News: Department of Justice Releases Qualitative Study on Serious Problems Faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Other Sexual-Minotirty People in Western Canada

Written by Calvin Ediger

Recently the Department of Justice released a study on serious legal problems faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and other sexual-minority people living in Western Canada. The study focused on the types of serious problems the participants faced in the last three years and the actions they had taken to address these problems. Like Statistics Canada’s recent report, Experiences of Serious Problems or Disputes in the Canadian Provinces, this study looked at issues that arose in the participants daily lives that had a potential legal dimension, not merely those addressed by the formal justice system.


The study interviewed 21 participants in Western Canada from a range of sexual orientations. From the interviews, the study identified several categories of legal issues faced by the participants:

  1. Employment Discrimination
  2. Discrimination and Harassment Outside of Employment
  3. Family Law, Including Divorce and Child Custody
  4. Immigration and Refugee Law
  5. Policing and Incarceration

Harassment and discrimination in a variety of public and private settings was a major theme that ran through many of the interviewees responses.

Barriers to Resolution of Problems

In attempting to resolve their problems, interviewees identified several barriers. A lack of knowledge of the legal process and whether the formal justice system was appropriate for resolving the participants issue was cited as a major issue.

Lack of financial resources was another issue many participants faced. Mirroring the findings of the report Serious Problems Experienced by Diverse People with Disabilities: Western Canada, participants this study found that legal aid services where inadequate in solving their issue. Many also cited by ineligible for legal aid whilst simultaneously being unable to afford a lawyer, leaving them with few choices. Some chose to attempt to represent themselves but were intimidated by the complexity of the process. Human rights tribunals where often cited as difficult to access without the assistance of a trained legal professional or other third party.


The study concludes with a set of ten recommendations, namely:

  1. provide access to legal representation by professionals who are sexual – and gender – minority people themselves and/or who understand the unique challenges facing  diverse sexual – and gender – minority communities;
  2. uplift community and informal support systems for individuals who lack adequate access to legal resources;
  3. provide access to holistic support services, including mental health support services,  for sexual- and gender-minority people who have become engaged in legal processes;
  4. address the financial burden and barriers associated with securing legal counsel, particularly for those with limited resources;
  5. acknowledge and uproot the legal system’s colonial impacts on the lives of  Indigenous Two-Spirit and other sexual – or gender – minority people;
  6. deconstruct systemic, cultural, and structural barriers, such as homophobia,  transphobia, and racism that ultimately produce many legal problems and the  disenfranchisement of sexual – and gender – minority people;
  7. explore decarceral and/or restorative justice approaches for sexual- and gender- minority people who have become engaged in legal processes;
  8. provide resources for legal professionals (e.g., lawyers, judges, paralegals) on the  experiences of sexual- and gender-minority communities including topics on  pronoun use, HIV stigma, transphobia, homophobia, cisheterosexism, settler  colonialism, and structural racism;
  9. produce resources specifically for sexual – and gender-minority people that make  complex legal processes more transparent for those who n eed to navigate this  system. These resources should include information on sexual – and gender-minority people’s rights when engaging legal systems and avenues for redress if they feel that their rights have been transgressed;
  10. provide resources on the human rights bodies in each province, the issues they cover, how to access them, and what outcomes can be sought through them. If you would like to read the full report, please go to:

The views and opinions expressed in the blogs are the views of their authors, and do not represent the views of the Faculty of Law, or the University of Manitoba. Academic Members of the University of Manitoba are entitled to academic freedom in the context of a respectful working and learning environment.

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