Kamloops law students create first toolkit in Canada to empower LGBTQ2s+ community | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops law students create first toolkit in Canada to empower LGBTQ2s+ community

Ashton O'Brien is the vice president of Kamloops Pride, a non-profit organization that works to promote a flourishing LGBTQ2s+ community.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Ashton O'Brien

Kamloops law students have created a groundbreaking guide designed to clarify and simplify legal, health and youth matters for the LGBTQ2s+ community.

The 176-page resource guide, called Knowing Your Rights Guide: A Toolkit for 2SLGBTQIA+ Folks in Navigating Criminal Justice, Health Care and Youth Issues was drafted by six volunteer law students from Thompson Rivers University under the supervision of a lawyer.

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Ashton O’Brien is the vice president of Kamloops Pride, a non-profit organization working to promote a flourishing LGBTQ2s+ community. They said Kamloops Pride helped with formatting, editing and promotion, and provided guidance around queer culture and language.

“This guide removes barriers to getting information,” O’Brien said. “Some relationships between the queer community and police are not good for historical reasons and lack of reconciliation. There is not a lot of trust there. This guide makes it easier for people to know their rights, for example what to do if they are not put into the right gender prison.”

O’Brien said the guide covers a wide variety of legal topics and also includes appendices to legal documents and resources from across the province. They said they have first-hand experience with changing their name and gender marker.

“I can attest to how laborious the process is and how confusing it can be,” O’Brien said. “This guide makes the process clear, taking the stress off of someone who likely is going through a lot of emotions already. It helps with healthcare and youth stuff as well. We are seeing families in courts because some youth want to transition and their parents don’t want them to.”

Grace McDonell is the lawyer who supervised the creation of the guide. She studied law at TRU and has always been an advocate for the LGBTQ2s+ community. She said the idea for the guide was sparked by the flood of requests for legal help from the queer community she receives on a regular basis.

“To our knowledge a toolkit like this does not exist anywhere in Canada,” she said. “Historically the LGBTQ2s+ community has more legal issues and more negative interactions with the justice system. This provides a one-stop shop that can take a person with no legal background or lawyer through a step-by-step process. This is carried out through a trauma informed lens.”

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McDonell said when the law students presented the first draft of the guide, which took eight months to complete, it was an emotional experience for many.

“This means so much to the community and could even save lives,” she said. “The students did this work as volunteers and what they are doing is so important. As lawyers I want them to go into their futures and stay helpful and give back to their communities. I am so excited about this project.”

To access the guide you can click here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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