The Gleaner

JAG laments funding shortage, pushes for support

On January 30, the Table régionale des organismes communautaires (TROC) Montérégie et les Corporations de développement communautaire (CDC) collaborated with JAG to celebrate Rainbow Day. JAG is the only LGBTQ2SIA+ organization in the Montérégie and provides services and support for queer people and their allies.

The day consisted of virtual training sessions adapted from two of JAG’s most popular resources. The first was based on understanding the LGBTQ2SIA+ acronym, and the other was about being a strong ally. Between these two sessions, there was also a press conference where JAG director general Dominique Théberge spoke frankly about the needs of the community and the state of the organization. He shared that over 150 organizations signed up for the sessions, and he knows some of these included classrooms as the number of viewers was high. He was very impressed with the turnout.

The past year has been one of transition for JAG. In April 2023, it was forced to shut down its Montérégie West office due to a lack of funding. Théberge said last year’s budget for the region was about $49,000: “That’s really not enough to pay for an employee, rent, internet, etc.”

Last December, the provincial government announced that an additional $11 million in funding would be funneled into organizations like JAG, but the Montérégie will be receiving next to nothing. As JAG is the only organization of its kind in this region, it becomes very difficult for queer people to access needed information and resources without it.

Théberge said this is especially frustrating considering the population in the Montérégie, which for 30 years has seen the largest increase in Quebec. He explained the population is larger than six Canadian provinces and 11 American states, and at least 7,000 people in the Montérégie West were using JAG’s services. The services are still available, but there is no longer a physical space for people to visit.

In the Haut-Saint-Laurent specifically, “There have been a lot of stories of violence in this region,” which makes JAG’s leaving even scarier for queer people. For him, returning services to the region is extremely important, especially since it’s an area without much queer representation. “What we absolutely don’t want is for the Haut-Saint-Laurent to be a desert of services. There are certain regions where we are less well received, and people in these areas have more trouble because there is less information from politicians or local papers.”

Théberge said that 2023 saw backwards movement, in terms of diversity and acceptance, for the first time in years. “There was a rise in violence in 2023. In 2022 or 2021, if you had a message, you saw less hate than the same message in 2023 would. That’s proof of regression.

“Victims are experiencing the breakup of families who didn’t have the support they needed; professionals are distraught, no longer knowing how to intervene; and, all too often and increasingly, Quebecers have suicidal ideations or take the irreversible step – as young as 14!”

Théberge said he hopes local governments acknowledge the need in the community. “There are solutions, and the need is there. It’s up to the politicians to have the desire to take care of these citizens,” adding he wishes that it was a given that people would fight for queer people’s rights. But that is not the current reality. “It makes me scared, especially when the political parties seem to be scared to defend us,” he says.

The beauty of organizations like JAG is that they encourage people to take care of each other. Training sessions like the ones on Rainbow Day show people how to ask for help and how to offer help. Despite the struggle that JAG is experiencing right now, Théberge said members of the community should still be hopeful of what can be achieved, and should aim to maintain the organization’s services in order to have a more accepting and diverse community.

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