Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Two-Spirted, Queer and Intersex Health

RHN History


RHN started as a reference group of the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO http://clgro.queerontario.org/), which works towards feminism and bisexual, lesbian, and gay liberation.

In 1997 CLGRO published a research report*that talked about the roadblocks and discrimination lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, queer and trans people face when they try to use Ontario’s health and social services.

In 2001, CLGRO started the Rainbow Health Network to start breaking down those roadblocks.

Since that time, the Network has grown…and we’d like you to join us!

*This report is called Systems Failure: A Report on the Experiences of Sexual Minorities in Ontario’s Health-Care and Social-Services Systems. Click Here for an online copy of this report.

History of the Rainbow Health Network


  • The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO) releases Systems Failure: A Report on the Experiences of Sexual Minorities in Ontario’s Health-Care and Social- Services Systems based on the research done in Project Affirmation funded by Health Canada, Health Promotion & Programs Branch – Ontario Region. The report listed 78 recommendations for change.


  • April 18 – A meeting of interested parties was called by CLGRO to address the concerns raised in Systems Failure. A Project Affirmation Committee was formed.
  • September – Members from the Committee attended the gathering A Health Odyssey in Saskatoon.
  • Meetings of the Committee move to the Sherbourne Health Centre.
  • October – A Yahoo Groups List Serve is set up: pacomm@yahoogoups.com
  • November – It is agreed to consider the group a network and a CLGRO Reference Group.


  • February – The national coalition Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition (CRHC) is formed.
  • April – The Project Affirmation Committee adopts the new name “Rainbow Health Network (RHN).” The Vision adopted is “The optimal health and wellness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Transgendered (LGBT) people and communities. The Mission adopted is “To be a catalyst and a resource for LGBT health and wellness activity in Toronto and beyond.” Below is the definition of health adopted:
    • Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity. It is the extent to which an individual or group is able, on the one hand, to realize aspirations and satisfy needs and, on the other hand to change or cope with the environment. (World Health Organization) The health and wellness of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transsexual and Transgendered (LGBT) people holistically encompasses psychological, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, physical, environmental, economic, political and cultural states. (Saskatoon Declaration of GLBT Health and Wellness, 2001; United Nations Platform for Action, Beijing, 1995) The achievement of health and wellness for LGBT people requires freedom from oppression and discrimination. Accessible, sensitive and equitable health and social service resources, both mainstream and specialized, are necessary for our communities to achieve health and wellbeing.
  • A group is formed to work on a Lesbian and Breast Cancer Project.
  • June – A RHN pamphlet is approved and a second letter “T” was added to (LGBTT) in the vision, mission and definition of health.
  • July – RHN participates in a consultation with the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH).
  • October 21 – Official public launch of the Rainbow Health Network at the 519 Community Centre.
  • November – A system of spending the first hour of the monthly RHN meetings networking and the second hour working on business commences.
  • A sub committee to work on a Diversity Workshop is established.


  • February –A Transsexual/Transgender workshop was put on for RHN.
  • March — Two committees were established, one to work on re-establishing sex reassignment surgery, and the other to deal with political advocacy.
  • Letter sent on behalf of CLGRO and RHN to support a funding request by the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition.
  • May – Several RHN people make presentations at an Egale conference in Montreal.
  • June – A plain language version of the RHN pamphlet prepared by a sub committee to raise the profile of RHN is made available for Pride.
  • September – The Sex Reassignment Surgery Committee is renamed Trans Health Lobby Group.
  • The committee on the Diversity Workshop is renamed Education Committee and a pilot presentation of the Workshop is presented.
  • The Political Advocacy Committee meets with the NDP Health Critic.
  • RHN agrees to cooperate with Toronto Public Health and the Sherbourne Health Clinic on a smoking cessation project and appoints a representative.
  • October – Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition obtains a $2.5 million grant from Health Canada Primary Care Fund to address education.
  • The Political Action Committee meets with a City Councillor.
  • Draft pamphlet “The Lesbian Breast Cancer Project” is prepared.
  • November — RHN is listed in Xtra!, Siren, and Fab magazines and has been put on a listing in Guelph and on the Egale list serve to minority groups.
  • A Health Fair Committee is formed to help plan a Health Fair with the Sherbourne Health Centre.


  • January – First public presentation of the Education Committee Workshop at Toronto Western Hospital.
  • February – RHN and CLGRO agree to submit a joint proposal to the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition (CRHC) to participate in their project.
  • March – Proposal to the CRHC approved, RHN and CLGRO to receive $3,000 to submit a more detailed proposal.
  • It was agreed that RHN would use a modified consensus system for decision making and go to a majority vote if unable to reach a consensus.
  • The Trans Health Lobby Group meets with the NDP.
  • April – A successful Health Fair takes place at the 519 Community Centre.
  • Launch of the Breast Cancer Report at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.
  • RHN meetings move to Ryerson University.
  • A RHN Steering Committee is established.
  • A bank account is opened.
  • Proposal is submitted to the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition for a project from June 2004 to December 2005, identifying four streams.
  • May – A facilitated Guiding Principles Discussion takes place.
  • Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition (CRHC) Proposal accepted.
  • June – RHN and the Trans Health Lobby Group support a rally to protest the provincial government’s refusal to re-list gender reassignment surgery.
  • July — CRHC contract signed establishing the Ontario Rainbow Health Partnership Project (ORHPP), RHN to receive an additional $80,000.
  • August – ORHPP Committee structure is put in place, chairs of each of the streams, a member at large from CLGRO and a member at large from RHN with a minimum of two CLGRO members on the committee and the paid project coordinator ex officio.
  • September – ORHPP Conflict Resolution Guidelines are established.
  • October — RHN endorses a rally held at the 519 Community Centre on October 1, 2004 regarding gender reassignment surgery.
  • RHN and SOGLAD joint host a speaker on Harm Reduction Psychotherapy.
  • The four streams for ORHPP are Education, Professional Associations, Northern Outreach, and Determinants of Health. It was decided to combine Education and Professional Associations and hire one coordinator, with one coordinator each hired for the other two streams and an overall coordinator hired.
  • November – Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition conference held in Gatineau, Quebec with presentations from RHN and ORHPP.
  • The Trans Health Lobby Group meets with the Ontario Minister of Health
  • Staff are hired for the first two streams and the overall coordinator, and committee members established for ORHPP.


  • February – A RHN representative joins the Board of the Centre for Equity & Health by invitation.
  • A consultation with trainers in the community was held by the Education Streams.
  • March — The Determinants of Health Stream hires a coordinator.
  • A Subscriptions Secretariat is formed to deal with issues around the list serve and “netiquette.”
  • April – The second annual health Fair takes place.
  • Netiquette guidelines are approved.
  • The Education Committee provides a table at the CCAC Diversity Conference.
  • A Train the Trainer workshop is put on by the Education Committee
  • RHN is represented by the Trans Health Lobby Group at a Press Conference held following the end of human rights hearings regarding gender reassignment de-listing.
  • The RHN pamphlet, logo and letterhead are revised.
  • May – The first meeting of a new group initiated through the Northern Networks stream takes place in North Bay.
  • June – RHN is among the sponsors for a public forum for Anti-homophobia at the 519 Community Centre.
  • RHN materials are placed on the Sherbourne Health Centre table at Pride.
  • A focus group is held by the Rainbow Tobacco Intervention Project (RTIP)
  • A letter is sent from RHN supporting South Asians concerned about the Bollywood Cowboy Fashion Cares theme.
  • RHN is represented on a panel at a Forum on Privatization put on by CLGRO and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and in celebration of CLGRO’s 30th anniversary.
  • July – RHN is represented on a committee planning Bisexuality Day.
  • An RHN Anti-Racism Committee is formed through the Education Stream
  • September – The RHN Political Action Committee participates in a meeting with the Ontario Minister of Health, proposing a province wide Rainbow Health Network.
  • November – RHN and ORHPP well represented in the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition conference in Halifax.
  • The Education Committee Workshop is put on at the new North Bay Health and Wellness Alliance, initiated by the Northern Networks Stream.
  • Work begins on a RHN Website through the Education Stream.

January – August 2006

  • January – An Anti-Racism Consultancy Report for RHN sponsored by the Education Stream was received and discussed.
  • The Trans Health Lobby Group agrees to work with the Sherbourne Health Centre on the issue of access to hormone therapy.
  • The Ontario Rainbow Health Partnership Project is completed and final reports are submitted.
  • February — A meeting is held between RHN and Sherbourne Health Centre (SHC) regarding a proposal for an Ontario Rainbow Health Resource Centre.
  • March – RHN approves in principle a collaborative agreement between RHN and SHC regarding the proposal for an Ontario Rainbow Health Resource Centre.
  • April – A special event was held to celebrate the completion of ORHPP, RHN’s 5th anniversary and to launch the RHN Website.
  • The third annual Queer Health Matters Fair takes place at the 519 Community Centre.
  • May – The Trans Health Lobby Group was approved to represent RHN in a special Trans Event during Pride.
  • A Trainers Directory is put together by the Education Committee.
  • September 2006 – August 2007
  • September 3: Strategic planning session. Anti-racism discussion, as per the recommendation in the Anti-Racism Report by Nuzhat Abbas.
  • Decision to elect the Steering Committtee at the first Annual General Meeting (October 18) with an interim structure which could be changed later, through consultation with diverse groups.
  • First RHN student placement in partnership with Ryerson Nursing Program – Steve McFadden, 3rd year nursing student. Preceptor: Dick Moore
  • Bill 107: RHN and the Trans Health Lobby Group prepare to make submissions opposing the proposed changes to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. (Note: Hearings are later cancelled before all scheduled presenters are able to appear, including THLG and RHN.)
  • October 18: first RHN Annual General Meeting is held at offices of Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS). 15 people attended. Steering Committee is elected.
  • November 7: RHN members participate in CLGRO’s meeting on LGBTT Immigration and Refugee issues.
  • December 13: Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS): The Trans Health Lobby Group organizes a media conference in response to the decision of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal that public funding for SRS will be limited to only three of the four complainants (including RHN member Martine Stonehouse). Health Minister Smitherman announces that the government will not restore funding under OHIP.


  • January – Meeting schedule changed to every second month. Meetings become Steering Committee meetings, open to all.
  • Rainbow Tobacco Survey (RHN is a participant): preview of research findings presented by Michele Clarke.
  • March 5: Inclusion of “gender identity” in Ontario Human Rights Code: Trans Health Lobby Group issues a media release and gathers at Queen Park to support the announcement by MPP Cheri DiNovo that she will introduce a private member’s bill for this purpose.
  • March 12: UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. RHN Steering Committee issues a statement in support of the goals of the Day.
  • RHN Steering Committee: Susan Gapka is acclaimed as the 5th member (Member at Large).
  • April 21: Queer Health Matters health fair: Sherbourne Health Centre.

Panel organized by Rainbow Anti-Racism on “Intersections: Racism / Heterosexism / Healthcare.” Speakers: Anthony Mohamed (St. Michael’s Hospital), Notisha Massaquoi (Women’s Health in Women’s Hands), Ishwar Persad (RHN and CAMH), and Percy Lezard (2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations). Phyllis Waugh chaired the panel.

  • Accessibility policy for RHN meetings and events adopted, based on checklists by DAWN (DisAbled Women’s Network Ontario).
  • June 9: RHN’s second Pride event, “Trans Human Rights: The Next Frontier,” presented by Trans Health Lobby Group.
  • Trans Human Rights Campaign is launched, focusing on a community strategy regarding Bill 186, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Code (Gender Identity).
  • 6000 postcards distributed at Pride, and 1000 signatures have been gathered on the petition.
  • June 18: RHN workshop is presented as part of Pride Week activities at University Health Network, Toronto Western Hospital.
  • Rainbow Health Resource Centre: At the Pride Gala the Premier states that the government will support the proposal by Sherbourne Health Centre and RHN to create a provincial Rainbow Health Resource Centre.
  • Supporting trans women’s inclusion in lesbian events: RHN Steering Committee issues a statement on the list serve in response to a controversy about selection of the Honoured Dyke for the Dyke March.
  • Gender Variant Services: RHN organizes two meetings in response to controversy about Dr.Zucker, of the Child and Adolescent Clinic at CAMH, who has angered our communities by his work and his publications on making children conform to normative gender roles.
  • July 18: Among Friends Coordinator Rachna Contractor makes a presentation at the RHN Steering Committee meeting about this 3-year initiative, a partnership between the 519 and Access Alliance. Its goal is to increase capacity in social services for Queer and Trans refugees and immigrants, and to provide training to agencies.

 September 2007 – August 2008

September – December 2007
•    Grant application: Anti-Racism and Education Committees join together and submit a proposal to Toronto’s Access, Equity and Human Rights (AEHR) program. Sharmini Fernando is hired to write the application. Goal: bring together members of diverse ethnocultural and other community organizations to create a Facilitators Guide, which will address intersectionality and cultural competency in education on LGBTQ access to healthcare.
•    RHN adopts the City of Toronto’s “Declaration of Non-Discrimination” and commits to expanding our current policies into an Anti-Racism, Access and Equity Policy.
•    Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) agrees to print postcards for the Trans Human Rights Campaign and to write a letter of support

•    Trans Health Lobby Group is organizing to amend the provincial Vital Statistics Act so it is easier to change sex on a birth certificate.
•    January 15 – Susan Gapka gave a presentation on the Trans Human Rights Campaign in a course at York University, the Experiential Education Activism Project.
•    In order to improve accountability, the Steering Committee is meeting monthly to update and expand RHN’s policies
•    The Netiquette Guidelines have been revised and sent to all members via the listserv.
•    February 15 – The Steering Committee met with two RHN members who are diversity consultants, Sharmini Fernando and Marylin Kanee, to look at ways to build our own capacity in working with people of diverse backgrounds, as well as to develop new leadership within RHN.
•    Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO), the new resource centre funded by the Ministry of Health, began hiring staff. Susan Gapka and Phyllis Waugh represented RHN, as a founding partner, on the interview panel for the 3 Coordinator positions at Sherbourne Health Centre.
•    March 13 – Rainbow Health Ontario – Anna Travers, RHO Director, gave a presentation for RHN and CLGRO members.
•    March 19 – RHN approved in principle the “RHN Trans and Gender-Variant Youth Services Task Force Proposal,” submitted by Rebecca Hammond.
•    RHN Trainers Group presented 3 workshops in February and March
•    Some York students in a first-year Women’s Studies course are doing a placement with THLG
•    Outreach meetings held with Voices of Positive Women and Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention
•    April 10 – RHN presented Training For Change: How facilitators apply anti-oppression practice in their work, in partnership with Among Friends. Part of LGBTQ Health Matters Week, held at Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services. Facilitated by Margaret Alexander and Fran Odette.
•    April 16 – Strategy Session. Brainstorm about increasing inclusiveness and expanding leadership in RHN. Discussion of Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression Initiative. RHN’s Mission, Vision, Objectives updated.
•    May 13 – RHN presented LGBTQs And Healthcare: An International Day Against Homophobia Forum. Co-sponsored by CLGRO, The 519, Sherbourne Health Centre and Xtra. Held at Central YMCA. Panelists: Rebecca Hammond, Youth-Gender Action Project and Trans PULSE Project; David Lewis-Peart, Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention; Judy MacDonnell, Rainbow Interest Group of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario; Nick Mulé, Rainbow Health Network. Moderator: Fran Odette, Springtide Resources
•    May 15 – Policy working group proposed a focus on recruiting for an expanded Steering Committee, to be elected at the AGM in the fall.
•    May 15 – Health Minister Smitherman announced that the province will relist Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). RHN congratulated the Trans Health Lobby Group and all supporters for their successful work on this issue.
•    May 30 – Susan Gapka attended Health Equity Council AGM as an RHN rep.
•    June 14 – RHN presented Anti-Racism Workshop: A First Nations Perspective, by Percy Lezard, 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, held at The 519.
•    June 15-17 – CASHRA (Human Rights Conference) in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Susan Gapka presented on amending the Ontario Human Rights code to include gender identity.
•    June 23 – RHN Trainers Group workshop at Princess Margaret Hospital as part of University Health Network’s Pride Week events.
•    June 24 – RHN receives the 2008 Pride Toronto Gala Award in the Science, Medicine and Technology category.
•    June 28 – THLG members took part in the Dyke March. Also took part in the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH) conference.
•    June 29 – RHN’s first table at the Pride Toronto Community Fair.
•    Meeting with LHIN. Nick Mulé and Anna Travers spoke on behalf of RHN on LGBTQ health issues.
•    The City of Toronto Access and Equity grant application was approved.
•    The RHN brochure was revised.
•    July 18 – at RHN meeting, Hershel Russell gave a background presentation on the history of the DSM and its various controversies.
•    August 11 – RHN members attended Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) community information / discussion on their LGBTTTQQI strategy. Sherbourne Health Centre.


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