OPINION: Club Q shooting raises questions about LGBTQ+ protection

Nov 25, 2022 | OP-ED, Opinion

A 22-year-old gunman walked into a nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., and opened fire. The result was devastating. The violence lasted only minutes, but 25 people were wounded in the carnage and five were murdered.

Club Q, a local and popular LGBTQ+ club in the city, became the site of one of the worst attacks on the community in recent memory.

The attack at the nightclub happened just last Saturday, the day before Transgender Remembrance Day.

Club Q took to its Facebook page to release the following statement: “Club Q is devastated by the senseless attack on our community. Our pray[er]s and thoughts are with all the victims and their families and friends. We thank the quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack.”

The attack reminds me of the carnage that occurred at Pulse Nightclub, which killed 49 people and wounded another 53, on June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.

In an act of incredible bravery, the shooting at Club Q stopped after two patrons confronted the shooter and stopped him from committing further bloodshed.

According to the New York Times, Richard Fierro, a local Army veteran, and Thomas James, a performer from the club, are being heralded as the heroes who stopped the shooter by tackling him to the floor when Fierro instructed one of the performers to kick him.

James stomped on the shooter’s face with a high heel.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis ordered flags across the state on all public buildings be lowered to half-staff until sunset Nov. 26 to honour and remember the victims.

“Flags will be lowered for five days to remember each of the five individuals who lost their lives in this senseless tragedy,” the governor’s news release said.

“To further honor and remember the victims and those injured in this tragedy, the Polis-Primavera administration will also be flying the Pride flag at the Colorado state capitol for the next five days,” the news release said.

It’s a nice sentiment. But it’s hollow and unsubstantive.

Action needs to be taken to protect the LGBTQ+ community.

What this attack does is raise the concern surrounding how well the LGBTQ+ community is being protected, not just across the United States but here in Canada too.

While the pandemic has certainly brought out more people, unafraid to voice their concerns with the direction of this country, that concern has largely been based on false and hateful rhetoric.

At the centre of this hate are marginalized groups, like racialized Canadians as well as our own LGBTQ+ community. According to Statistics Canada, there were 258 police-reported hate crimes in 2020 based on sexual orientation. A year later that number jumped to 423.

Another report from Statistics Canada cited a report from the “Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces, sexual minority people are almost three times more likely to experience violent victimization than heterosexual people.”

A federal Department of Justice report said the nature of the hate crimes sometimes deters victims from reporting incidents to the police.

“Due to the sensitive nature of hate crimes, particularly those targeting sexual orientation or gender, some individuals may be less likely to report the crime to police for fear of secondary victimization or stigma on the basis of discrimination toward their sexual orientation or gender expression or identity,” the 2015 report from the Department of Justice said.

Canada needs to act swiftly to continue to ensure that acts of violence and hate are mitigated but also that acts of hate and violence against the LGBTQ+ community are mitigated. The government acted to ban conversion therapy across Canada, and they acted to prevent the sale of handguns in Canada, the next step is clear.

Better protections need to be instituted to protect LGBTQ+ Canadians and it starts with support nationwide and more impactful gun laws.