The following address was delivered by MPP Glen Murray (Toronto Centre) on behalf of Premier Dalton McGuinty July 1st at Pride Toronto’s international marshals’ reception.
On behalf of the people of Ontario, I’d like to welcome International Grand Marshal Angie Umbac to Toronto.
Thank you for all you’re doing to stand up for LGBT rights in the Philippines and for the good example you set for others around the world. You inspire us. And we hope that in some small way you’ll find the kind of society we’re building in Ontario inspiring too.
We’re proud of Pride because in addition to all that it means for this community, it means a lot to us as a province. It is a symbol of how far we’ve come in such a short time.
Not so long ago, Ontario was less progressive and more conservative. A lot has changed and my government is proud to have played a part in that.
And I’m not just talking about our annual financial support of Pride, though that’s important.
I’m not just talking about our record on standing up for the issues that matter, like funding for HIV and AIDS care, support for youth mental health, and our school equity policies, and preventing and prosecuting hate crimes, though that’s important.
Or objecting when others propose that we get rid of the Human Rights Tribunal, even though it handles four times as many complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation than it did in 2003, though that’s important.
And I’m not just talking about how proud I am of the high-profile roles played in my government by Minister Wynne, and Minister Murray, and formerly Minister Smitherman, though that too is important. It’s important to me personally that all our young people can see themselves as future government leaders.
But I’m talking about more than these actions. I’m talking about attitudes.
It’s one thing, for example, to change a law, but it’s quite another to change an attitude. Changing attitudes can be a lot harder.
Attitudes are shaped by our life experiences and our understanding of the world.
‘Understanding,’ that’s an important word. In Ontario we need to keep working together to better understand each other. When we better understand each other, we can better support each other.
For example, we all need to understand just how difficult it can be for young people to come out to their family, their friends, and their community. We need to be accepting and supportive. That should begin in the home and extend deep into our communities, including our schools.
I know that student support groups for LGBT students have been controversial in some schools. We need to move beyond that. We need to be supportive and accepting of all our kids. And I am proud that effective this September, high school students who want their school to have a student support group for LGBT students will have one.
This is not a matter of choice for school boards or principals. If students want it, they will have it. We live in a world where teens are still taking their lives because of homophobia and we owe it to them to get them the support they deserve. It’s all a matter of being understanding and supportive.
I want Ontario to be a place where all our kids feel safe, supported, respected, and loved. I want them all to develop into mature, responsible, engaged citizens. I want them all to be the very best that they can be because that’s what we need them to be, at their best, so they can help us build a strong economy and a caring society here in Ontario, the greatest province in the best country in the world.