Putting discrimination in its place

Edmonton Pride Centre members decorate a banner for the rally // Lauren De Leeuw
Edmonton Pride Centre members decorate a banner for the rally // Lauren De Leeuw

The amount of discrimination in Edmonton is something that the organizers of the Hate to Hope rally believe has been hiding in the closet for too long.

As reported by Egale Canada, a national charity supporting LGBTQ youth, “more than one in five LGBTQ students are physically harassed or assaulted because of their sexual orientation.”

Chevi Rabbit is the organizer of Hate to Hope, now in its third year, and started the rally after he was assaulted two years ago by a group of men who shouted gay slurs at him while he walked towards Safeway on Whyte Avenue.

But Rabbit says the rally is “broader than homophobia.” He says the goal is to reach out to anyone being affected by prejudice whether it’s because of sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity.

“There’s a lot of ethnicity and cultural prejudice in the city that people don’t see,” Rabbit says.

Chelsey Smith, an advocate for gender justice issues both locally and globally, is the host of the event this year. Her viewpoint falls in line with Rabbit’s.

“The rally is about equality. We’re coming from the perspective of homophobia, but we’re reaching for equality for everyone,” Smith says. “I hope that this will transcend beyond the city. While it’s being hosted in Edmonton, the event itself is relevant to Albertans, Canadians and to the entire community.”

Junaid Jahangir, professor of economics at both the University of Alberta and MacEwan University, will be speaking and representing the Muslim LGBTQ community.

“Muslims are stuck in the Canadian mosaic and there are not very many resources available for LGBTQ Muslims,” he says.

The National Anti-Racism Council of Canada reports that since 9/11, Muslims and Arabs in Canada have endured increased amounts of discrimination. According to NARCC data, 60 percent of Muslim Canadians encountered racism in the year following 9/11 and this number has hardly decreased in the decade since then.

This means that some members of the LGBTQ Muslim community are unfortunately placed into two societal “closets”—the “post 9/11” closet and the “homophobic” closet.

Hate to Hope will be held on July 19 at 6 pm and is a public event. It begins at 110 Street and 84 Avenue—near where Rabbit was attacked—and ends at the Alberta Legislature Grounds. Participants or rally supporters are encouraged to wear red, pink or purple to show their support.

“People who are hateful and discriminatory are simply uneducated. Not in terms of lack of education or post secondary, but they are uneducated on topics regarding this issue,” Rabbit says. “This rally is one of the ways that I believe I can get people to come and listen and learn something so that they can become less discriminatory.”



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