Breaking the Silence

The Issues

2SLGBTQ+ individuals and families live meaningful lives and they make valuable contributions to their communities.  Nevertheless, discrimination, systemic exclusion, and victimization through structural and interpersonal violence are parts of the lived experience of many within 2SLGBTQ+ communities.  These social harms have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous, racialized, and newcomer 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and families due to intersecting axes of oppression.

In 2016, Statistics Canada report that 12.5% of police-reported hate crimes across Canada and 12.4% in Ontario were motivated by hatred of sexual orientation.  Compared to other forms of hate crimes, incidents related to sexual orientation are the most violent, with 71% classified as being violent offences.

In our own community, the recently conducted Outlook Study found that 2SLGBTQ+ people fear harassment in public washrooms, clothing stores and at the gym.  Many do not feel a sense of belonging in our community.

These lived experiences take place alongside some very visible reminders of the violence and social exclusion faced by 2SLGBTQ+ people in our community.  Pride flags were damaged and the flag poles were vandalized with graffiti at two elementary schools in Kitchener in June 2017.  Two 2SLGBTQ+-friendly churches were vandalized with homophobic graffiti in the Fall of 2017.  We have also seen the closure of a number of 2SLGBTQ+ spaces in our community, which has made it difficult for people to make social connections in places where they feel safe.

Our Response

We believe our community can and must to do better.  Already, we have seen great work in response to some of the incidents notes above.  We want to support and amplify voices in our community that speak out against intolerance and hate.  To that end, a key goal of the Breaking the Silence Working Group (BTS) is to prevent and reduce violence against 2SLGBTQ+ communities in Waterloo Region by making the link between community safety and inclusion and belonging.

In order to achieve this goal, we have identified four priority areas:

  • Safe spaces (work, faith, school, public space, private business, institutions, etc.)
  • The role of allies and champions
  • Safety with legal and justice systems
  • Identifying and working to address structural violence in institutions

BTS is made up of members and allies of 2SLGBTQ+ communities.  Some of us are community members who volunteer our time to do this work, while others participate as part of their roles working for organizations that serve 2SLGBTQ+ persons specifically as well as organizations that serve all members of the community.

Our Work

Our group has worked on the following projects:

  • A Place to Call Safe: A Conversation about Safer Spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Waterloo Region, held November 22, 2018 at the Kitchener Public Library, on May 31, 2018 at the Waterloo Public Library, and on October 18, 2018 at Idea Exchange in Cambridge.
  • Collaborated with the Outlook Study to create the Victimization and Community Safety Fact Sheet
  • Sought and received endorsements for the Breaking the Silence on Hidden Violence report from Region of Waterloo Council, City of Waterloo Council and City of Kitchener Council.  We continue to engage with local municipalities on how they can live into the Calls to Action outlined in this report
  • Spoke as a delegation to City of Waterloo Council about the importance of 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion
  • Met with Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair to discuss ongoing collaborative work by Rainbow Community Council and Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council to promote 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion in Waterloo Region
  • Hosted an On the Table event to discuss 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion with members of the community in Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener on September 27, 2019.

Our future projects include:

  • Holding more A Place to Call Safe events at locations across Waterloo Region – Watch this page for future dates and locations!
  • Sharing stories and artwork that community members create at these events
  • Working to bring resources to LGBTQ2+ people at the Grand Valley Institution for Women.

Who We Are

Some of us participate in Breaking the Silence as part of our work, others are volunteers.

  • Pamela Albrecht (she/her), City of Waterloo
  • Jesse Belanger (he/him), community member
  • Richard Eibach (he/him), Crime Prevention Council
  • Leanne Gosse (she/her), Conestoga College
  • Kristy Skelton (she/her), SPECTRUM, Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Space
  • Julie Thompson (she/her), Crime Prevention Council
  • Scott Williams (he/him), community member

Join Us!

We are always open to having new members join us!  We meet monthly to connect with each other and to plan our events and projects.  There are other ways to contribute to our work if meeting times don’t work for you.

Our group strives to work together in a way that is collaborative, respectful and recognizes the voices of those with lived experience.  We want our work to be action-oriented and to build on or support what is already happening in our community.

Contact us at for more information on our meeting schedule and how you can contribute to our work.

A Bit of History

In November 2014, a forum was held in Waterloo Region entitled, “Breaking the Silence on Hidden Violence.” Seventy-five people attended the event to discuss hate crimes an violence against the LGBTQ2+ community in the Region.  Over the course of the next year, community members continued to meet to identify key priorities.  It was suggested that a working group be established to begin the work.

At the same time, the Waterloo Region Rainbow Coalition (WRRC) was bringing people and organizations together with the goal of creating a “connected, welcoming, integrated and supportive community in Waterloo Region that is inclusive of members of the Rainbow Community” (see About RCC).  In May 2015, it was decided to align the work of Breaking the Silence as a working group of the newly formed Rainbow Community Council.

A report was published in September 2015 outlining the work that had been done to date.  It also includes Calls to Action that can be implemented at the systems, community and individual levels.

In the News

April 11, 2021 – CBC – Waterloo regional police investigating acts of hate online against trans community

Links and Resources

If you witness a hate incident or violence against 2SLGBTQ+ people in Waterloo Region please contact us at  We maintain an anonymized archive of information about these incidents to help us present evidence of the need for work in this area.

If you have experienced a hate incident or violence and are looking for support, you could reach out to: