According to the Canadian publication the CBC, the Special chiefs assembly of the Association of First Nations (AFN) has approved the creation of a Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ council. The vote for supporting this council was unanimous.
This assembly is an annual event held virtually this year from December 7 to December 9.
Even though former assembly resolutions have led to better rights for Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ folks, this is the first time the AFN has a dedicated body that will discuss and make decisions on behalf of Indigenous 2SLGBTQ+ issues.
“It was a little bit emotional for me when I was speaking to it… because there’s a lot of experiences of homophobia and transphobia, just discrimination even within First Nations communities,” said Squamish Nation chairperson Khelsilem, who was the person that proposed the resolution.
Learn more about the LGBTQ+ acronym; What is Two-Spirit?
What Are Some Other Milestones for the 2slgbtq+ Community in Canada?
Recently, Blake Desjarlais, the former national director of the Métis Settlements General Council, became Canada’s first openly Two-Spirit member of parliament. This decision was determined in a federal election this past month.
With the election victory, Desjarlais defeated Conservative member Kerry Diotte. This candidate was one of 62 Conservative MPs who voted against the Liberal attempt to ban conversion therapy.
Falling under the umbrella of LGBTQ2S+, Two-Spirit is a term that generally describes Indigenous people who have both masculine and feminine spirits. In addition, it can mean someone with same-sex attraction or whose gender is diverse. However, gender and sexual orientation are complex and can’t be generalized, and each Two-Spirit identity is unique.
Desjarlais also explained that this term has no set definition for every Indigenous person. In addition, there is an extensive history of the roles played by Two-Spirit individuals in their communities as diplomats and negotiators, even before this word was defined.
Desjarlais is hopeful that being in the House of Commons will increase the visibility of Two-Spirit people and show Indigenous people as complex individuals.
According to Desjarlais, who is Métis and Cree, in a recent interview, “The reality is Two-Spirit identities have relatively been hidden throughout Canada’s history.”
What Is Some History Behind the 2slgbtq+ Indigenous Community and the Indigenous Community at Large in Canada?
Indigenous nations have faced many challenges for decades. Living under the Canadian colonial government has led to human rights abuses and treaty violations, with more barriers and obstacles in recent years. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has featured various scandals like the continual epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women, discovering more bodies of children at former residential schools, where genocide was carried out, and illegal efforts to run a pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.
What Is It Like Being a Two-Spirit Person in Canada?
The approximate suicide rate for Two-Spirit First Nations people is twice as high as those of heterosexual Indigenous people in Canada and the U.S. This mental health crisis is related to high rates of discrimination and prejudice.
While the council’s resolution isn’t guaranteed to lead to much-needed progress; however, it is crucial for representation and having a voice when these groups of individuals have always been left out of the conversation. In addition, there is the possibility of reducing various burdens that indigenous folks face in Canada.
“Often Two-Spirit folks fall through the cracks because they’re not included in talks or engagements,” said Mi’kmaw educator and Two-Spirit activist John R. Sylliboy in an interview with Xtra in September.
Will Having a Dedicated Council Help?
A dedicated AFN council for Two-Spirit affairs could also help support the most vulnerable Indigenous people.
Khelsilem is hopeful that this new council will positively impact the 2SLGBTQ+ community. However, it is essential to note that even though the AFN is “quite conservative,” that it could be a huge moment for 2SLGBTQ+ people who have often felt excluded from the political process.
“I think for our young people in our communities who might not feel included or represented or heard as a part of this community,” said Khelisim, “this might be a way to open up that conversation and think about ways to bring some of these ideas on the national level.”
Two-Spirit In Summary
The new council will most likely feature two representatives from each of the AFN’s areas. The regional chiefs will decide many of these positions; however, some may be voted on, for instance, like in British Columbia. All in all, this council aims to add diversity of experiences within a national organization.