Organizations defending sexual minorities denounce the transfer of LGBTQ issues to Minister Martine Biron

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Under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Justice for almost 15 years in Quebec, the fight against homophobia and transphobia is now under the leadership of the new incumbent of International Relations, Francophonie and the Status of Women. A change that causes misunderstanding and concerns among LGBTQ + groups.

Martine Biron inherited the mandate that her colleague Simon Jolin-Barrette – still in Justice – has carried over the past four years. The decision was greeted with surprise as issues affecting sexual minorities fell under the responsibility of the man who also holds the office of Attorney General of Quebec, since the adoption of a ministerial decree in June 2008.

LGBTQ+ community organizations criticize the Legault government for breaking with this policy without informing and consulting them.

“There is great astonishment from all the people who work in the LGBT community, because for us it is so essential that it be managed by the Ministry of Justice”, reacts the director general of the Coalition of LGBT + families, Mona Greenbaum.

The promotion of human rights and the fight against discrimination remain at the heart of the battles of sexual minorities.

“For LGBTQ+ people, there are still many rights that are fragile, even if in Quebec our situation is getting better and better. It remains that in the current social context, there is a certain fragility that can be observed. So the fact that it is in the hands of the Minister of Justice, it brought a certain security, ”argues the co-chairman of the board of directors of the Conseil québécois LGBT, Pascal Vaillancourt.

In Martine Biron’s office, it is indicated that the newly incumbent minister is refusing interview requests for the moment, the time to familiarize herself with her files. But in a written declaration, it is explained that “the quest for equality between women and men and the fight against homophobia and transphobia are interdependent one of the other”.

They “go largely through education, the promotion of egalitarian relationships and the fight against sexual and sexist stereotypes. We are convinced that moving society towards greater equality is substantive work that is carried out in a coordinated manner,” wrote the cabinet, concluding that the minister plans to hold meetings with various groups.

« Less power, less resources »

But stakeholders fear that the government will end up giving even less importance to the issues of the fight against homophobia and transphobia.

“We have nothing against the Ministry for the Status of Women, then Minister Biron. But it is a ministry that has much less visibility, much less power and much less resources. And then who has no knowledge of our files, ”laments Ms. Greenbaum.

« It’s nonsense for us. It is a lack of respect for the minority which is the largest in Quebec, which represents at least 10% of the population, ”she adds.

This changing of the guard comes at a time when the development of the new government plan to fight against homophobia and transphobia for the next five years must begin.

According to Manon Massé, co-spokesperson for Québec solidaire, Mr. Jolin-Barrette lacked the time to fulfill this mandate and meet with the groups. She sees rather a good eye the transfer of this file in the lap of Ms. Biron.

Before the last elections, Mr. Jolin-Barrette “had many other responsibilities, ensuring that the file of LGBTQI + communities was secondary,” says Ms. Massé, responsible for her party for issues related to LGBTQ + communities.

« I dare to hope that with a minister in office who has less on her work table, she will be able to ensure what is necessary to continue to move forward in Quebec in terms of LGBT rights », mentions she.

Since Ms. Biron is in charge of International Relations, Quebec could then play a role with countries that are resistant to sexual minorities, believes Ms. Massé.

If the relations between Mr. Jolin-Barrette and the LGBTQ + circles have been sometimes stormy, the file must remain under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, believes for her part Ms. Greenbaum.

Even « in the worst conditions », she says she is convinced that the claims of people of sexual diversity are advancing faster at the Ministry of Justice than elsewhere. Collaboration is always possible, despite divergent visions.

She cites as an example the reform of family law which initially drew the wrath of transgender and non-binary people. The minister was accused of transphobia, because he wanted to impose on people wishing to change sex to first undergo genital surgery.

Mr. Jolin-Barrette finally backed down on this controversial portion of his legislation and several advances were made when Bill 2 was passed, says Ms. Greenbaum.

“The fact of having backed down on the transphobic aspect of the bill demonstrated the minister’s good faith. But it’s not without causing psychological damage for some people who were afraid of losing what they had learned,” said Mr. Vaillancourt, also Interligne’s general manager.

He hopes that Minister Biron will listen more to groups working with LGBTQ + people and that they will be seen as tools for collaboration and not a threat.

This article was produced with the financial support of the Meta Fellowships and The Canadian Press for News.

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