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Recent years have witnessed significant progress in many countries around the world in the realization of the fundamental human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, from securing decriminalization of our sexuality and protection against discrimination to achieving recognition for our relationships and families.

But even where important gains have been made on some fronts, the recognition and protection of rights remains uneven. Trans people remain particularly vulnerable, and often without adequate legal protection, while the rights of intersex people rarely receive much discussion at all. Meanwhile, gender-based violence remains a reality for many LBTI women, including violence motivated by real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Factors such as class, race, ethnicity, (dis)ability, HIV status, migrant status, drug use, incarceration and sex work often exacerbate the vulnerability of LGBTI people to discrimination, violence

Meanwhile, even as there is progress in some countries, there has been a backlash in other places against basic human rights for LGBTI people. These troubling developments are often part of a broader pattern of human rights abuses, and of scapegoating particular communities and suppressing civil society freedoms for political purposes. All too often, these situations reflect a broader culture of corruption and impunity for those committing a wide range of human rights violations.

More than 80 countries or territories worldwide criminalize the expression, identity or existence of LGBTI people, with harsh penalties of years or life in prison — or even death in a handful of settings. In some places, defending the human rights of LGBTI people is a crime. Political, religious and other community leaders have fomented hatred against LGBTI people, including calling for extermination and beheading. Some media outlets have actively encouraged prosecution, imprisonment and even murderous violence against LGBTI people. We have seen numerous instances of hate crimes and mob violence, including horrific assaults, torture and so-called “corrective rape” and murder of LGBTI people and of human rights defenders who have dared to speak out publicly about abuses.

The United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Secretary General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and many world leaders have condemned such violations of basic human rights. They have called on countries to desist from such persecution, to decriminalize LGBTI people and to protect against violence and abuse. In international forums, Canada has fairly consistently been a solid supporter of universal human rights protection for LGBTI people. But such statements are not enough. Without a more concerted, ongoing response to legislated discrimination and public hate-mongering, the message to political and religious leaders adopting and advocating such laws and violence is that they can continue to do so with impunity. The predictable result is the further spread of such persecution and more human rights abuses that destroy lives, families and communities, and that undermine respect for the human rights of all people, as well as impeding economic development and the full contribution of all members of society to their communities’ and countries’ well-being.

The Dignity Initiative recognizes the universality of human rights and the importance of the intersection of various human rights. LGBTI people face a range of violations of their human rights, including the rights to: life; security of the person; privacy; freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly; freedom from discrimination; freedom from arbitrary search, arrest and detention; freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and the full range of social and economic rights such as housing, employment and the highest attainable standard of health. An agenda to realize the fundamental dignity of the human person for LGBTI people reflects that LGBTI people need to be free not only from criminalization, violence and discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, but also to enjoy the full range of universal human rights that are the entitlement of all people. Such an agenda situates the realization of the human rights of LGBTI people within a broader agenda of sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender and racial equality, ending poverty, and other fundamental rights and freedoms.

The Dignity Initiative was developed through a process of open participation and input from both Canadian and international human rights advocates. This initiative will be a resource to Canadian organizations in supporting LGBTI human rights advocacy internationally, and a guide to securing a future commitment and action by Canada.


The 519 (Toronto)

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

Action Positive VIH/sida

Africans in Partnership Against AIDS

AIDS Action Now!

AIDS Committee of Durham Region

AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia

AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador

AIDS Committee of Ottawa

AIDS Committee of Toronto

AIDS Committee of Windsor

AIDS Community Care Montreal (ACCM)

AIDS Vancouver Island

Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP)

Amnesty International Canada

ARC International (Halifax)

Arc-en-ciel d’Afrique (Montreal)

Asian Community AIDS Services

Barrie Pride

Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association

Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (Toronto)

Canadian AIDS Society

Canadian Association of Nurses in HIV/AIDS Care (CANAC)

Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity

Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

Canadian Harm Reduction Network

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA)

Canadian Positive People Network

Canadian Public Health Association

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Treatment Action Council (CTAC)

Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation


Central Alberta AIDS Network Society

Chair for Research in Homophoia, University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM)

Dignity Toronto Dignité

Elder Abuse Prevention Muskoka

El-Tawid Juma Circle Unity Mosques


Egale Canada Human Rights Trust


Fierté Canada Pride

Fierté Montreal Pride

Fondation Emergence (Montreal)

Glad Day Bookshop (Toronto)

Grandmothers Advocacy Network (Ottawa)


Halton Equity and Diversity Roundtable

Hamilton Health Sciences

HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)

HIV/AIDS Regional Services (Kingston)

HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health (Guelph)

Injured Worker’s Consultants Community Legal Clinic – Toronto

Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development

Inspire Awards (Toronto)

Inspired Media (Toronto)

Institute for Sexual Minority Studies & Services (ISMSS) – Univ

ersity of Alberta

International Lesbian & Gay Association (ILGA) North America

Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR)

Ismaili Queers

Iqaluit Pride

John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights (Edmonton)

Kulanu Toronto

KyivPride Canada

Lake Country Community Legal Clinic (Bracebridge, Ontario)

LGBT+ Baie-des-Chaleurs – Association pour la diversité sexualle et de genre

LGBT Family Coalition Montreal

Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto

McLeod Group

Méta d’Ame (Montreal)

Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

Metropolitan Community Church Toronto

Metropolitan United Church (Toronto)

Moose Jaw Pride

My House Rainbow Resources of York Region

Northern AIDS Connection Society (Truro, Nova Scotia)

Okanagan Pride Society

OPSEU Rainbow Alliance Arc-en-ciel

Ontario Humanist Society

Our City of Colours (Vancouver)

Out on the Shelf (Guelph)

Oxfam Canada

PFLAG Canada Durham Region

Positive Living BC

Positive Space Network (Halton Region)

Positive Women’s Network (Vancouver)

POWER Ottawa

Pride Calgary

Pride Centre of Edmonton

Pride in Art Society (Vancouver)

Pride PEI

Pride Toronto

Pride Winnipeg Festival

Pride at Work Canada

ProudPolitics Canada

QMUNITY (Vancouver)

Queen West-Central Toronto Community Health Centre

Queer Ontario

Queer Yukon

Rainbow Nursing Interest Group of RNAO

Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia

Reaching Out Winnipeg

RÉZO, santé et mieux-être

Safe Alliance (Labrador)

Salaam: Queer Muslim Community

Saskatchewan HIV HVC Nursing Education Organization

Saskatchewan Public Health Association

Sherbourne Health Centre (Toronto)

Social Action for Equality (Toronto)

Socialist Action

South Etobicoke Legal Community Services

Sudbury Community Legal Clinic

Support and Housing Halton

Toronto PFLAG

Trans Alliance Society (British Columbia)

United Church of Canada

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada

United Steelworkers

Vancouver AIDS Society

Vancouver Pride Society

Action positive VIH/sida

Women in Toronto Politics (WiTOpoli)

Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)

Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (West Coast LEAF)

YouthCo (Vancouver)