Breaking the Silence


The Issues

For many individuals and families within the LGBTQ2+ community, victimization through violence, discrimination and systemic exclusion is a reality.

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 LGBTQ2+ 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 LGBTQ2+ 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 LGBTQ2+-friendly churches were vandalized with homophobic graffiti in the Fall of 2017.  We have also seen the closure of a number of LGBTQ2+ 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 the LGBTQ2+ community in Waterloo Region by making the link between community safety and inclusion and belonging.

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

  • Safe spaces (work, faith, school, public space, private business, etc)
  • The role of allies and champions
  • Safety with police (reporting, interactions, etc.)

The BTS is made up of members and allies of the LGBTQ2+ community.  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 LGBTQ2+ 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 LGBTQ2+ community in Waterloo Region, held November 22, 2018 at the Kitchener Public Library
  • 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 LGBTQ2+ inclusion

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

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 btswaterlooregion@gmail.com 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.