I will never forget where I was.
I learned about the June 12, 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando when I stood on Vancouver’s Granville Street leaving a local night club. I had just attended the 30-year graduation reunion of my secondary school class with a very good friend. I had not felt completely safe going there and had had thoughts about not attending.
In the end, I had gone with a close friend. It was as much for companionship as for armour in a world that can be unkind to transgender women like me.
It was the first time I was seeing many of my ex-classmates since graduation and I felt trepidation about the event. Secondatlry school had not been entirely kind to me and this was the first reunion I could face , after 30 years.
That night, I discovered to my horror just how much more dangerous it was to be a transgender woman in a night club frequented by the LGBTQ community than where I had been worried about going.
Leaving the event, I checked Twitter and discovered this developping horror in another nightclub, in another city.
The news left me numb and sickened. I felt cold.
The Pulse nightclub massacre is seared into the hearts of so many. It is even tattooed on the skin of some in the LGBTQ2+ community. I recognize it, sometimes. Every mass crime has done this to the community it targeted and every community had reeled for years after the carnage.
Like other violent crimes motivated by hatred, the massacre in Orlando is a reminder of what can happen in a society that allows hatred to go unchecked.
Hatred is a contagious social disease and likr you, I see it spreading in Canada.
Incidents of hate-motivated crimes are increasing alarmingly year after year. There are three times as many known hate groups in the country as just a few years ago. There is now an extreme-right political party and it won 12% of the votes in a recent by-election in Burnaby, BC.
We can’t afford to continue to let hatred spread freely like we have. We need to contain this preventable harm.
Canada has had a number of hate-motivated massacres, notably at Ecole Polytechnique and the Quebec mosque.
Such bloody tragedies are not spontaneous incidents but the predictable outcome of cultivating hatred in echo chambers rich with misconception, delusion, and disinformation. Extremist hatred cultivated online and in person predictably results in radicalization, and sometimes in violent acts of hatred that at their worst look like the Orlando massacre.
We can do something, and we must.
Canadians can address this blight at home and with our country’ neighbours and friends, and I pledge to continue to do my part as I work with others who are also concerned about this problem.
Working with community organizations, we are fighting hatred in our institutions. I am fighting it in the courts. I advocate for better rules on how institutions make facilities available to spread hatred. I testified to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Hatred about online hatred last month.
I will continue to support measured to mitigate the harm caused by people who incite hatred against others because of who they are or because of who they love. I will continue to name the problem. I will continue to fight online hatred and demand accountability for it.
I hope you will help.