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Canada issues travel advisory warning over U.S. states' LGBTQ+ laws

The Canadian and U.S. flags are displayed on lamp posts in the downtown area, March 22, 2023, near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario.
Adrian Wyld
The Canadian and U.S. flags are displayed on lamp posts in the downtown area, March 22, 2023, near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario.

TORONTO — Canada this week updated its travel advisory to the U.S., warning members of the LGBTQ+ community that some American states have enacted laws that may affect them.

The country's Global Affairs department did not specify which states, but is advising travelers to check the local laws for their destination before traveling.

"Since the beginning of 2023, 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," Global Affairs spokesman Jérémie Bérubé said Thursday in an emailed statement.

"Outside Canada, laws and customs related to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics can be very different from those in Canada," the statement added. "As a result, Canadians could face certain barriers and risks when they travel outside Canada."

Bérubé said no Canadians in the U.S. have complained to Global Affairs of how they were treated or kept from expressing their opinions about LGBTQ+ issues.

The Human Rights Campaign — the largest U.S.-based organization devoted to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans — in June declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.

The NAACP in May issued a travel advisory for Florida warning potential tourists about recent laws and policies championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, including bills that ban gender-affirming care for minors, target drag shows, restrict discussion of personal pronouns in schools and force people to use certain bathrooms.

In Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders this year signed a law prohibiting transgender people at public schools from using the restroom that matches their gender identity. Similar laws have been enacted in states such as Alabama, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Asked about the travel advisory change this week, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said travel advisories issued by Global Affairs Canada are based on advice from professionals in the department whose job it is to monitor for particular dangers.

"Every Canadian government needs to put at the center of everything we do the interests — and the safety — of every single Canadian and every single group of Canadians," Freeland said.

She did not say whether her government had discussed the matter with its U.S. counterpart.

"It sounds like virtue-signaling by Global Affairs," said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Toronto.

"In no U.S. state, to my knowledge, has any government charged or discriminated against an LGBTQ+ traveler because of their sexual identity or orientation. This all strains the credibility of the department," he added.

David Mulroney, Canada's former ambassador to China, also criticized the advisory.

"Travel advisories are meant to highlight things that threaten the safety of Canadian travelers, not things the govt and its supporters disagree with. It's about danger signaling, not virtue signaling," Mulroney tweeted.

Helen Kennedy, the executive director of Egale Canada, an LGBTQ+ rights group in Toronto, commended the Canadian government for putting out the advisory.

"There are 500 anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation making their way through various state legislatures at the moment," Kennedy said. "It's not a good image on the U.S."

Kennedy also said Canada needs to take a serious look at how safe LGBTQ+ communities are in Canada as similar policies have been recently enacted in the provinces of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, which now require parental consent when children under 16 years old want to use different names or pronouns at school.

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