Connor McKiggan connects communities to build a stronger country.
By Sarah Fox
Photography by Marvin Moore
In February, Saskatoon opened its doors to the country’s first long-term group home for LGBTQA+ youth. In June, news came from Ottawa that the Canadian government would commit to erasing past convictions for sexual activity with a same-sex partner within the year. That same month, as Toronto wrapped its 37th Pride Parade, the city was ranked the third most LGBT-friendly cities in the world. And, with eyes ahead to towards the future, Canada has announced itself a friendly destination for LGBTQA+ travellers, investing $100,000 into Travel Gay Canada.
Along with the strides Canada—across metropolitan cities—is taking to build an inclusive country, is a youth from its second-smallest province. Hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Connor McKiggan never takes a back seat when there’s an opportunity to drive positive change in his community.
A passionate advocate for inclusion—who has shared his story on the WE Day stage and garnered attention from the media (CBC covered his work organizing a conference on special needs inclusion)—Connor’s academic focus goes hand-in-hand with his change-maker values.
Studying international development at the College of Sustainability at Dalhousie University (with a particular interest in environmental activism), this accomplished 19-year-old got into advocacy back in high school.
For him, his passion was sparked by his own experience with issues of inclusion.
“Growing up gay, I didn’t feel like I had anybody I could relate to,” he shares. When Connor joined his high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), that changed. As a member of the GSA, Connor warmed up his vocal chords and stepped forward as a leader; his voice grew stronger and louder, until he became the group’s president.
From the GSA, Connor took on more leadership roles, among those steering the creation of GSA groups at five other high schools during Grade 11 and founding the Junior High OUTreach Conference the year after.
Held at his high school, the conference invited the five other GSA groups built under his mentorship to unite, totalling 100 students in attendance. In the coming year, Connor hopes to multiply this number by inviting youth from across the province to attend.
And that’s not all.
Connor is in the midst of developing Halifax’s only LGBTQA+ radio station to amplify his message of solidarity and deepen the connections he has fostered with LGBTQA+ youth.
“This radio station creates a connection that will strengthen the LGBTQA+ community,” he insists. “Sharing messages of pride and awareness and will introduce people across our community to LGBTQA+ topics and issues.”
The project is part of Connor’s personal mission to “make sure all kids who grew up like [him] know that they’re not alone,” an undertaking that he thinks all Canadians should strive towards. Read on to learn why speaking up for equality and against injustice is a critical step when building a stronger community and country.
Why is “we” stronger than “me?”
Alone, one ant can only carry a small amount. However, a group of ants can carry huge amounts. As an activist, I sometimes feel like an ant. Looking at a problem alone can sometimes seem like a lot to handle, but when I reach out, I am able to find the support I need from those in my community. Together, we can make a difference!
What is the kindest action you’ve been on the receiving end of, and what about the gesture touched you personally?
Growing up, I felt a lack of connection to the LGBTQA+ community. I struggled to find places where I could learn about and feel connected to queer history, so I reached out to a local drag queen, Deva Station, who taught me about drag, makeup and the history of the LGBTQA+ community. Deva took me under her wing and spent hours helping me find my place in the queer community of Halifax. It is because of her kindness that I can feel confident in myself as a gay man, activist and drag queen.
Describe the core values of your ideal Canada?
Responsibility. As a country, we must recognize the role we play in the world so that we can take action, while recognizing our short comings to grow from them.
Equality. As leaders in global change, Canadians must take action to ensure that our country offers safe and inclusive spaces where everybody can be themselves and have equal opportunities.
Sustainability. This means we meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. To progress further—not only in Canada but the global population—we must embrace the social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainability.
Fill in the blank: Moving forward into the next 150 years, our country needs [blank] in order to build a more caring and compassionate Canada.
Solidarity means to act together to reach a common goal. As Canadians, we need to act in solidarity to ensure that our country is equal, safe and inclusive for all.
What’s one action you would like people to take in order to build a better country?
To speak up! Lots of people choose to stay quiet when they experience or witness injustice because they don’t feel like their voice will be enough. However, when you speak up you will find that even one person can make a huge difference. Find something you’re passionate about and take action!