By Alex Kennedy, member of Amnesty International’s Gender Rights Network in Ottawa
Capital Pride in Ottawa drew to a close on Sunday, and Amnesty International played a key role in this year’s festivities.
A team of members and staff partnered with Capital Pride to organize several events, including a successful and well-attended Human Rights Vigil and an action outside the Jamaican High Commission calling on the Jamaican government to respond to the death of Dwayne Jones last month and work to prevent future violence against LGBTI individuals.
Maurice Tomlinson, a leading Jamaican LGBTI rights activist and lawyer, and his partner, Tom Decker, spoke at both events about their work in the Caribbean. Maurice spoke about the impact of anti-sodomy laws in Jamaica, where homophobic violence is common and the laws prevent people at risk from accessing protection. Tom, a pastor and former police officer, spoke about the rise of evangelical Christianity in the region and its negative impact on human rights protection for LGBTI communities. They also partnered with Amnesty to host a screening of the film The Abominable Crime, which tells the stories of LGBTI Jamaicans, including Maurice. It was wonderful to have Maurice and Tom present to share their stories with our LGBTI community here in Ottawa, and it added a valuable dimension that is often missing from our Pride celebrations.
The Human Rights Vigil included speeches from Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on the City’s commitment to protecting the rights of its LGBTQI citizens; local trans activist Amanda Ryan on the struggle for human rights protections for trans people in Canada; and filmmaker Leslie Foster, director of the documentary Until We Have Faces (http://www.travelingmuse.com/current-projects.html). I was also invited to speak on behalf of Amnesty International about the state of LGBTI human rights around the world.
The week wrapped up with the parade and festival on Sunday. Amnesty had a large contingent marching in the parade, and our tent at the festival was so popular that we ran out of petitions!
You can find more information on Amnesty’s work on LGBTI rights at http://www.amnesty.ca/lgbt, or find us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/lgbt.amnestycanada/