• James Armstrong

MRC-VS grants LGBTQ2+ group financial support for community development


In a surprising move, the Municipalité régionale de comté Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) approved a $40,000 grant for the development of resources and support for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning, 2 Spirited, Plus (LGBTQ2+) community of the region.

It was welcome news for the fledgling LGBTQ2+ group that held its first meeting in September, 2018 in Hudson.

“We have made history by starting this group,” said spokesperson Vivianne LaRiviere who initiated the organization of the group in conjunction with Hudson Town Councillor Chloe Hutchison.

West Island influence

However, the story doesn’t begin in Hudson. It starts in the West Island community of Beaconsfield with the involvement of the West Island LGBTQ2+ Centre.

“We were approached about the potential work and funding opportunity,” said Director David Hawkins of the Beaconsfield group. He noted the impetus at the MRC-VS level had come from Très-Saint-Rédempteur Mayor Julie Lemieux, Canada’s first openly transgender mayor. In late January, 2019 the Beaconsfield organization met with the group in Hudson.

“The plan is to get the infrastructure stuff out of the way,” said Hawkins. “One of the biggest issues for our organization, in taking on an off-Island project, is we do not have the local identity. We don’t have an understanding of the unique needs of the area.”

What the West Island group brings to the table is their years of experience in creating a community resource and support organization.

“It’s important we work with the group that recently established themselves in Hudson,” said Hawkins, “because they have so many talented and qualified people with an understanding of the local identity.” Hawkins said he was impressed by the commitment shown by the MRC-VS.

“They wanted to see the transfer of knowledge and experience from our group to the group starting out in Vaudreuil-Soulanges.” He noted a significant number of individuals from the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region had sought the services of the West Island LGBTQ2+ Centre in recent years.

Support from regional mayors

“At the most recent meeting of the MRC council, I asked for $20,000,” Mayor Lemieux told The Journal. The amount was in addition to the $20,000 the council had originally proposed.

“That wasn’t enough to start an organization,” said Lemieux adding that the other 22 MRC-VS mayors supported the request unanimously.

“The local LGBTQ2+ needs support and services. We need an organization working in our reality, chez nous,” she said. “We need something well organized and well structured.” She emphasized it was important for the local LGBTQ2+ community to have a voice and be heard.

Pride in the journey

“Our journey shouldn’t be taken for granted,” said LaRiviere. “The freedom we experience on a day-to-day basis didn’t happen by itself.”

For LaRiviere and other members of the emerging local group, the spark that helped ignite the movement was the raising of the Pride flag in Vaudreuil-Dorion by Federal Member of Parliament Peter Schiefke and in Hudson by Mayor Jamie Nichols in 2018.

“Obviously there are needs not being addressed,” said LaRiviere pointing out that transgender persons often face discriminatory and bullying behaviour and need safe spaces to be themselves. She said large urban centres such as Montreal were the source of support for people living outside the urban perimeter.

“For too many years we have given our time, our talent, and efforts to support the organizations of the large cities. It’s time for us to receive support where we live. As LGBTQ2+ people, we have a long political history and it’s not over yet,” she said. Although the local group doesn’t yet have a name, it meets the last Sunday of the month at the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre in Hudson at 7 p.m. All LGBTQ2+ people over the age of 18 are welcome to attend.