Letter sent to Regional Council Executives

Attention: Regional Executive 

February 14, 2024

Re: Collective and urgent response to the legislated hatred of trans youth

To our partners in faith, justice, and advocacy,

In our shared work of advocacy and support to individuals and communities of faith in Alberta and across Canada, Affirm United/S’affimer Ensemble and Affirming Connections are writing to you as representatives of your Regional Council. The rights of trans youth are being attacked, and local congregations need your support. While we are doing what we can to connect and collaborate, local and regional responses are critical at this time. It is our hope that each of you will carry this message to your Regional Council and then take action together.

The proposed ‘parental rights’ legislation in Alberta, as well as other passed and proposed bills across the country, present a serious and urgent threat to the safety and wellbeing of trans youth in Canada. Such legislation will see trans youth stripped of their dignity and autonomy, and will put them at increased risk of serious social oppression and self-harm. Experts such as the Canadian Paediatric Society agree that this kind of legislation is incredibly dangerous. For more context on the damaging implications, click here. 

Those that support such legislation are organized and well-funded, and have been working for years to see these bills introduced. As people of faith, we have a collective responsibility to challenge this hatred, not just reactively, but proactively. We need to build a comprehensive, national strategy that considers both short and long term actions and goals. 

We want you to join us, and be Public, Intentional and Explicit in the public square. We have developed the following Calls to Action, and request that each Region answer these calls:

  • PUBLICLY show up in your communities and encourage your communities of faith to do the same, by:
    • Encouraging communities of faith to be involved in PIE Day 
    • Attending local activism events (eg. rallies, protests) as representatives of your Regional Council and local community of faith
    • Supporting organizations such as Egale, who are raising funds for legal efforts to challenge the hateful legislation
  • INTENTIONALLY support your communities of faith by:
    • Providing region-specific options to support advocacy and activism work, such as letter writing campaigns or public rallies. Some examples can be found here
    • Providing pastoral care during this challenging time, such as holding space for queer folks to gather and connect. Encourage your staff and clergy to join AU/SE’s proposed Care Circle program, to provide pastoral support to those in need. You can also host virtual vigils and meditations for folks in your region
    • Creating or deepening your strategy for specific support and care of queer (and allied) clergy in your region
    • Providing faith communities with accurate information. Resources can be found here.  
  • EXPLICITLY designate an Affirming Ministries contact for your region by:
    • Designating one or more person to be responsible for this work, and ensuring they have the resources and support to be effective in supporting the Affirming movement locally and regionally
    • Supporting your staff to attend training that supports them in this work, such as this one with Rose-Ingrid Benjamin being hosted by Affirming Connections on February 22. 
    • Providing Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble and Affirming Connections with the contact(s) name, title, and email, of your Regional Affirming representative(s) and ensure to update if there is turnover in the role
    • Sending your Regional Affirming representative(s) to the national strategy meeting on February 27 at 9amPT/12pmET, to meet with other regional representatives

We know that each of you are working hard for justice in your regions, and that there is always more work than time. We recognize your efforts, and hope that by providing a framework and opportunity for collaboration, a faithful and concentrated response to this hatred from your Region will be possible. 

In solidarity,

Alix Dolson, Executive Director of Affirm United/S’affirmer Ensemble  

Pam Rocker, Director of Affirming Connections 

Action invitation: support bans on conversion therapy

Protest against “conversion” “therapy” in Edmonton, Alberta, by local citizens, including church members.

Federal government to work on criminalizing “conversion therapy”: our support for this and other initiatives needed

In the spring of 2019 many in our movement were disappointed when the federal government (a Liberal majority) said that it could not ban conversion therapy through Health Canada. It cited health as a provincial jurisdiction. (What is “conversion” “therapy”? See this overview from CBC.)

Many turned to, or continued, working with their municipalities, provinces, and territories, asking them to follow MB and ON’s lead and outright ban this deeply harmful practice. As one example, in December Edmonton city council prepared to debate a ban within the city, as Alberta has not banned such “therapy” and indeed, more than a few in the province and its government support it.

Thank you to all, including many AUSE members, who are carrying this struggle forward. Special thanks to Gary Simpson in Edmonton for his research, advocacy, and advice.

In December 2019, the now-Liberal minority government said it would move to place conversion or reparative therapy in the Criminal Code, making the practice illegal and punishable.

As some in our Affirming movement reminded us, we need to speak out in support of this, although we also need to be aware that the proposal has some problems and limits. For example, the proposed Criminal Code amendment would only apply to minors, and this may be the only way such an amendment would be permitted under the Charter.

Whatever the advocacy options, whether national or local, we know that our advocacy and education efforts are important and much-needed.  We must continue to advocate for regional and local responses, like the one currently before Calgary’s council. And we need to make it clear to our faith communities that conversion therapy is alive and in practice across Canada to this day.

Yet the federal government’s proposal is one promising step forward. And the mostly Christian groups who support this abusive practice will be sure to be in loud opposition. Please read up on the government’s plans, and then if you are so moved, contact your Member of Parliament, no matter their party, and briefly express your support for this measure and your opposition to so-called conversion therapy. If you identify as a church member or Christian, also make that clear to your MP. Consider asking your community of faith, congregation, or parish to write such a letter.

If you’re a United Church member, remember that your Regional Council is one place to advocate, and that proposals for advocacy initiatives is an important way to move church policy or motivate action. Such proposals should be consider now for regional gatherings in May and June.

We need an end to this Christian-justified, cissexist, heterosexist abuse. Please add your voice where you can.

Announcing PIE Day 2020, 14 March!

Public+Intentional+Explicit= PIE. These are our standards for the full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQIA+ and Two Spirit people. Get your recipes/ ice cream/ creative planning tools ready. PIE Day 2020, Saturday March 14, is happening!

Here’s the national Facebook event. And we’re constantly updating our online home, www.pieday.ca . There are already lots of free planning resources and ready-to-use graphics posted. Remember that the free 15 minute PIE Day video is still as fresh as ever- and we’re delighted to announce that three shorter versions will be available for free download too! No day olds here! At pieday.ca you’ll also find a form for registering your event, so please make sure you sign up your extravaganza.

All can participate: you do not need to be part of an Affirming ministry; you don’t need to be United Church; and pie substitutes are welcome. You just need to be enthusiastic or curious about a Public, Intentional, and Explicit celebration of diverse genders and sexualities in your community and place of worship. That’s all. Have at it!

This year we hope to draw the circle wider, with a stronger ecumenical and interfaith focus. Much more info to come- mark your calendars, dream of dessert, and start discerning how you can spread PIE love in your community!

Affirming building use and rental policies

Our faith is about so much more than our buildings. Yet our buildings and camps are also important spiritual and physical spaces that house not only our own ministries, but many other vital community initiatives too. Many Affirming ministries own their own building or facility, and in the course of their Affirming journey they generally add more inclusive spaces, such as all-gender washrooms, space for smudges and other Indigenous ceremony, wheelchair ramps, technology for the deaf and hard of hearing, and more. It’s an ongoing process that never really stops.

Most also rent the space to other groups. What, then, does an Affirming use of the building for everyone look like? What happens if a group opposed to LGBTQIA+ rights and identities wants to rent the space? What does safer space look like? Here’s one example of a policy and commitment from Trinity United Church, a rural congregation in Cannington ON. Download their building rental policy PDF here

Does your ministry have an Affirming building use or rental policy and resources? Let us know! Contact the Communications Coordinator here and send it on, so we can add to our community resources.

Affirming PIE video ready for free download!

The Affirming PIE video is now ready for free download! Join our pie-loving hosts Stéphane and Pam as they introduce us to PIE, and five Affirming ministries tell their stories about their Public, Intentional, and Explicit work and welcome for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.

Running time: 15 minutes. Download or stream and enjoy: https://vimeo.com/320966739

Thank you to Gifts with Vision and all who support Affirming Connections and Affirm United/ S’affirmer Ensemble with your time, love, and resources.

Remember: Affirming PIE Day is 14 March 2019! Sign up or learn more at www.pieday.ca!

Sponsoring LGBTQIA refugees- a call from the United Church

Many Canadian Christians know that churches are a key part of support and sponsorship for people seeking refuge in Canada. Together, we see this as living out the gospel and prophetic call to seek justice and offer healing. But when we focus on LGBTQIA+ refugees, the picture changes radically. Did you know the United Church of Canada is one of the very few faith based Sponsorship Agreement Holders within Canada’s LGBTQ refugee program? And that there are more LGBTQIA people seeking refuge than there are sponsors?

Here’s where you come in. You can help change this. Please have a look at the United Church’s excellent new LGBTQIA refugee web resources, dedicated to helping increase the number of ministries who will sponsor LGBTQIA people in need of safety and security. Scroll down for their summary PDFs and download them to share. Then: Continue reading “Sponsoring LGBTQIA refugees- a call from the United Church”