We’re gearing up for a fight. Please join us – we need your help.
Beginning with our Pride Unravelled Campaign, and throughout the summer, we have been sharing stories of the new and rising threats to our community and how we are responding: working to make schools safer and more inclusive for all, demanding the governments enforce standards on the broadcasting of abusive content, and intervening in court cases to ensure the perspectives and interests of 2SGLBTQI people are considered, such as the recent Peterson case verdict ensuring that professional governing bodies can regulate degrading and demeaning speech by their members.
Now we’re excited to share a new tool in our arsenal: Bennett Jensen, our new Director of Legal:
A former NYC-based litigator, Bennett has previously overseen major efforts to protect the rights of marginalized communities under attack, playing a leading role in responding to the family separation crisis at the US-Mexico border and the Muslim travel ban, and running projects to meet the needs of individual LGBTQ individuals. Before returning to Canada, Bennett was named a Rising Star by the American Bar Association and as one of the LGBTQ+ Bar Association’s Best 40 Lawyers under 40. After coming home, Bennett served as a policy advisor and then as Director of Litigation to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada where he supported the passage of the criminal ban against conversion “therapy”.
We asked him to share some thoughts about this current moment and his vision for Egale’s legal work.
I think we are at an exciting and a scary moment for 2SLGBTQI rights. I’ll start with a personal example: when I left Canada following law school around a decade ago, I was seeking safety to transition. Although it seems impossible now to imagine a trans person seeking security in the United States, at the time it was exceedingly difficult to access gender-affirming care in Ontario, and I sought the anonymity of a new city and a career where I would be able to fund my own care. Ten years later, trans people are so much more visible and benefit from increased legal protections and acceptance in Canada, and this has been truly incredible for me to experience.
On the other hand, as we all know, we are witnessing a sharp regression on this progress: the 2SLGBTQI community is under attack, with trans people being the predominant target. Somehow trans identities and rights still seem up for political debate, and the humanity and dignity of trans lives and people are increasingly pushed aside. When I think about the work of Egale, responding to this dehumanization seems most essential: as one example, when we intervene in a court case, one of our primary roles is to explain to the court how the legal issue at hand effects the lives and realities of real 2SLGBTQI people. As opponents try to vilify us, reviving baseless old tropes, we will continue to insist upon our dignity, equality and right to live full lives.
This next phase of our legal work will also involve navigating the boundaries between freedom of expression and hate. Protecting freedom of expression has always been, and will continue to be, fundamental to our communities. In the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision Hansman v Neufeld, Egale was there explaining the public interest inherent in speaking out against transphobia. But freedom of expression has never extended to hate in Canada and making sure that 2SLGBTQI people benefit from existing protections will be a priority.
Finally, we will continue to push forward to ensure that legal wins extend to all members of our communities, by focusing on those who have not benefited from historic progress. The best example here is working to ensure that so-called “normalizing” surgeries on intersex infants end, so that intersex individuals are able to exercise their own bodily autonomy.
We have achieved legal victories through the work of committed 2SLGBTQI advocates over the past decades. Unfortunately, that work is not over and we are encountering new threats.
I ask that you join us in the fight by supporting our work. Please consider becoming a monthly donor to Egale.