When I remember the massacre that took place in Orlando on June 12 2016, I feel a combination of disgust and sadness at the acts of violence that had taken place. ­I unequivocally condemn these acts of violence and hate. The murderer’s actions in no way represent the faith that I was raised in- they were senseless acts of homophobia, which have no place in our nation.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “Hate cannot defeat hate: only love can do that.” I agree entirely. At times like these, we as Canadians must all stand united against the kind of hate that inspires such senseless violence.  We must keep supporting each other as we live through tragedies like these, and condemn the actions of those who wish to see us divided and scared.

Dr. King’s words also ring true in another regard. It is all too easy for us to fall victim to fear and to turn against one another as the actions of one man colour our views of entire groups. Yet we cannot allow this to happen. These views aim to separate us, leaving those isolated vulnerable to their words.

Our ability to come together as a country is what makes us strong. Regardless of our sexual orientation, we work together to make Canada the best country it can be. When events like this risk tearing us apart, we bear the collective pain of these events together and come out of them stronger. When those filled with hate wish to harm us, we come together and prove that these hateful acts will never break our spirits. We must continue to work to stamp out hate and violence, and thus create a just society for all Canadians.

Homophobia and transphobia are not problems we can legislate. The truth is that we must reach the hearts and minds of Canadians to create lasting change. This involves dialogues, training and an ongoing commitment.

This work is not a destination; rather, it requires an ongoing commitment from each of us to challenge ourselves and the individuals around us to improve our behaviours and actions. We each need to look into our hearts and ask ourselves, “How can I help someone today?”

On this International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we have a responsibility to promote diversity and respect within our communities. To me, that means listening to everyone, especially young people who need our support. During these tough times, our young people are certainly at risk and need our attention.

It requires ongoing education, attention, learning and passion to keep at it so that everyone can feel safe, respected and loved, no matter where they are in our country.