Proud of Kelowna Pride

Strength in Diversity

All Canadians deserve to feel safe and to have their most fundamental rights protected.

But for decades, Canada failed countless individuals who had their lives and livelihoods shattered for simply being who they were or because of who they loved.

Canadians who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or two-spirit were unjustly treated.

They were:

  • fired from jobs
  • denied promotions
  • put under surveillance
  • arrested
  • convicted,
  • shamed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • People lost their livelihoods, their families, and, some, their lives.

Since the late 1960s, Canadians have worked to bring about change. It’s a road that has been long and arduous, but as people have become more aware and educated, we have made slow progress.

Every June, we recognize Pride Week, a time to celebrate our LGBTQ2 communities and to look back at some remarkable achievements:

  • the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969
  • the enactment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982
  • the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Charter in 1996
  • the legal recognition of same sex marriage in 2005
  • the legal protection of trans rights
  • the prevention of discrimination based on gender identity and expression
  • a formal apology to the LGBTQ2 community for the wrongs suffered as a result of federal legislation, programs and policies.

But progress can be fragile, and as a society, there is more to do.

Today, members of the LGBTQ2 community are still facing opposition from populist political entities that not only fail to support the LGBTQ2 community publicly, but actively work against LGBTQ2 rights when it comes to adopting or amending social and economic polices.

This is unacceptable.

Locally, many of you will march this weekend in our local Pride parade to show your support for friends, family and co-workers.

I applaud you for it, but it will take much more. It will take standing up against those who willfully promote discrimination at work, at school and online or those who choose to do nothing to advance inclusive and progressive policy.

In 2016, it was my privilege to be Kelowna-Lake Country’s first member of Parliament to participate as an Okanagan Pride Grand Marshall and as Co-Marshal of the Trans Pride March.

I am extremely proud to be a member of a government that recognizes and supports the efforts of local organizations who organize local Pride events and contribute positively to the social cohesion of our local communities.

Refusals to participate in pride parades or celebrations from our political leadership is not only out of place, it signals a threat to the progress we want and deserve as Canadians.

It will take continued cooperation, compassion and understanding to maintain a civil society and by recognizing the strength inherent in diversity, and seeing the value in every citizen, we are in a much better position to find solutions and harness our potential to address our biggest challenges.


Helping small business grow

Canada’s economy is among the fastest growing in the G7.

The unemployment rate is at a 40-year historic low, real wages are rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade, and more than a million jobs have been created since December 2015.

It’s the kind of economy that makes investors interested in Canada, and why we are ranked third globally in foreign direct investment confidence and have seen some of the highest levels of venture capital investments since the 1990s.

Much of this good news can be attributed to the strength of our small business community and it is the reason our government remains committed to making it easier to do business in Canada.

On Jan. 1, we lowered the small business tax rate to nine per cent, giving Canada one of the lowest small business tax rates in the world and saving small business owners to up to $7,500 a year.

Last fall, we proposed three immediate changes to Canada’s tax system that will make it easier for small business:

  • allowing businesses to immediately write off the full cost of machinery and equipment used for the manufacturing and processing of goods
  • allowing businesses to immediately write off the full cost of certain clean technology equipment
  • and, through a new Accelerated Investment Initiative, allowing businesses across all sectors of the economy to write off a larger share of the cost of newly acquired assets in the year the investment is made. 

We also kept our promise to cut red tape and make regulations more effective:

since 2015, our government has cut more than 450 federal rules that impose an administrative burden on business; and we are tackling regulatory irritants by harmonizing food regulations and inspections and facilitating greater trade of alcohol between provinces and territories.

As we pursue an ambitious trade diversification agenda, we are also investing more than $1 billion to help Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs scale up and access the $1.5 billion new customers made available through the USMCA, CETA and the CPTPP. 

These trade agreements make Canada the only G7 country with a trade agreement with all G7 partners.

And, because we know the full and equal participation of women in the economy is essential to Canada's future competitiveness and prosperity, our government created the $2-billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES), with a goal of doubling the amount of women-owned businesses in Canada by 2025.

Buoyed by economic confidence at home, Canadian small businesses are succeeding at being more productive, more innovative and more competitive providing important paths to prosperity for families in our communities. 

As an advocate for our local business community you have my assurance I will continue to work to alleviate the pressures that small business owners face. 

Our community would not be the vibrant innovative regional hub it is without the hard work and determination of our entrepreneurs and our government is committed to doing everything we can to clear the path to success.

Our collective responsibility

As elected officials we encourage citizen participation and open dialogue to strengthen democratic participation. 

But increasingly, individuals are using these opportunities to express anger:

  • against government
  • against authority
  • against each other.

Last week’s events surrounding the violent message directed at Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran cannot be ignored. 

The fact that the RCMP took this threat seriously sends an important message to others who think there is no harm in inciting violence against others, however frequent an occurrence it has become. 

Indeed, the need to respond effectively grows more important by the day.

Recent events — including the Brexit outcome and the U.S. election, as well as more frequent reports of spying and illegal information sharing of personal data — has many alarmed that the rules and regulations governing the internet and social media platforms are not robust enough especially as we head into the next election. 

Last January, Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan made multiple announcements regarding potential threats to Canada's democratic process.

One announcement was a new "critical election incident public protocol" group that will alert the public if it becomes aware of interference during the campaign period.

While there is no plan to call out the usual political spin on the campaign trail, threats deemed "disruptive" to a free and fair election, such as email hacking or viral videos spreading false information, will be.

The government is also taking measures to address the fact that the internet has increasingly become a tool for terrorism and violent extremism, including coordinated action to prevent social media and other online platforms from being used to incite, publish, and promote terrorism, violence, and hatred.

Last December, our government launched our National Strategy on Countering Radicalization to Violence and on May 15, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, French President Emmanuel Macron, other government leaders, and industry leaders to adopt the Christchurch Call to Action.

The Call to Action is a global pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The pledge aims to build more inclusive, resilient communities to counter violent radicalization, enforce laws that stop the production and dissemination of terrorist and extremist content online, and encourage media to apply ethical rules when reporting on terrorist events to avoid amplifying terrorist and violent extremist content. 

Closer to home, citizens like Kelowna’s Janice Taylor are taking actions of their own. 

Janice initiated petition E-2133 calling for legislation that protects the data privacy and online safety of children under 13 years old. More information can be found on the House of Commons e-petition website at www.ourcommons.ca.

Finally, while governments, authorities and organizations are actively working to ensure online platforms remain open and are not used to disrupt civil society, we all must demand more of ourselves. 

It’s not enough to be appalled by the misinformation or mischaracterization of others that fuel the kind of comments we saw last week. 

We each have a responsibility to actively reject and denounce such behaviour and demonstrate through our actions a commitment to uphold decency, fair mindedness and fact.

I encourage all of us to do our part.


Affordable housing option

Community housing offers an affordable option for many Canadians and has been the backbone of Canada’s response to housing challenges for more than 60 years.

That is why Canada’s first National Housing Strategy (NHS) is ensuring that Canada’s community housing stock remains affordable and in good repair well into the future.

Some of these affordable housing units rely on subsidies through operating agreements with the federal government, many of which were set to expire leaving low income tenants vulnerable.

We have three federally administered housing co-ops in Kelowna that provide 58 units for residents.

Now, through the National Housing Strategy, the federal government will invest $500 million over 10 years in the Federal Community Housing Initiative to help preserve the affordability of these units.  

This is in addition to $4.3 billion for a new Canada Community Housing Initiative (to be cost-matched by the provinces and territories) to preserve the existing supply of community-based housing,

Subsidies will continue on a transitional basis in order to maintain affordability of federal units and stabilize operations of community housing providers.

It will also allow time for housing providers to transition to a new Phase II rental support program beginning in April 2020. 

For community and affordable housing in need of repair that is not federally-administered, the National Housing Co-Investment Fund will provide low-cost loans and/or financial contributions to support and develop mixed-income, mixed-tenure, mixed-use affordable housing.  

With an emphasis on energy efficient, improved accessibility for people with disabilities, and social inclusiveness, the Fund is prioritizing projects that support partnerships between governments, non-profits, private sector, and others to make federal investment go further.

It also covers a broad range of housing needs, from shelters to affordable homeownership.

Regarding homelessness, our local community entity the Central Okanagan Foundation recently received a substantial commitment from our government to support our communities’ efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness, part of our national goal of reducing chronic homelessness by 50% by 2027–2028. 

As of April 1, 2019, Kelowna-Lake Country is receiving more than $4.8 million over five years to address our local homelessness challenges.

Additionally, our government has also put aside funding through the Veterans Emergency Fund to provide immediate financial help to any veteran who is in crisis. 

The fund will help ensure that veteran homelessness becomes rare and doesn’t reoccur and that all those who served our country have a safe place to call home.

More details on the components of our National Housing Strategy and the Veterans Emergency Fund can be found at www.canada.ca.

Secure, affordable housing is essential but for too long our municipalities have been without the resources they need to adequately plan for and address critical shortages in affordable housing. 

By making key strategic investments in community housing through our ten-year, $40-billion National Housing Strategy, and partnering with the province, our municipalities, and local non-profit and private sectors, we will be better positioned to tackle the affordable housing shortfall and have a direct and positive impact on our community.

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About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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