.

“The rest was kind of tame but the crowd wasn’t laughing… He was floundering bad and kept looking at his notes to try to figure out what to talk about. I think he was realizing he had burned through stories and ran out of jokes. He said he had one more story, and that’s when the host told him that they had run out of time and had to get to the after party.”

Other users expressed bewilderment that Rob Schneider was booked for a hospital fundraiser in 2024.

“People are still booking Rob Schneider for things? Does anyone actually do any research before booking people?” said one Redditer.

“Did they…not look at his Twitter feed before booking him?” said another.

The Hospitals of Regina Foundation told CBC that it booked Schneider in 2023 through an agent. Schneider’s hard-right political views have been public for over a decade

The San Francisco-born Schneider is best known as an alum of Saturday Night Live, as the star of the Deuce Bigelow films, and from his many collaborations with Adam Sandler.His hard-right political turn seems to have begun with a campaign against vaccine mandates in California schools in 2012. While he was once critical of former President Trump’s plan to build a border wall with Mexico, citing his own marriage into a Mexican family, he claims he voted for Trump in 2016. He’s since become a fairly regular figure on Fox News, which last year aired his poorly reviewed comedy special Rob Schneider: Woke Up In America on its SVOD platform Fox Nation.

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Toronto mayor & Canada’s Drag Race star unveil art installation

“This pathway is where people walked for the first Pride. This is where people walked in the 1930s at the start of the modern queer community”

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Canada’s Drag Race star Jada Shada Hudson accompanied Olivia Chow, the mayor of Toronto and others for the dedication of the 600 meters long LGBTQ+ Rainbow Pride flag walk on Toronto Islands at Hanlan's Point. (Photo Credit: Office of the Mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

TORONTO, Canada – Accompanied by Canada’s Drag Race star Jada Shada Hudson and other prominent members of the LGBTQ+ community in Ontario, Toronto mayor Mayor Olivia Chow unveiled a significant art installation just before Pride Month kicks off on a bike and footpath on at Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands.

The art installation by renowned queer artist Travis Myers at nearly 600 meters [2,000 feet] long is the longest continuous display of a Pride Flag in the country. Mayor Olivia Chow noted in her post on X (formerly Twitter) regarding the May 25th dedication:

“Hanlan’s has been an important gathering place for the 2SLGBTQI+ community for 80 years. I was honoured to help cut the ribbon and take a stroll along the world’s longest Rainbow Road to celebrate the queer history – and future – of Hanlan’s Point.”

Toronto Pride noted that Hanlan’s Point holds significant historical value as the site of Canada’s inaugural Pride celebration in 1971, making it one of the ten oldest surviving queer spaces in the world, and Canada’s oldest.

Now Toronto magazine journalist Anushka Yadav reported that in May 2023,  city council passed a motion, officially recognizing the eight decades of queer history, community, and the importance of place making at Hanlan’s Point Beach.

More recently, in March 2024, the council authorized the General Manager of Parks, Forestry, and Recreation to accept an in-kind donation of up to $200,000 from Pride Toronto. This generous contribution is earmarked for the enhancement of Beach Road near Hanlan’s Point Beach. 

In a statement released by the walkway art’s creator and artist Travis Myers, he said:

“Over the last couple of years I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the hidden history of this place and work to share it with others. I’ve also connected with so, so many people in Toronto’s queer community to learn what makes this space special for them.”

“But through that process, I’ve also heard from queer people who have been made to feel unsafe or unsupported. People who have been hurt mentally, physically, and emotionally. Stories that have broken my heart into a thousand pieces.”

“I know how that feels. Their pain is my pain.”

Reflecting on the purpose and statement the art installation makes Myers noted:

[The footpath walkway is] “to help people feel bolder in their sense of belonging. A way that geography can reflect back community. Something to empower them with every step to feel like they deserve to be here. That they deserve to be themselves.”

“This pathway is where people walked for the first Pride in Canada back in 1971. This is where people walked in the 1930s at the start of the modern queer community as we know it. And this is where we walk now.”

“As much as I wish it could be, this isn’t a force field that can protect people against violence, or the history books where queer history should be written. But it’s a start.”

Myers added that he hoped the people who use the pathway “feel like there are people walking with you. The forebears who fought for our rights. The ones who fought so we could be free. The ones who weren’t as lucky. And the ones yet to come, in search of community.”

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Canada ends ban on gay sperm

Because Canadian law bans paying donors for sperm samples, Canada sources most of its sperm samples from the United States

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Health Canada offices in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo Credit: Government of Canada - Gouvernement du Canada)

By Rob Salerno | OTTAWA, Canada – Health Canada issued new guidance this month that effectively ends the ban on sperm donations from men who have sex with men, ending more than three decades of legal discrimination.

Regulations barring tissue donations from men who have sex with men were put in place in Canada and many other countries during the early days of the AIDS crisis as a means of reducing the likelihood of spreading HIV through donations. In Canada, the regulations included a blanket ban on blood, semen, organs, and other tissues from any man who had ever had sex with another man, even once, since 1977.

As the testing process and treatment and prevention efforts for HIV improved, these bans proved to be scientifically unnecessary barriers to allowing gay and bisexual men to donate.  

But as Health Canada began removing donor restrictions on blood from men who have sex with men, the restriction on sperm and other tissues persisted. That discrimination is finally over.

Going forward, would-be sperm donors in Canada will be screened on a behavior-based risk assessment, rather than on whether or not they have had a same-sex partner.

The move comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it is also moving to end its ban on gay and bisexual sperm donors by the end of this year.

A gay man had also filed a suit against the Canadian government, alleging the sperm donation ban violated his right to equal treatment.

Because Canadian law bans paying donors for sperm samples, Canada sources most of its sperm samples from the United States.

Global LGBTQ+ news gathering & reporting by Rob Salerno

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Canadian Pride events ban Conservative politicians

Pride festivals in Alberta and Saskatchewan Canada have banned lawmakers who have pushed anti-trans policies

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Edmonton Pride Festival at Churchill Square, 2023. (Photo Credit: Edmonton Pride Festival/Facebook)

By Rob Salerno | EDMONTON, Canada – Pride festivals in two of Canada’s most politically conservative provinces are putting their feet down and barring lawmakers who are pushing anti-trans legislation from participating in Pride festivities this season.

This week, nine Pride festivals across Alberta – including those in the largest cities Calgary and Edmonton – put out a joint statement that they will “not allow the participation of the United Conservative Party (UCP) in our 2024 pride celebrations.” The move came days after several Pride festivals in neighboring Saskatchewan announced they had barred the conservative Saskatchewan Party from participating in their parades.

Both provinces have recently passed or announced policies that would harm trans youth. 

Last year, Saskatchewan enacted a regulation that would require schools to out gender non-conforming children to their parents, and when the regulation was struck down by a court, the government enacted a law using the “notwithstanding” rule that allows governments to circumvent the federal Charter of Rights.

In January, Alberta’s conservative government announced it would bring forward legislation in the fall to ban gender confirming surgeries on minors, restrict hormone treatment for minors under 16, bar trans children from playing in gender-appropriate school sports, and require parental notification for students to use a preferred name or pronoun.

“This is a direct response to Premier Danielle Smith’s stated intention to infringe on the rights, freedoms, and healthcare of the transgender community in Alberta,” the statement put out by the Alberta Pride organizations reads. “You may not join our celebrations in June when you plan to attack us in September.” 

“Queer rights should not be a political decision. Trans rights are human rights. We invite Premier Smith to re-consider her harmful and damaging policies and engage in meaningful discussions with the Two Spirit, Trans, Non-Binary, and Queer community.”

Other Pride festivals barring the UCP from participating include festivals in Red Deer, Lethbridge, Banff, Canmore, Lacombe, Jasper, Fort Saskatchewan, and Okotoks. The statement was also joined by three queer service organizations.

“When queer people are being attacked by our government, we come together and get things done,” says James Demers, a community organizer with Queer Citizens United, the umbrella organization of Alberta Pride societies that put together the statement. 

Queen City Pride, which organizes the annual Pride festival in Saskatchewan’s capital Regina, was the first city to announce that it would not allow the Saskatchewan Party to participate in its events.

“We decided as a board that we might have to put some distance between us and the Saskatchewan Party. We were very hopeful that they would change course, but they’ve gone against our Charter of Rights. We’re not ok with this, and they’re not backing down,” says Queen City Pride co executive director Riviera Bonneau.

The Saskatchewan Party has participated in the Queen City Pride in the past, with Premier Scott Moe even marching in the parade in 2019. At the time, he told CTV News he believed it was the “right thing for a Premier to do.

“The thing that triggered our announcement was that the Saskatchewan Party had put forward a registration to participate in our parade,” Bonneau says. “I don’t know why they’d want to participate, but they did try.”

Bonneau says she communicated with other Pride festivals in the province before announcing the decision publicly, as she didn’t want to pressure other festivals to make the same decision. In the event, Pride festivals in Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, and The Battlefords announced that they would not allow the Saskatchewan Party to participate, while a spokesperson for Saskatoon Pride told CBC that it would carefully vet any application to participate, and the Party would be unlikely to be accepted.

While the federal Conservative Party has offered support for the anti-trans policies announced by both provinces, Bonneau says her organization has not banned the federal party yet for a simple reason: it hasn’t applied to participate. 

But Demers says his group’s stance is that the federal Conservatives are not welcome at the member festivals either.

“They’re not any nicer to us than the UCP are. I think the consequence extends to them as well,” he says.

Demers says that the federal Conservative Party often applies to participate in Alberta’s Pride festivals, but is typically rejected.

“We have an application process for all of our Prides, and they never pass the process. They’ll typically hold a barbeque somewhere and call it a Pride event, but they have not been invited,” Demers says. “We’ve now formally disinvited them. We would not like them to show up and pretend that they care about us as their constituents. It’s us making it clear that they are not welcome.”

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Ugandan LGBTQ+ activist asks for asylum in Canada

Steven Kabuye stabbed outside his home on Jan. 3

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Steven Kabuye (Photo via X)

TORONTO — A prominent Ugandan activist who was stabbed outside his home earlier this year has asked for asylum in Canada.

Two men on motorcycles attacked Steven Kabuye, co-executive director of Coloured Voice Truth to LGBTQ Uganda, on Jan. 3 while he was going to work. 

Kabuye posted a video to his X account that showed him on the ground writhing in pain with a deep laceration on his right forearm and a knife embedded in his stomach.

He spoke with the Washington Blade from Kenya on Jan. 8 while he was receiving treatment. Kabuye arrived in Canada on March 6.

Kabuye during an April 27 telephone interview with the Blade from Canada said Rainbow Railroad, a group that works with LGBTQ+ and intersex refugees, helped him “get away from the dangers that were awaiting me in Kenya and Uganda.” Kabuye said he asked for asylum in Canada because he “cannot return to either Uganda or Kenya.”

“The Ugandan government fails to get the culprits who wanted to end my life,” he said.

Kabuye told the Blade that Ugandan police officials threaten his colleagues when he publicly speaks about his case.

“Every time I come up and demand for the police to act out, they end up calling the colleagues of mine that remain in Uganda and intimidate them so they can scare me off, so they can make me pack up and keep quiet,” he said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last May signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.” 

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly described the law as a “blatant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTQ+ Ugandans.”

The U.S. has sanctioned Ugandan officials and removed the country from a duty-free trade program. The World Bank Group also suspended new loans to Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court last month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists have appealed the ruling.

“The previously concluded ruling did not make a difference,” said Kabuye.

Kabuye told the Blade he has an interview with Canadian immigration officials on Friday. He said he will continue to advocate on LGBTQ+ Ugandans from Canada. 

“I’m very grateful to Rainbow Railroad,” said Kabuye. “They’ve still given me a chance to continue my advocacy.”

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Canadian parliament debates regulating online hate speech & porn

As opposition-backed “Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act” nears passage, government introduces “Online Harms Act”

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The West Block is one of the three buildings on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario. Since 28 January 2019, it has housed the interim House of Commons Chamber, installed to accommodate the House while the Centre Block is closed. (Photo Credit: Parliament of Canada/Parlement du Canada)

By Rob Salerno | OTTAWA, Canada – Canadian lawmakers are debating dueling bills meant to protect children from hate speech and pornography, and critics are saying both bills have serious civil liberties concerns and may restrict access to lawful LGBTQ+ content on the internet. 

The Canadian government introduced it’s long-promised “Online Harms Act” (C-63) that aims to regulate and ban hate speech and revenge porn on the internet into Parliament on Monday. The government says the bill will hold online platforms accountable for the dissemination and amplification of harmful content.

The new bill would impose on social media companies an obligation to act responsibly for content on their services, including by protecting children and removing child porn and non-consensual porn. A new regulatory body would also handle complaints from Canadians about child and nonconsensual porn on the internet. 

Additionally, the new bill would increase penalties for spreading hate propaganda online, with a maximum penalty set at life imprisonment. 

Arif Virani, the minister of justice, says the government’s bill is necessary to protect children from exploitation and psychological harm online.

“Children are vulnerable online. They need to be protected from online sexual exploitation, hate and cyberbullying. Now more than ever, especially given the evolving capabilities of AI, online platforms must take responsibility for addressing harmful content and creating a digital world where everyone can participate safely and freely. This legislation does just that,” Virani says.

The bill comes as the largely opposition-backed “Protecting Young Persons from Exposure to Pornography Act” (S-210) nears passage. S-210 aims to prevent young people from accessing online pornography by requiring any site that habitually shows pornography to require age verification. 

It’s not yet clear how the sites would be required to verify users’ ages – that’s meant to be developed in future regulations. But proposals have included facial scanning that uses AI to estimate users ages or requiring users to submit government ID to the site. Civil liberties critics have said both ideas intrude on civil liberties and put users’ personal information in jeopardy, and both are likely to be easily circumvented.

The bill also does not define what sites would be required to verify ages. Pure porn sites would be included, but it’s possible that search engines like Google or social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit would. Given the heavy penalties S-210 would impose for violations, platforms may respond by  either overzealously blocking content or blocking access from Canada entirely 

The government does not support S-210, but it has already passed through the Senate and passed second reading in the House of Commons with the support of all opposition parties and a handful of Liberal government MPs. It’s currently in the committee stage.

The government bill, C-63, does not address access to legal pornography. The opposition Conservative Party denounced C-63 before it was even introduced.

But the parties have spent the last few weeks sparring over S-210. Last week, Conservative party leader Pierre Poilievre said if he were Prime Minister he would require porn sites to verify ages, but Conservatives have consistently said they oppose every proposed measure to verify ages and not proposed any other mechanisms.

The bill’s sponsor, Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, told the House in November, “there should be no direct collection of identity documentation by the site publisher from the pornographic site, no age estimates based on the user’s web browser history and no processing of biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying or authenticating a natural person.”

And last week, one of the largest porn sites in the world, PornHub, which is owned by the Montreal-based porn conglomerate Aylo, which also owns SeanCody, Men.com, and WhyNotBi, waded into the debate. Solomon Friedman, a Vice-President of Aylo’s parent company Ethical Capital Partners, says that the company would never agree to collect users’ data and would simply block access to all of Canada. He’s calling instead for device manufacturers to build age restrictions into the phones and laptops that children use. 

“We will never ever take the private identifying information of our users,” Friedman told the Canadian Press.

“(We) will always comply with the law,” he said. “That’s either by imposing the solution, not operating … or in addition to all those, challenging these in law, if we think that they violate some higher legal principle like the Constitution.”

Pornhub has already blocked access from several US states in response to similar ID-requirement laws. But some critics have questioned the effectiveness of the laws, pointing out that data shows usage of VPNs, which hide a user’s geographic location and would enable them to get around such blocks appeared to skyrocket in those states immediately after.

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Canadian town narrowly votes to ban Pride flags

Conservatives in Canada have increasingly taken to campaigning against LGBTQ rights, and particularly in Alberta

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RF Staples School Thunder Alliance & Town of Westlock, Alberta, Canada Pride crosswalk dedication, June 28 2023. (Photo Credit: Town of Westlock, Alberta, Canada)

By Rob Salerno | WESTLOCK, Canada – The small town of Westlock, Alberta voted yesterday to ban the display of Pride flags, as well as any flag other than the Canadian flag or provincial and municipal flags, on public property, in a referendum that saw the ban win by a margin of just 24 votes.

Unofficial results posted Thursday night at 9:30 showed the flag ban received 663 votes in favor and 639 votes against. 

The town of 5,000 people about 50 miles north of Edmonton was required to hold the citizen-initiated referendum over the objections of its council due to Alberta’s Municipal Government Act. 

Anti-LGBTQ+ activists began organizing against Pride flags when the local high school’s gay-straight alliance asked the town council for permission to install a rainbow crosswalk near the town hall. The council voted unanimously to allow the students to paint the crosswalk and the RF Staples School Thunder Alliance installed it in June.

Anti-LGBTQ+ activists promptly set to work collecting signatures for their anti-Pride-flag initiative and got 700 signatures by September – more than enough to force the town to hold the referendum.

The referendum asked residents, “Do you agree that: Only Federal, Provincial and Municipal flags may be flown on flagpoles on Town of Westlock municipal property, all crosswalks in the Town of Westlock must be the standard white striped pattern between two parallel white lines, and the existing rainbow colored crosswalk in the Town of Westlock be removed?”

It’s not clear when the rainbow crosswalk will be removed.

In a press release issued after the results were made public, Westlock mayor Jon Kramer said the town council will continue to support the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, even as it is required to uphold the bylaw.

“Council did not support the proposed Crosswalk and Flagpole Bylaw, as we felt it went against our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. This plebiscite is binding, and as such, the bylaw does restrict how we are able to show this commitment. However, we will continue to find ways to embrace those in our community who need a helping hand, including marginalized groups,” he said. 

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“Equity is the reason we require wheelchair accessible parking; it is why we are developing an accessible playground; and yes, it is the reason we show support to marginalized groups like our local 2SLGBTQ+ community. That won’t stop, it will just take on a different form. We know the Town of Westlock is a welcoming community and that will not change.”

Petition organizer Stephanie Bakker has been at pains to stress that her activism has been about forcing the government to be “neutral,” rather than specifically anti-LGBTQ+, even though it was only the Pride crosswalk that motivated her to action. 

In a post on her campaign web site, she thanks the town for voting in favor of the ban, and says that an official announcement will follow. 

Activists in Alberta aren’t taking this defeat lying down. 

“Smells like discrimination. Looks like discrimination. It is discrimination. I’d expect a court challenge on the way. You can’t single out the 2SLGBTQ+ community and call it neutrality. That’s a violation of human rights,” says Kristopher Wells, an activist and educator in Edmonton, in a post on X.

Under Alberta law, the municipal government may not repeal or amend the bylaw until three years have passed from the referendum date. Alternatively, another citizen-initiated referendum could be called to repeal, but only after a year has passed. However, the bylaw is not immune from a possible constitutional challenge. 

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Conservatives in Canada have increasingly taken to campaigning against LGBTQ rights, and particularly in Alberta, where the government recently announced new policies restricting teaching about LGBTQ+ people in schools, restricting access to gender care for trans youth, and requiring trans students to get parental permission to use a different name or pronoun in school. 

Also on Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Edmonton, where he met with LGBTQ+ community members. At a press conference, he delivered sharp criticism of the Alberta government’s proposed policies, calling them “some of the most difficult policies against vulnerable youth that the country has ever seen.”

“Why has the right suddenly decided to attack the LGBTQ community?” Trudeau said. “Shame on them. And of course, as a government we’re going to be there to protect our most vulnerable.”

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Canadian intel agency: Anti-LGBTQ+ groups are ‘extreme threat’

CSIS warns Canadians & law enforcement that ‘anti-gender’ activists & organizations may strike LGBTQ+ organizations and events

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Canadian Security and Intelligence Service National Headquarters: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: CSIS/Government of Canada)

By Rob Salerno | OTTAWA, Canada – The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) is warning that anti-gender and anti-LGBTQ+ activists are posing a risk of “extreme violence” against the LGBTQ+ community in Canada, following a year of spreading organized anti-LGBTQ+ protests, anti-trans rhetoric coming from provincial governments, and an attack on a gender studies university class.

In a report obtained by the public broadcaster CBC, the CSIS Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre (ITAC) says it is monitoring the potential for a violent attack on Pride festivals and nightclubs across the country. The ITAC is charged with forecasting the possibility of terrorism in Canada, based on analysis of actor intent, capability, and opportunity.

“Anti-LGBTQ+ narratives remain a common theme in violent rhetoric espoused by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Freedom Movement, and networks such as Diagolon and QAnon,” the report says, according to the CBC. “Trans and drag communities in Canada have been the target of several online threats and real-world intimidation tactics in recent months.”

The Blade has requested a copy of the report, but it has not been made public at this time. 

Last June, a knife-wielding man attacked a class on the philosophy of gender at the University of Waterloo, approximately 70 miles west of Toronto, injuring the professor and two students before he was subdued. He now faces 11 terrorism-related charges.

“CSIS assesses that the violent threat posed by the anti-gender movement is almost certain to continue over the coming year and that violent actors may be inspired by the University of Waterloo attack to carry out their own extreme violence against the LGBTQ+ community or against other targets they view as representing the gender ideology ‘agenda,’” CSIS spokesperson Eric Balsam says in an email.

Balsam says that CSIS believes the network of anti-LGBTQ+ and far-right communities in Canada may be a breeding ground for violent activities.

“While violent rhetoric itself does not equate or often lead to violence, the ecosystem of violent rhetoric within the anti-gender movement, compounded with other extreme worldviews, can lead to serious violence. CSIS assesses that exposure to groups and individuals espousing anti-gender extremist rhetoric could inspire and encourage serious violence against the LGBTQ+ community, or against those who are viewed as supporters of pro-gender ideology policies and events,” he says.

Last year, Pride Toronto executive director Sherwin Modeste told XtraMagazine that the festival was boosting its security and increasing emergency drills to prepare for the festival in the wake of rising anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and hate crimes.

According to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, the number of police-reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation has increased in each of the last three years, from 265 incidents in 2019, to 491 in 2022, the most recent year for which statistics are available, a staggering 85% increase. The 2019 figure had been a record number when it was reported. 

Far-right groups in Canada coalesced during the COVID-19 pandemic around protests against vaccine and mask mandates, culminating in a siege of downtown Ottawa and a blockade of border crossings that lasted for nearly a month in February 2022. It is believed that as COVID receded as an animating issue, many of the networks involved transitioned to protesting LGBTQ+ rights and transgender rights in particular.

A small but organized group of anti-LGBTQ+ activists have organized sustained campaigns targeting school boards, libraries, drag performances, pride festivals, and provincial legislatures to oppose LGBTQ+ rights and sex education in schools for the last two years. The protests are generally outnumbered by counter-protesters who support LGBTQ+ rights, but there have been sporadic reports of violence and arrests at the protests.

Last fall, the far-right X account Libs of TikTok, whose operator Chaya Raichik has boasted that her anti-LGBTQ+ “shitposts” frequently inspire violence and bomb threats, turned her attention to a school in suburban Vancouver because a teacher who is nonbinary works there. 

While no violence emerged from the post, the parent who drew Raichik’s attention was given a warning by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to stop harassing school officials, but she has continued to post racist, homophobic, and transphobic statements to her X account. While Canada has long enjoyed relative peace on LGBTQ+ issues, starting last year, several conservative-led provincial governments began introducing policies to restrict the names and pronouns students can use at school in the name of “parents’ rights.”

Recently, the Alberta government went further, announcing that it would restrict gender care for minors, bar trans girls from sports, and require schools to obtain written permission from parents before sexual orientation or gender can be discussed in classrooms.

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Canadian police cleared in anti-LGBTQ+ tractor flip incident

British Columbia Highway Patrol officers were pursuing a tractor participating in an anti-LGBTQ protest on a highway when it flipped

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(Photo Credit: RCMP/British Columbia Highway Patrol)

By Rob Salerno | VANCOUVER, Canada – A civilian oversight body has cleared British Columbia Highway Patrol officers of wrongdoing in a highway chase that led a tractor carrying an anti-LGBT banner to flip over last fall.

The incident occurred on Nov 25, as police pursued a tractor that was participating in a protest against the province’s inclusive sex education curriculum called the “Stop SOGI-123 Road Rally,” a small convoy of vehicles driving from Chilliwack to Vancouver along Highway 15. 

The BC Highway Patrol attempted to get the tractor driver to stop near Surrey in suburban Vancouver, then used a PIT maneuver, where the pursuing car hits the rear quadrant of the target vehicle, causing it to lose traction and spin out. The tractor flips over, and the driver was ejected from the vehicle’s open roof and sustained injuries. He was arrested and taken to the hospital.

The dramatic incident was captured on video by eyewitnesses.

The Independent Investigations Office of BC, which conducts routine investigations into all police incidents that result in injury or death, issued its report on the incident late Friday. While the report has not been made public due to an ongoing court case related to the incident, a news release says that there was no evidence the officers involved did anything wrong.

“The Chief Civilian Director has reviewed the evidence – civilian witness statements, forensic scene analysis, video footage, medical records, and police information – and determined that there are no reasonable grounds to believe any officer may have committed an offence,” the report says.

The tractor driver, who has been identified as Chilliwack farmer Bill Shoker, had released several videos on social media in advance of the rally in which he denounced the province’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity-123 (SOGI-123) curriculum, which is used in public schools to promote inclusion of 2SLGBTQIA+ students and families. 

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Protests against sexual orientation and gender identity material and sex education more generally in school curriculums have become a regular occurrence in Canada in recent years, as a network of extremist anti-vax and anti-mask protestors morphed gradually morphed into an anti-LGBTQ+ protest network. They routinely disrupt school board meetings, library events, and protest at provincial legislatures. The in-person protest groups are often quite small and outnumbered by counter-protestors who support LGBT inclusion. 

Nevertheless, they’ve managed to disrupt events and have scored some policy wins, with several provinces run by conservative governments launching policies restricting students’ pronoun and name use. This month, Alberta announced a new policy would be coming in the fall to restrict discussion of LGBT issues in classrooms, bar trans girls from playing in school sports, and restrict gender care for adolescents.

The BC protesters were trying to launch a campaign to force a recall election of the province’s Education Minister Rachna Singh. The campaign officially failed when organizers were unable to collect the required signatures by the Jan 29 deadline. The campaign had to collect signatures from 40% of the eligible voters in Singh’s district in Surrey (11,811 signatures total), but only reported collecting 3,264.

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Alberta, Canada to block gender care and forcibly out trans kids

Canadian queer activists who say the new policies will be the most restrictive on queer and trans youth in Canada

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Alberta Premier Danielle Smith responds to criticism following the announcement of new policies affecting trans youth. (Screenshot/YouTube CTV)

By Rob Salerno | ALBERTA, Canada – The leader of Canada’s province of Alberta announced a slate of new anti-LGBTQ+ policies in a video released on social media yesterday prompting outcry from queer activists who say the new policies will be the most restrictive on queer and trans youth in Canada.

In a seven-minute video uploaded to X, Premier Danielle Smith announced that “top and bottom” surgeries would be restricted to those aged 18 and older, while trans youth under age 16 would no longer be able to access hormone therapies. Genital surgeries are already not generally medically recommended or performed on minors in Canada.

Trans students under age 16 will need parental permission before using a name or pronoun different from their legal name in school, while students 16 and up will have their parents notified of any name and pronoun changes. 

The premier says the province will also work to restrict women’s and girls’ sports to biological females, while also encouraging new coed leagues that trans students would be allowed to play in.

Additionally, under the new policy, parents will need to be notified and given the right to opt their children out before any classroom discussion on sexuality and gender, while “third party materials” on the sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity will need to be vetted by the Ministry of Education before they can be used in class.

It’s unclear at this point how the new policies will be enacted or enforced, but Smith has said that she wants the policies to be in place by the fall. Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate, an office of the legislature, was not briefed on the policy before it was announced.

In her video, Smith also announces that the government will attempt to recruit doctors who can perform gender-confirming surgeries to Alberta for adult care – currently, those seeking gender surgeries must travel to Quebec for care, nearly 2000 miles away. Smith says that about 100 people receive gender-confirming surgeries annually, about a quarter of whom are aged 18-25.

Smith also announces that child protection laws will be strictly enforced to protect trans children from abusive parents. 

However, in her follow up press conference today, Smith seemed to be unaware of what gender care involves, erroneously suggesting that people who undergo gender-affirming care cannot have sex or reproduce.

The Canadian 2SLGBTQIA+ advocacy group Egale and the Canadian Civil Liberties Union quickly announced that it would be filing a legal action against the policy.

“This is a direct and unprecedented attack on 2SLGBTQI+ Canadians, and trans and gender diverse youth in particular. The draconian measures announced run directly counter to expert guidance and evidence, violate the constitutional rights of 2SLGBTQI+ people, and will lead to irreparable harm and suffering,” Egale says in a statement. “The Government of Alberta is playing politics with some of the most vulnerable members of our society: trans and gender diverse youth, attacking them for cheap political points. We will not stand for it.”

The policies were also quickly denounced by Women & Sport Canada and the Alberta Teacher’s Association, the Alberta New Democratic Party, and the mayor of Calgary.

Federal cabinet ministers were also quick to denounce the policy, but cautioned that until the policy is actually brought forward, there isn’t anything for the government to take action against. 

“As a parent, my heart breaks for young 2SLGBTQIA+ people in Alberta who are being targeted by @ABDanielleSmith’s harmful and misguided policy. To trans and gender diverse youth: please know that we – and so many Canadians – stand with you and will stand up for your rights,” Justice Minister Arif Virani wrote on X.

Trans activist Fae Johnstone, founder of the advocacy group Queer Momentum denounced the policy and called on allies and the federal government to do more to protect trans youth.

“Conservative premiers are bullying trans kids. This whole issue has cast aside the humanity of transgender young people. Kids deserve better than this. Trans young people deserve to grow up in safe and supportive environments,” Johnstone wrote on X

Alberta’s new policies around trans youth and sexual orientation in schools are the most restrictive to be proposed in Canada but follow a growing trend among conservative-run provinces.

The policy around parental notification and consent surrounding name and pronoun use mirrors similar policies introduced in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick last year. The governments of Ontario and Quebec also announced similar policies would be forthcoming last year, but have not announced them yet. 

When a judge blocked the Saskatchewan policy as likely unconstitutional, the Saskatchewan government passed a bill that allows the policy to override the Charter of Rights, using a constitutional procedure that has seen growing use by Canada’s right-wing provincial governments in recent years. Smith did not rule out using the “notwithstanding” clause to shield the policy from judicial review.

There’s little evidence that these policies are popular among the mainstream in Canada. Last year, Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government lost an election after campaigning on introducing a “parents’ rights” policy around trans students. New Brunswick will go to the polls later this year. 

In the northern Alberta town of Westlock, voters will weigh in on banning Pride flags on municipal property this month.

A hardcore base of anti-LGBT activists has grown in Canada in recent years, evolving out of the anti-vax and anti-lockdown movements, and it has been courted by conservative politicians. Smith welcomed these activists at the United Conservative Party of Alberta Convention last year, where they passed policy platforms calling for these policies.

Anti-trans activists also passed policy platforms at the federal Conservative Party convention last year calling for bans on trans people using women’s bathrooms and restricting gender-affirming care for trans youth.

Neither the federal Conservative Party nor its leader Pierre Poilievre have addressed the platform since it was passed. Smith has been explicitly courting the radical right for the last several years, recently appearing in public events across the province with disgraced former Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, disgraced transphobic former University of Toronto professor and current social media troll Jordan Peterson, and convicted fraudster and former owner of the right-wing National Post newspaper Conrad Black. (Black was pardoned by Donald Trump in 2019).

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith defends new gender policy amid criticism:

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Rob Salerno is a writer and journalist based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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