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Central Okanagan United Church Welcomes All with “You Belong” Banner Unveiling

In a heartwarming ceremony, the Central Okanagan United Church in Kelowna officially affirmed its commitment to inclusivity, celebrating its designation as an affirming congregation for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The event featured the unveiling of a stunning “You Belong” banner, designed by local artist Sarah Jones and commissioned by Advocacy Canada.

Wilbur Turner addresses the congregation at Central Okanagan United Church on February 18, 2024. Video credit COUC Media.

Wilbur Turner, President of Advocacy Canada, played a role in unveiling the banner. He spoke of his own journey, similar to one shared by one of the ministers of being ostracized upon coming out as gay. He shared that he stood in the same space 12 years ago, speaking at an inter-faith Pride service while in drag, highlighting the progress made and the fight for visibility. Wilbur spoke of the reason behind the design and banner, and the need for a message that uplifts and celebrates the queer community at a time when they are under attack.

Wilbur Turner as his drag persona, Oddree speaks at an inter-faith Pride service at Central Okanagan United Church in August 2012.

Wilbur Turner as his drag persona Oddree speaks at an inter-faith Pride service at Central Okanagan United Church in August 2012.

The “You Belong” banner isn’t just a symbol; it’s a beacon of hope. Its vibrant rainbow design and powerful message resonate at a time when the 2SLGBTQIA+ community faces growing pressure to be silenced. This uplifting artwork, commissioned after a community consultation process, embodies the spirit of acceptance and inclusion.

Beyond the visual, the banner carries a potent message in the nsyilxcən language: “kʷu yʕayʕát kʷuʔ čn̓k̓ʷɬn̓xiʔm̓,” which translates to “We all join in together / We are all a part of it together.” This message of unity and belonging underscores the ceremony’s significance and reminds us that inclusion isn’t just a concept, it’s a practice. More information about the “You Belong” project and the nsyilxcən phrase pronunciation go to the okyoubelong website.

The Central Okanagan United Church’s celebration sends a powerful message of love and acceptance. As Wilbur noted in his speech, “This rainbow is not just for the queer community, it’s for everyone.” Let this be a symbol of hope, inspiring others to create spaces where everyone feels welcome and celebrated, where “You Belong” is more than just a phrase, it’s a lived reality.

Advocacy Canada is grateful for the support of Central Okanagan United Church for our advocacy work.

Help Advocacy Canada

Your donation and membership goes beyond a simple transaction. It becomes a powerful tool for change, helping Advocacy Canada ensure every person in Canada can live authentically and free from discrimination. Join the movement for trans rights, donate today, and be a part of the solution.

Donate to advocate for trans rights

By becoming a member of Advocacy Canada, you can add your voice to the chorus demanding equality and justice for trans individuals across Canada. Join today.

Resources

988 Suicide Crisis Helpline: 24/7 support via phone or text.

Kelowna Community Resources Crisis Line: If you feel anxious, or need someone to talk to, the Crisis Line is available 24/7. Help is just a phone call away at 1.888.353.2273 (1.888.353.CARE).

Find more resources here.

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Don’t Be Intimidated: Take Action to Counter Threats Against the 2SLGBTQI+ Community

Imagine building your life, finding joy, and facing challenges, all while knowing there are those who actively seek to harm you simply for who you are. This is the reality for many in the 2SLGBTQI+ community, further amplified by the recent intelligence warning about potential violence. While this news can be frightening, it’s important to remember that we are not powerless. With knowledge, action, and solidarity, we can build resilience, counter these threats, and create a world where everyone feels safe and respected.

Canada’s intelligence agency is warning that extremists could “inspire and encourage” serious violence against the 2SLGBTQI+ community — a threat the Canadian Security Intelligence Service says almost certainly will continue over the coming year.

CSIS’s comments come as provincial policies on gender-affirming surgeries and pronoun preferences are being hotly debated across the country.

“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 2SLGBTQI+ community or against other targets they view as representing the gender ideology ‘agenda,'” said CSIS spokesperson Eric Balsam in an email to CBC News.

Don’t Just Sit By: Concrete Steps to Make a Difference

Not everyone has the capacity, mentally, emotionally, or physically to move into action to counter the threats, however there may be something from this list that you can take on.

Individual Actions:

  • Stay informed: Encourage staying updated on threats through trusted sources like 2SLGBTQI+ community organizations and official security advisories.
  • Practice vigilance: Be aware of your surroundings and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.
  • Connect with your community: Build strong support networks with other 2SLGBTQI+ individuals and allies. This can provide emotional support, resources, and a sense of solidarity.
  • Report online harassment: Don’t tolerate hate speech or threats online. Report them to the platform and consider seeking help from relevant organizations.
  • Practice self-care: Prioritize your mental and emotional well-being during challenging times. Engage in activities that promote relaxation and resilience.

Community Action:

  • Advocate for increased security measures: Lobby for improved security measures in public spaces frequented by the 2SLGBTQI+ community, such as community centers and schools.
  • Support 2SLGBTQI+ organizations: Donate or volunteer your time to organizations working on safety and security initiatives for the community.
  • Promote education and understanding: Counter misinformation and prejudice by engaging in respectful dialogue with others and promoting educational resources about 2SLGBTQI+ identities.
  • Celebrate community: Organize events and gatherings that celebrate 2sLGBTQI+ resilience and joy. This can help foster a sense of unity and defiance in the face of adversity.

Ally Action:

  • Speak out against hate speech and discrimination: Whenever you witness or encounter anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric or actions, challenge them firmly and respectfully.
  • Educate yourself and others: Learn more about the 2SLGBTQI+ community and the challenges they face. Share your knowledge with others to foster understanding and empathy.
  • Support 2SLGBTQI+ businesses and organizations: Patronize businesses and donate to organizations that actively support the 2SLGBTQI+ community.
  • Advocate for inclusive policies: Speak up for policies that promote equality and safety for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Remember, even small actions can make a difference. By working together, the 2SLGBTQI+ community and allies can create a safer and more inclusive society for everyone.

It’s important to acknowledge the gravity of the situation while realizing our community’s strength and resilience. We need to take action, not out of fear, but from a place of empowerment and a desire to build a better future.

Help Advocacy Canada

Your donation and membership goes beyond a simple transaction. It becomes a powerful tool for change, helping Advocacy Canada ensure every person in Canada can live authentically and free from discrimination. Join the movement for trans rights, donate today, and be a part of the solution.

Donate to advocate for trans rights

By becoming a member of Advocacy Canada, you can add your voice to the chorus demanding equality and justice for trans individuals across Canada. Join today.

Resources

988 Suicide Crisis Helpline: 24/7 support via phone or text.

Kelowna Community Resources Crisis Line: If you feel anxious, or need someone to talk to, the Crisis Line is available 24/7. Help is just a phone call away at 1.888.353.2273 (1.888.353.CARE).

Find more resources here.

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Kelowna Shines Hopeful: A City Stands Strong for Trans Rights

Allies stand up for trans rights in Kelowna

Over 100 voices in Kelowna rose in vibrant harmony on February 4th at a rally for trans rights organized by Advocacy Canada, sending a clear message: British Columbian’s are willing to stand up for trans rights. This powerful display of solidarity came in response to Alberta’s concerning anti-trans policies, a worrying sign amidst a troubling trend of discriminatory legislation across Canada.

Why does this matter? Because the winds of exclusion don’t stop at provincial borders. With a BC election approaching in October 2024 and a federal election on the horizon in 2025, where trans rights and youth protection are already heated topics, it’s crucial to remind our leaders that acceptance and inclusivity cannot be swept aside.

Alberta’s actions are just one wave in a rising tide of discrimination. Similar harmful policies have been enacted in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, directly impacting the lives of trans and non-binary individuals. These targeted measures put vulnerable youth at greater risk of isolation, depression, and even self-harm.

Kelowna’s rally stands as a beacon of hope in this darkening landscape. It’s a powerful reminder that allyship isn’t a passive stance. It’s about taking action, speaking out, and demanding fair treatment for all.

Here’s Why This Matters

Trans youth deserve safety and support: We cannot remain silent while they face increased discrimination and barriers to well-being. They need us to champion their right to live authentically and access the evidence-based care they need.

Elections have consequences: This year, our votes will have a direct impact on the lives of trans Canadians and trans rights. We must hold our leaders accountable and elect individuals who will uphold human rights and foster inclusive communities.

Solidarity ignites change: Kelowna’s rally is an inspiration, proving that collective action can create positive change. Let’s build a wave of support across the country, ensuring that trans rights are protected and celebrated, not undermined.

The fight for equality is far from over, but Kelowna’s shining example echoes a truth we must all carry forward: trans rights are human rights, and we stand united in defending them. 

Let your voice be heard. Talk to your friends, family, and elected officials. Educate yourself and others. Get involved in organizations advocating for trans rights.

Together, we can ensure that Kelowna’s hopeful glow, along with rallies that have sprung up across Canada, becomes a guiding light for equality across our country. Let’s show our leaders that in 2024 and beyond, trans rights are non-negotiable.

Help Advocacy Canada

Your donation and membership goes beyond a simple transaction. It becomes a powerful tool for change, helping Advocacy Canada ensure every person in Canada can live authentically and free from discrimination. Join the movement for trans rights, donate today, and be a part of the solution.

Donate to advocate for trans rights

By becoming a member of Advocacy Canada, you can add your voice to the chorus demanding equality and justice for trans individuals across Canada. Join today.

Transgender allies gather in Calgary and Edmonton to rally against proposed government policies

47 groups issue joint statement against Alberta’s new trans policy, rallies held

Hundreds rally in Saskatoon, Regina in further response to province’s school pronoun policies

Protests over LGBTQ school policies held across New Brunswick

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Rise Up With Alberta! Trans Solidarity Rally – Kelowna Sunday, February 4

Rise up with Alberta! Trans Solidarity Rally - Kelowna on February 4, 2024

In response to the alarming announcement of a controversial policy by the Alberta government, threatening the rights of trans individuals, particularly youth and their supporting parents, Advocacy Canada is inviting the community to come out in solidarity at the Rise Up With Alberta! Trans Solidarity Rally.

The proposed policy changes were first detailed by Premier Danielle Smith in a video posted to social media on Wednesday afternoon, including bans on gender-affirming medical treatment for those aged 17 and under, and on hormone therapy for children aged 15 and under — except for those who have already begun therapy. The list of changes will also force schools to out trans students to their parents if they are using a preferred name or pronouns.

This rally, scheduled at Stuart Park in Kelowna from 2-3 pm this Sunday, aims to address the disturbing trend of minority human rights being jeopardized in the current political landscape. Trans youth and the broader trans community are increasingly used as political pawns in populist movements sweeping the nation, including the upcoming provincial election in British Columbia this October, where trans rights and SOGI 123 will undoubtedly be a large part of the conversation.

Wilbur Turner, President of Advocacy Canada, emphasizes, “It is crucial that we come together as a community to stand against policies that undermine the rights of trans individuals. Our collective voice is powerful, and events like these serve as a crucial reminder that we must actively protect the rights and dignity of every person.”

We urge community members to stand in solidarity, not only with our Alberta counterparts but also to proactively protect the future of our own community. This rally serves as a poignant reminder that our collective strength is essential in defending the rights and dignity of every individual.

Details:

– Event: Rise Up With Alberta! Trans Solidarity Rally

– Date: February 4, 2024

– Time: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

– Location: Stuart Park, Kelowna

About Advocacy Canada

Advocacy Canada is committed to defending the rights and dignity of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community through advocacy, education, and community engagement.

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Advocacy Canada Launches Exclusive “You Belong” Shirts for Pink Shirt Day

Pink Shirt Day 2024

Kelowna, January 24, 2024 — As Pink Shirt Day approaches on February 28th, Advocacy Canada is excited to unveil its limited-edition “You Belong” shirts, specially designed to promote inclusivity, diversity, and the power of speaking out.

Pink Shirt Day You Belong Kids

Pink Shirt Day is a significant annual event that stands against bullying and discrimination, fostering an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Advocacy Canada’s “You Belong” pink shirts are not just a fashion statement but a powerful symbol of support for the 2SLGBTQ community on Pink Shirt Day. The shirts include the powerful nsyilxcen phrase kʷu yʕayʕát kʷuʔ čn̓k̓ʷɬn̓xiʔm̓ which translates to we all join in together / we are all part of it together.

By wearing these exclusive shirts, individuals will champion the values of inclusivity and contribute to the crucial work undertaken by Advocacy Canada. The organization is dedicated to developing educational programs and events that combat disinformation and discrimination, focusing on the lived experiences of 2SLGBTQ individuals.

You Belong

“The ‘You Belong’ shirts, with a design created by Kelowna Indigenous queer artist Sarah Jones, embody the spirit of Pink Shirt Day, sending a resounding message that everyone is valued, accepted, and deserving of respect,” said Wilbur Turner, president at Advocacy Canada.

The funds raised through the sale of these shirts for Pink Shirt Day Kelowna will directly support Advocacy Canada’s initiatives to uplift and unite the voices of the 2SLGBTQ community in Kelowna and across Canada. By participating in Pink Shirt Day with Advocacy Canada, individuals contribute to creating a world where diversity is celebrated, and everyone feels a sense of belonging.

Finally, to purchase your “You Belong” shirt and stand up against discrimination, visit the Advocacy Canada website. Together, let’s make Pink Shirt Day 2024 a powerful statement of unity and acceptance.

About Advocacy Canada

Advocacy Canada is a Kelowna based non-profit organization dedicated to fostering unity and amplifying the voices of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. Through educational programs and advocacy efforts, the organization works towards creating transformative change on vital issues with enduring impact.

About the You Belong Collection

kʷu yʕayʕát kʷuʔ čn̓k̓ʷɬn̓xiʔm̓: We all join in together / We are all a part of it together. The You Belong message and nsyilxcən phrase along with the beautiful artwork came about as a project created by the 2SLGBTQ community and led by Advocacy Canada in Kelowna, BC in 2023. Local Indigenous and queer artist, Sarah Jones was commissioned to create the design and the Syilx Language House was consulted for the nsyilxcən phrase. The message and images are intended to provide an uplifting and positive message of belonging for the 2SLGBTQ community. For more information about this campaign go to okyoubelong.com.

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Advocating for Inclusivity: Responding to Concerns on 2SLGBTQ Rights in Political Predictions for 2024

This letter to the editor is in response to a column written by City of Kelowna councillor Ron Cannan. Wilbur Turner is a Kelowna-based writer and the founder of 2SLGBTQ+ organization Advocacy Canada. — Source KelownaNow

Dear Councillor Cannan,

As we step into the new year, your predictions for 2024 offer your view of various issues facing our world, nation and local community. While your opinions cover a range of topics, I feel compelled to address some of your statements.

It is both disheartening and concerning to see religious beliefs injected into political discussions, especially when those discussions include matters affecting marginalized communities such as the 2SLGBTQ population.

As a Canadian politician, it is essential to uphold the principles of inclusivity, diversity, and respect for human rights. Engaging in proselytizing by intertwining personal religious beliefs with political commentary can be damaging, perpetuating harmful stereotypes and fostering an environment where discrimination and prejudice may thrive.

Elected officials are entrusted with the responsibility of representing all citizens, irrespective of whether they share the same personal beliefs.

It is worth highlighting the casual use of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first name throughout your predictions, which may inadvertently diminish the formal respect owed to the office he holds. Political discourse should maintain a level of decorum, recognizing the importance of addressing leaders with the appropriate titles.

Furthermore, insinuating and derogatory remarks about the relationship between Prime Minister Trudeau and the NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, not only perpetuates harmful stereotypes but also detracts from the substantive issues at hand. Such comments undermine the gravity of political discussions and divert attention from the core responsibilities of our elected officials to serve the public and promote a fair and inclusive society.

<who> Photo credit: Wax Pencil Imagery/Wilbur Turner </who> Advocate and writer Wilbur Turner.” src=”https://www.kelownanow.com/files/files/images/Wilbur%20Turner.jpg”></p>



<p><em>Photo credit: Wax Pencil Imagery/Wilbur Turner</em><br>Advocate and writer Wilbur Turner.</p>



<p>Turning our attention to 2SLGBTQ rights, it is imperative to acknowledge the progress made in recent years, thanks to the efforts of activists, policymakers, and the community itself. Canada has taken significant strides towards inclusivity, recognizing and protecting the rights of the 2SLGBTQ community.</p>



<p>However, your predictions hint at potential challenges ahead, particularly in the realm of education policies and appear to encourage undermining the work of public education professionals in how they support 2SLGBTQ youth.</p>



<p>Politicizing the support of vulnerable youth only perpetuates further harm and has lasting consequences. As a society we realize that public education needs to reflect the reality of the world around us, and that includes the existence of 2SLGBTQ people of all ages and their representation in our community.</p>



<p>The 2SLGBTQ community has historically faced discrimination and marginalization, and it is crucial that our political leaders actively work towards fostering an environment of acceptance and equality. Statements that undermine the struggles and experiences of this community are not in line with the values of a nation that prides itself on diversity and respect for all.</p>



<p>As an advocate for 2SLGBTQ rights, I urge you to reconsider the language and sentiments expressed in your predictions.</p>



<p>By promoting understanding, empathy and unbiased policymaking, we can work towards building a more inclusive and accepting society. Let us embrace the diversity that defines Canada and ensure that the rights and dignity of every citizen, regardless of their background, are protected and celebrated.</p>



<p><br><em>Sincerely,<br>Wilbur Turner</em></p>
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