Yukon trans activists demand meeting with new territorial government

Minister mandate letters make no specific commitments on LGBT issues

A support group for trans people in Yukon released a letter Jan 11, 2017, demanding a meeting with newly-elected Yukon Premier Sandy Silver and several of his ministers. This comes after minister mandate letters released by the government showed no specific commitments to address long-standing grievances from the LGBT community.

Trans people are not currently given explicit protection in Yukon’s Human Rights Act; they must undergo surgery to change their legal gender and do not have clear procedures to get funding for sex reassignment surgery under the territorial health plan.

The Yukon Liberal party made a commitment to review of all of the territory’s “legislation, policy and practice . . . to ensure the Yukon Government meets rules and social standards for LGBTQ non-discrimination,” in its election platform. After the election, new Justice and Education Minister Tracy McPhee told Xtra that amending the Human Rights Act and Vital Statistics Act to address trans peoples’ concerns were “already on the agenda.”

But the mandate letter she was given by the premier makes no mention of specific laws and only repeats the campaign pledge to conduct a review.

That made members of the trans support group, All Genders Yukon, nervous about the government’s commitment to their needs, says organizer Chase Blodgett.

“The Liberals had the weakest concrete commitments to our community in their platform, and people were afraid that they were going to see a repeat of the last two years,” Blodgett says.

Attempts to get clarification from the government about commitments and timelines for action haven’t gotten traction, he adds.

“Aside from committing to hold a review . . . They’ve made no commitments to us,” Blodgett says. “They’ve not made any efforts or attempt to respond to emails All Genders Yukon has sent nor have they asked us what our community needs.”

Blodgett says that the review is unnecessary because the government is aware of the legislative changes that need to be made.

“Sandy Silver was a vocal advocate in the previous sitting. These aren’t issues he needs to be briefed on,” he says. “I don’t understand why they can’t say we are going to ensure that the Human Rights Act is amended, we are going to ensure that the Vital Statistics Act is amended.”

In an emailed statement, McPhee acknowledged receiving the letter and pledged to meet with the group.

“Our government is committed to having conversations on the concerns presented in the letter, and will be moving forward to arrange a time to meet with All Genders Yukon. The needs and concerns of Transgender, Two-spirit and Non-binary Yukon Residents are a high priority to us,” McPhee says.


Additionally, when pressed about the laws on Twitter, Silver responded to Blodgett by pointing to a story in Xtra in which McPhee committed to making the necessary amendments.

While Blodgett acknowledges that actual changes to the law will take time to go through the legislative process, the need for action is urgent.

“What are we supposed to do about our basic health-care needs in the meantime? Health care can’t wait for a legislative review,” he says. “In the case of human rights violations, condoning it for even another day is a heinous act.”

Rob Salerno is a playwright and journalist whose writing has appeared in such publications as Vice, Advocate, NOW and OutTraveler.

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