Canada Issues Travel Warning for L.G.B.T.Q. Citizens Visiting U.S.

By John Mercury September 2, 2023

The Canadian government is warning L.G.B.T.Q. travelers to the United States that they may be affected by a series of recently enacted state laws that restrict transgender and gay people.

Global Affairs Canada, the foreign affairs department, added a brief notice on Tuesday to a long list of travel warnings involving the United States that had already included cautions about gun violence and terrorism.

“Some states have enacted laws and policies that may affect 2SLGBTQI+ persons,” the notice reads. “Check relevant state and local laws.” (The beginning of the Canadian government’s acronym, “2S,” represents two-spirit, an Indigenous term for someone with a masculine and a feminine spirit.)

Jérémie Bérubé, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement that the change was made because “certain states in the U.S. have passed laws banning drag shows and restricting the transgender community from access to gender-affirming care and from participation in sporting events” since the beginning of this year. The warning did not name specific states.

He added that, like all travel advisories, this one had followed a “thorough analysis of various information sources, including consular trends observed by Canadian diplomats in the field.”

Mr. Bérubé did not respond to a question about whether any Canadian travelers had sought help from Canadian diplomats because of recent state legislation pertaining to L.G.B.T.Q. people.

Moves by state lawmakers, particularly in Florida, to curtail L.G.B.T.Q. rights have received prominent attention in the Canadian news media, as has a rise in hate crimes directed toward that community. The Human Rights Campaign has calculated that 520 pieces of legislation to limit or remove the rights of L.G.B.T.Q. people have been introduced this year in state legislatures, with 70 of them enacted.

Helen Kennedy, the executive director of Egale Canada, an L.G.B.T.Q. rights group in Toronto, said that while her organization had not heard of Canadians being affected by the state measures, she anticipated that some would inevitably be caught up in them.

“We applaud our government for taking this step,” she said. “It sends a clear message that even our closest neighbor can potentially be a hostile force toward our community.”

There has been far less political momentum in Canada to roll back L.G.B.T.Q. rights, which have strong court protection.

For almost two years, the Atlantic province of New Brunswick had a policy that required teachers to use the preferred names and genders of schoolchildren. Premier Blaine Higgs has changed it to require that teachers obtain the permission of parents if the child is under 16. But the move has not had wide support. Several members of the Legislature, including some cabinet ministers, quit Mr. Higgs’s Progressive Conservative caucus in protest. Despite that backlash, other conservative politicians have suggested that they will follow New Brunswick’s lead.

While the overall threat assessment for travel to the United States remains at the lowest level, the country now joins many others that the Canadian government warns L.G.B.T.Q. travelers about, most in language far stronger than the advice for the United States. The new advisory includes a link to a page of general safety guidance for the community regarding international travel.

Florida and some of the other states that have enacted anti-L.G.B.T.Q. laws and policies are popular tourist destinations for Canadians. Ms. Kennedy said that the legislation was increasingly causing L.G.B.T.Q. Canadians making travel plans to ask, “Is this the best place to spend my money?”

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