Evidence of meeting #138 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was gay.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Travis Salway  Post-doctoral Research Fellow, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, As an Individual
Alex Abramovich  Independent Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, As an Individual
Greg Oudman  Executive Director, Health Initiative for Men
Tristan Coolman  President, Pflag York Region

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

I'll start with a question for Tristan.

I apologize for my ignorance, but you had referred to non-binary people. I didn't know what that was, so I asked my colleague and he didn't know either.

What is a non-binary person?

4:40 p.m.

President, Pflag York Region

Tristan Coolman

That's why we're here, to help educate you all.

Someone who identifies as non-binary is someone who does not identify as a male or a female, and also would perhaps even present themselves in that way, maybe dress in a little more androgynous manner and ebb and flow with their look as well.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Is that the same as or different from asexual?

4:40 p.m.

President, Pflag York Region

Tristan Coolman

Asexual is more of an identity with your attraction to another person.

For a non-binary person who identifies that way, it's more how you feel about how you fit into the world. Someone who is asexual is just someone who does not carry any sexual attraction to anyone.

April 9th, 2019 / 4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you.

The next question might sound a little risqué, but on our trip, we were in Montreal and they were describing one of the factors, the intersectionality between the gay men population and the drug addiction problem that was there. It was called “chemsex”. I had never heard of that. We talked about it in Winnipeg and they had a different name. You represent across the country, so is this a common thing?

4:45 p.m.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

Dr. Travis Salway

I'm looking at Greg. Perhaps he'd like to answer.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Greg, we'll start with you, and then we'll come east.

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Health Initiative for Men

Greg Oudman

The points that Travis made earlier when he responded to the question around problematic substance use among gay men I think also speak to the whole issue of chemsex—or what's often referred to as “party and play” here in Canada more so than “chemsex”. For some of the same reasons that we see problematic substance abuse among gay men, we see gay men engaging in chemsex, or party and play, because it provides a safe space, lowers inhibitions and offers an opportunity for gay men to connect while using a substance.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

How about Toronto and anywhere else?

4:45 p.m.

Independent Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, As an Individual

Dr. Alex Abramovich

Actually, I can't comment on that.

4:45 p.m.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

Dr. Travis Salway

I don't have anything to add.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

My next question, then, has to do with what I think you, Travis, talked about, the different factors influencing or that people are struggling with in poverty and not having supporting partners. Would you agree that initiatives such as HIM would really help to fill that partner gap that people are experiencing?

4:45 p.m.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

Dr. Travis Salway

Yes, absolutely.

If we draw on the first principles of what we know about suicide research and mental health, we know more social supports and more social connections really matter. The reason is that if you're in a low moment when you're feeling quite down, perhaps feeling suicidal, the more people you can reach out to, the better. If you're someone who is LGBTQ2S and you've felt that sense of separation, you may need a place that specifically centres that experience.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

I have another question about the poverty aspect of this.

I need to understand why we see a greater poverty percentage in this population. My experience is that all my gay friends are rich engineers.

Is it discrimination that's happening in the workplace, or is it that they don't get the education in the first place? Is it the poverty relationship, or what?

4:45 p.m.

Independent Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, As an Individual

Dr. Alex Abramovich

It depends on the subgroup you're talking about. Each group will have different access to employment and education.

I could speak about the people I work with. Oftentimes they may not be able to secure formal employment, because a lot of the young transpeople I work with haven't had their legal name changed. They haven't had their ID changed over, and you need your ID in order to get a job. That creates a lot of really big issues for most of the young people I work with.

As well, if you don't have a place to sleep, it's really hard to get back on your feet. If you're trying to access housing programs, you want to find a place to sleep; you want to find a home. However, you're experiencing institutional erasure, experiencing discrimination, homophobia, transphobia and violence, and you don't have your ID. There are so many things that are coming at you.

Especially if you're a transgender indigenous person, you then add racism on top of that as well. That person would be experiencing even higher rates of poverty and they would have an even more difficult time trying to access secure employment.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Now we go to Dr. Eyolfson.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for coming. This is very informative and very helpful.

Dr. Abramovich, I'd like to expand on what you said about the lack of training in the medical system. I graduated from medical school in 1993. The grand total of our education on LGBT issues was little more than “You should be nice to gay people.” I think we needed more than that in the way of education.

I'm going to start with Dr. Salway. We talked about the attitudes in society and the stigma that comes with being LGBT, particularly among young people, and, again, even more so in the school setting. Would you agree that gay-straight alliances, GSAs, are a valuable addition?

4:50 p.m.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

Dr. Travis Salway

Yes, absolutely. Research that was done in Vancouver led by Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc looked very carefully at school districts over the last 10 years in B.C. that implemented policies allowing for GSAs and found marked reduction in suicide ideation in those schools. So we do have evidence that they're having an effect.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Good, and I see a lot of nods around the table as well. Again, I'll say, it was the answer I expected.

There is some controversy, particularly within some political campaigns. Some want to allow schools to have the choice of banning GSAs. Manitoba actually just passed a law saying schools couldn't ban them. Would you feel that any school that receives public funding should be allowed to ban these organizations?

4:50 p.m.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, As an Individual

Dr. Travis Salway

I think they are life-saving and I don't think banning them should be allowed. Doing that is denying youth a resource that we know can potentially save their lives.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Sure. Thank you.

Further to that, there are those who are advocating that schools should notify parents of children who join these organizations. Would you agree there's a potential for harm in such a policy?

I'll open it up to everybody.

4:50 p.m.

Independent Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, As an Individual

Dr. Alex Abramovich

That is extremely harmful, especially if I think about the population of youth I work with. A lot of these youth need the GSA. They need to have a safe space where they can talk about their identity, and in many instances, that's before coming out to their families, to prepare themselves. If the school were to call those parents, I can guarantee that many of those young people would no longer have a home and we would have an even bigger homelessness epidemic across the country.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you.

Now, I don't want to paint with too broad a brush, but we do know there are some faith-based organizations and even some so-called mainstream religions that are still very negative on the subject of LGBT. Would you agree that particularly in areas with large faith-based communities this attitude contributes to these problems faced by LGBT people, the problems of suicide, homelessness and mental health issues?

4:50 p.m.

President, Pflag York Region

Tristan Coolman

I think it really depends on the moral lens the faith leaders have. You have your moral lens and then you have your religious lens, and somehow ideas of how people should live their lives come through the other end.

For example, in our community, in York region, we have a very strong relationship with a lot of our faith leaders there, and we've been to LGBTQ-themed events at local churches. Those leaders see a responsibility to spread the message of love and to make sure that community members don't feel ostracized or don't see the church as a place where they're not welcome.

4:50 p.m.

Independent Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, As an Individual

Dr. Alex Abramovich

If I could add a comment, a lot of the shelters and a lot of the drop-in services for people experiencing homelessness are faith-based. We do have a lot across the country that are run by faith organizations. A lot of the young people I work with have had negative experiences in the past and are more reluctant to actually enter those services, but I do think that many of those services that were perhaps historically homophobic or transphobic can change and have changed, and we've seen those changes.

When they make those changes and they send out that message that they are accepting and they are affirming, and they develop policies or community plans to address LGBTQ2S youth homelessness, that sends out a very strong message, and youth are more likely to enter those services.