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Intolerance of the LGBTQ community is unacceptable

Allan Cahoon is president and vice-chancellor of Royal Roads University.

With Pride season in full swing across the country, it can be tempting to take inclusion and an appreciation for diversity for granted as important values in Canadian culture. Since fledgling Gay Pride Week events were held in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg in 1973, the LGBTQ2 community has developed Pride events and the movement for inclusion to levels unimaginable in decades past.

At the same time, increasing forces of intolerance give not only the LGBTQ2 community, but all of us, reasons to celebrate diversity even more loudly and proudly in 2017.

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As a gay man, father and grandfather, I am troubled by the bigotry demonstrated by the Trump administration and xenophobic populist movements around the world. Last week's statement to ban transgender people in the U.S. Armed Forces is the latest in a relentless series of moves designed to normalize homophobia and transphobia in the United States and elsewhere.

The entrapment and rounding up of gay people in Russia and Chechnya, gay "prevention" contests in Malaysia and the murder of queer teen Oliver Zamarripa in Vancouver are among recent chilling events worldwide that remind us just how dangerous bigotry is.

Like so many members of the LGBTQ2 community, I have experienced the effect of intolerance justified in the name of religion. And like so many members of the LGBTQ2 community, I know first-hand the effect of such intolerance on my own sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

As an educator, I care deeply about how all levels of education can be an antidote to bigotry and how important education is to fostering a positive sense of self-worth.

Education is empowerment. And empowerment begins with knowing not only who we are, but also who we might become if we are free to explore our full, authentic potential.

The challenge faced by educators and significant others, family members and friends is: How do we empower people – especially young people – to feel pride in who they are and what they contribute? How can we build and support the diversity that makes our organizations, classrooms and communities stronger and more vibrant?

Universities and colleges have a critical role in fostering pride by incorporating our understanding of and commitment to diversity in our classrooms and in the way we treat each other. We can support research that debunks myths and stereotypes that surround the LGBTQ2 and other marginalized communities, and we can ensure our scholarly works and research serve the community in practical, empowering ways. We can encourage and support students to surround themselves with significant others, teachers and community members who value diversity and inclusion.

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At Royal Roads University, I'm pleased to see our board-approved Diversity Statement in action as members of the university community strive to increase understanding and acceptance of each other. Such efforts ultimately make us more compassionate human beings and strengthen the fabric of our community.

Pride events remind us that intolerance is not acceptable. They remind us to resist complacency and the normalization of bigotry at every level and to protect diversity as a value intrinsic to the Canadian culture we all cherish.

And they remind us that we can't – and won't – take Pride for granted.

Video: Trudeau first sitting Prime Minister to march in Halifax Pride parade (The Canadian Press)
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