The Université de Québec at Montréal is the first on the North American continent to fund a research chair devoted to studying homophobia.

Sexological research undertaken by the university hopes to quantify effects of homophobia on the LGBT community and inform public debate on policy and social justice.

The Quebecois government has given $475,000 (CAD), around £290,000, to the French-speaking university’s programme, which was launched in a ceremony attended by Jean Charest, the Premier of Quebec.

Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier, who is responsible for tackling homophobia, told the Canadian Press: “The most recent statistics paint an alarming portrait.

“Homosexual people are almost three times as likely to become victims of a violent crime as heterosexuals.”

The government is reported to be investing $7.1m (CAD) over the next five years on projects designed to tackle homophobia.

The announcement was made at the Écomusée du Fier Monde de Montréal, a gathering of LGBT people, researchers, academics and government representatives involved in the fight against homophobia.

Line Chamberland, who will be first to take up the post, said: “Sometimes [service providers] will say there are no gays or lesbians here. We have to document that they are there and that they have problems.”

“The better you understand the effect of homophobia […] the better you can convince people.”