BRIDGES: Somewhere to belong: Rachel Loewen Walker looks back on OUTSaskatoon's growth

When OUTSaskatoon moved offices in the summer of 2019, executive director Rachel Loewen Walker thought something was missing about the organization’s newest space.

OUT, now one of the largest queer community centres in Canada, has changed names and locations twice, each time increasing its presence in the community. It now occupies a two-storey, streetfront building in Saskatoon’s Riversdale neighbourhood, sharing facilities with Saskatoon Sexual Health.

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It takes a leap of faith to leave a dream job for the unknown.

But that is exactly what Dr. Rachel Loewen Walker (PhD) is doing as she leaves her role as executive director of OUTSaskatoon this month.

After nearly seven years in her position at OUTSaskatoon, she felt it was the right time for a new challenge—a one-year appointment as the Ariel F. Sallows Chair in Human Rights with the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).

However, Loewen Walker is confident she leaves OUTSaskatoon in a stronger place than when she arrived in 2013. At that point, OUTSaskatoon was known as the Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity and had five staff that worked in a different location.

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Three Saskatchewan LGBTQ2+ organizations are partnering to deliver their services across the province in response to the added pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic.

OUTSaskatoon, Regina’s UR Pride and Moose Jaw Pride are launching a joint initiative to hire outreach workers, some of whom will work primarily with people in rural areas where access to LGBTQ-friendly services is more limited.

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IN MAGAZINE: OUTSaskatoon And Saskatoon Sexual Health Are Empowering The Community In Saskatoon And Beyond

The partnership between the two non-profit organizations is changing lives…
Earlier this year, Saskatoon Sexual Health relocated to a larger space with OUTSaskatoon to meet growing demands. The move to a shared space expanded opportunities for collaboration and co-operation, and offer broader access to services for everyone. We sat down with members of the two non-profit organizations to learn more about their services and how their partnership will benefit the future of queer, trans and two-spirit sexual healthcare services in the community.

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CBC News: OUTSaskatoon brings concerns from LGBTQ community to police chief

Officials from OUTSaskatoon say members of the LGBTQ community in Saskatoon don't feel safe when dealing with police, but a meeting held on Friday was an important step forward to establishing a stronger relationship.

The relationship between the LGBTQ community and the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) has been tested in recent weeks. In early June, an officer was placed on administrative leave after making posts on his personal social media accounts the service said were "harmful and offensive" to the LGBTQ community.

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STARPHOENIX: LGBTQ2+ community in Saskatoon connects in new ways during COVID-19

LGBTQ2+ people in Saskatoon are finding new ways to connect with community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has exacerbated existing socioeconomic and health care inequities for these populations, heightening the need to provide services and supports.

“We already know that the 2SLGBTQ population experiences disproportionately higher rates of violence in all sectors,” said Jess Fisher, OUTSaskatoon’s gender based violence education coordinator. “With the happening of COVID, it increases health and economic risks, it increases mental health issues.”

Social isolation can have detrimental mental health effects for gender and sexually diverse people stuck at home in situations that may not be affirming for them, Fisher said.

That’s especially true for older adults and youth, for whom community support can be vital.

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USask alumni at OUTSaskatoon use education as a tool to spark systemic change

For nearly 30 years, OUTSaskatoon’s locations had discrete entrances. The centre was located in other buildings, sometimes behind unmarked doors.

University of Saskatchewan (USask) alumna Dr. Rachel Loewen Walker (BA’06, MA’08), OUTSaskatoon’s executive director, said that discretion was necessary.

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Global News: Saskatoon City Council Votes to Ban Conversion Therapy as Business Activity

Even with federal legislation in the works to criminalize conversion therapy, Saskatoon city council has voted to ban the practice as a business activity.

Conversion therapy is the widely-discredited practice of seeking to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s often carried out under the facade of religious therapy and can include spiritual or psychological tactics.


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OUTSaskatoon's Executive Director Announces Farewell

March 10, 2020

Dear friends and community partners,

On behalf of OUTSaskatoon’s board of directors I am writing to share news of a big change on the horizon. After more than six years with OUTSaskatoon, we are sad to announce that on July 1st, 2020, our Executive Director, Rachel Loewen Walker will be moving on to her next adventure.

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