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Over the past fifteen years, the growth of LGBTQ+ representation in Canadian politics and policy has been tremendous, from the landmark Bill C-38 legalizing same sex marriage in 2005, the election of two openly gay Premiers in Ontario and P.E.I., to last year’s introduction of Bill C-16, protecting transgender rights. Though the stride is at times uneven, addressing the issues of LGBTQ+ communities in the political sphere has consistently built momentum.
Toronto-based non-profit ProudPolitics aims to keep that momentum going. Founded in 2012 by Arthur Kong, a Senior Sector Policy Advisor for the Ontario Government, and Louroz Mercader, Manager of Communications and Public Engagement for Waterfront Toronto, the organization aims to foster the education and connections needed to get people from the LGBT community directly involved in civic engagement.
“The overall vision is to diversify the voice of Canadian politics across all levels of government,” said Arthur Kong, Executive Director and Co-founder of ProudPolitics. “Our goal is to help grassroots LGBT community members become civic leaders and potentially run for office.”
ProudPolitics received a 2017 General Rainbow Grant for their event Out to Win – a free, non-partisan LGBTIQ+ candidate and campaign training program to shape and inspire leaders and policy makers. The event featured speakers such as Toronto District School Board Vice-Chair and Trustee Chris Moise, Alberta Premier Chief of Staff Nathan Rotman, former Nova Scotia Liberal Cabinet Minister Joanne Bernard and British Columbia NDP Vice President, candidate and trans advocate Morgane Oger.
“[The Rainbow Grant] helped us with things like recruiting volunteers and outsourcing things like poster design to professionals,” said Kong. “It provided us with the ability to make it that much more professional.”
This wasn’t the first Rainbow Grant for ProudPolitics – they had received two others previously, including the 2012 grant that provided the seed money required to get their organization started.
“Because we were a very grassroots non-profit organization run by volunteers on a shoestring budget, Community One really gave us that initial seed funding to get our presence running to get our credibility in the community,” said Kong. “That was a huge benefit to us. It really provided us with the momentum over the past six years of the organization being in existence.”
Since then, ProudPolitics has developed a crucial three-pillar strategy to help civic-minded LGBT+ citizens get involved, covering every aspect of political life and tackling the unique issues facing LGBT candidates and policy. The strategy focuses on building and supporting great leaders, fostering a diverse network of LGBT resources, ideas and experiences, and celebrating the achievements of openly-LGBT elected officials.
Some of the other programs they’ve developed within these pillars include Proud to Lead, the LGBT Political Network, town hall discussions and mixer events, Spotlight! and the annual ProudPolitics Conference.
As events like Out to Win continue to grow and solidify the reputation of the organization, Kong and his team have also found the success to be helpful to their professional lives.
“To be able to lead a grassroots organization with a bunch of folks and execute these programs like a social entrepreneur has been great for networking,” said Kong. “Being able to say, ‘Hey, I’m a professional who works for the government in policy making, but I’m also very active in the community. I run my own organization and we’ve achieved things like Out to Win and other programs ’ That’s definitely helped us in various aspects of our professional careers.”
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