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Aug 30, 2023

6 min. read

FOR MANY CALLERS in the 1970s, the University of Manitoba’s Gays for Equality phone line was their first time speaking to another gay person and the first time they felt able to come out. The line fielded 2,500 calls a year, in addition to providing education, outreach, political awareness and community services.

Over the past 50 years, much has changed, but a lot has remained the same. Now called Rainbow Resource Centre, the group still offers refuge and resources—a place of joy and comfort, advocacy and activism for the 2SLGTBQ+ community in Manitoba.

“We get calls from all over Canada and as far away as Texas,” says Ashley Smith, the centre’s director of advocacy. “Queer people from other countries are trying to immigrate and need help.” Rainbow Resource Centre provides that additional support.

Around 4,000 people come through the door every year to access the centre’s services, from youth support groups to specialized programming for adults over 55. There’s a full slate of activities and events, along with groups like the sister organization Rainbow Harmony Project, whose 60 vocalists meet weekly to sing and find community. This year, the centre is showcasing an exhibit at The Manitoba Museum—“If These Walls Could Talk”—to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Meanwhile, as acts of discrimination and homophobia ramp up south of the border, those on the front lines in Canada are feeling it, too. “It’s happening. Anti-queer rhetoric is on the rise,” says Smith. The centre brings some respite. “It’s the heart of the LGBTQ+ here.” It’s where people hang out, feel empowered, learn from and support one another, and parents acknowledge it’s the type of supportive community their kids need.

Rainbow Resource Centre recently moved into a new space, adjacent to what will be a five-storey building offering, for the first time in Canada, affordable housing for 2SLGBTQ+ older adults. This group, Smith notes, would be “more likely to rely on each other for care later in life.”

And Smith is encouraged by the outpouring of support for the centre. “People want to know how to act, what to do, who to send a letter to. They reach out to Rainbow for that sort of support because that’s what we do.”

Do you know of a Good Place? Help us celebrate community organizations that strive to make life better for all. Send nominations to drivenbygoodmb@caamanitoba.com to share their stories.

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