TORONTO: On the eve of National Aboriginal Day and World Pride Toronto, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust is pleased to announce the launch of the “Two Spirits, One Voice” Program.

“Two Spirit” is an English term chosen to stand in for the many LGBT Aboriginal identities that existed prior to European arrival. Two Spirit people were once revered and respected members of their communities, but years of cultural destruction—through systems like residential schools and the 60’s scoop–have erased traditional knowledge, practices and acceptance. Despite this tragedy, and the abhorrent homophobia, transphobia and racism faced by Two Spirit people, they are forming communities to reclaim their traditional place in society—as teachers, healers, medicine people and mediators. Egale supports this cultural renaissance and celebrates the incredible resilience of our Two Spirit brothers and sisters.

In 2013, Egale held a round table consultation with Two Spirit people from across Canada to create Two Spirits, One Voice, a national program designed to bolster allyship with indigenous communities and educate youth, police and community service providers on the historical and contemporary roles of Two Spirit Canadians. The program focuses on how racism and homophobia/transphobia intersect in our society and how we can work together to make Aboriginal communities and urban spaces safer for Two Spirit peoples.

“We would like to recognize that World Pride is a gathering taking place in the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit. As Canada’s national LGBT human rights charity, Egale has struggled for over 25 years to improve the lives of LGBT people across this country, and it is crucial to acknowledge that LGBT indigenous people have had pride in who they are for generations before Europeans came to this land. The launch of the Two Spirits, One Voice initiative is our opportunity to highlight Two Spirit voices as we welcome the world to Toronto.” said Egale’s Executive Director, Helen Kennedy.

Jeremy Dutcher, a Two Spirit person from Wolastoqiyik territory and coordinator of Two Spirits, One Voice added, “There is a long history of acceptance of Two Spirit people here on Turtle Island before the arrival of the European Settlers. This pride is returning to our communities, and as LGBT people gather here for World Pride, we invite everyone to share in the pride and history of this land’s indigenous peoples. Ahneen. Boozhoo. Sekoli. She:kon. Tânisi. Waachay. Kwey. Welcome.”