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Canada Day: What are you standing on guard for?

Canada Day: what are you standing on guard for?

It seems significant that as we celebrate Canada Day on July 1st that the month of June that has become synonymous with Pride has come to a close. Just as Pride celebrations will continue in various locations throughout the country, it isn’t time to put down our rainbow flags, put the glitter back in the closet, or to stop standing on guard for our freedoms.

We do have lots to celebrate as Canadians this Canada Day. Not just the advancement of rights like marriage equality, banning so-called conversion therapy, and protecting gender identity and expression. While there are areas for improvement regarding standard of living and income inequality, Canada remains a desirable place to live and work for most people. 

We are also fortunate to live in a democratic and free society. However, with the rise of populism, alt-right extremism, and Christian nationalism we all need to stand on guard for our freedoms. Those feeling the brunt of this push toward authoritarianism include Indigenous people and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Indigenous communities are faced with potentially weakened land rights, exploitation of resources, and threats to self-governance with resistance to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The rise of authoritarianism presents a significant setback for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights and safety around the world. The misinformation and disinformation framed around sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) as a threat to parental rights is one example. While thousands of people across the country turn out for Pride celebrations, many of them being allies to the community, loud voices are trying to push people back into the closet. 

The labeling of community advocates, trans people, and drag performers with derogatory and defamatory terms is an attempt to dehumanize people and make it easier for them to be targeted with hate. This attempt to “gatekeep” and suppress gender expression is an attack on all our freedoms. We only have to look into history to know it won’t just stop at one marginalized group.

Apathy is our enemy. “If it doesn’t affect me, why should I get involved?” seems to be a common sentiment. This plays out in elections with low voter turnout. This may be partly due to people feeling like their voice won’t make a difference. But, it is only people using their voices and votes that will make a difference.


Formed in 1971 in Vancouver, the Gay Alliance Towards Equality (GATE) was one of the first gay liberation groups in Canada. Don Hann, a key member of GATE, watched this story with us from July 1979 where the group held a news conference to highlight violence against the gay community. #pride #2slgbtqia #bc #britishcolumbia #cbcnews #pridemonth

♬ original sound – CBC Vancouver

The Gay Alliance Toward Equality, also known as GATE was one of the first 2SLGBTQIA+ rights groups in Canada. It was formed in 1971 in Vancouver. In 1979 a spokesperson for the group stated “We are here, we are visible, and we will fight back…” These words are eerily relevant to 2024. Visibility is what matters and what anti-rights groups are most afraid of. Just like the “parental rights” slogans of the Anita Bryant era in the 1970s where fearmongering statements like “If we give them rights they’ll be recruiting our children” were common, the attempt to stoke fear over trans rights is much the same.

On this Canada Day I call on our allies across the country to stand on guard for freedom. Don’t let apathy take you out. Happy Canada Day! What are you standing on guard for?

Wilbur Turner
Founder & President, Advocacy Canada