Just a little respect

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Every year, when it’s announced there will be a drag queen reading to children at a Haliburton County Public Library there is some form of backlash. Often it is an anonymous comment left on the library’s phone message system.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has garnered criticism for giving parents the option of opting their kids – aged six to 13 – out of a similar event there. While the TDSB decision has been decried by some, one could argue that tolerance is a two-way street. I would counter there is nothing hateful in choosing not to have your child attend drag storytime.

In June, the York Catholic District School Board voted 6-4 against flying the Progress Pride flag outside its headquarters in Aurora. The decision was because the rainbow banner does not align with the Catholic faith.

Unlike the choice to skip drag storytime, this school board decision is a bit whiffier. But is it hate? No, since the school board claimed it would focus its attention on systemic changes to support marginalized students.

Closer to home, there is nothing debateable about a decision by two people who live on Maple Lake to call their neighbour a “fing faggot” on video. It is hateful. We acknowledge the victim of the act is no saint. He has admitted to being at loggerheads with neighbours over property issues since moving to the Highlands in 2020. The disputes have become downright ugly on both sides. The victim has shouted at his neighbours. So, it is not a black and white story of a sainted gay man being attacked by his neighbours. However, those neighbours have crossed a line. Choosing to use the word ‘faggot’ elevates this to something more. Had they chosen to call the man a ‘fing idiot’, it would have passed with a lot less fanfare.

Tolerance. It appears to be something we see less and less of in the Highlands these days. Neighbourhood disputes seem to be much more prevalent; verbal and other threats more common. People want to protect their patch at all cost, regardless of what effect it is having on their neighbours. That is what started something that led to a homophobic slur being hurled.

I acknowledge the Highlands is not alone.

A recent Statistics Canada hate crimes report notes that in 2021 there was a 64 per cent rise in crimes against people identifying as LGBTQ2+. In 2020, Canadian police reported 2,669 criminal acts motivated by hate – the largest number recorded since comparable data became available in 2009. CTV news has reported that, in Ontario, hate crimes based on sexual orientation are up 107 per cent.

The Ontario government is investing up to $2.6 million over two years through the Safer and Vital Communities grant to help cities and towns combat hate-motivated crime.

One way to tackle hate crime locally is to attend – and show support for – Minden Pride celebrations the week of Aug. 21-27. As chair Allan Guinan says in today’s paper, Minden Pride isn’t asking for much – just for its members to be respected and a welcome part of the community.