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Did Conservatives sign Vancouver Pride trans pledge?

What happened when Daily Xtra investigated party’s rumoured exemption request

Daily Xtra recently received a tip that the Vancouver Centre riding association of the Conservative Party of Canada had applied for an exemption from signing the trans equality pledge that this year’s Pride parade participants have been asked to sign.

Daily Xtra asked Vancouver Pride Society executive director Ray Lam about the alleged exemption early on the afternoon of July 10.

“The Conservatives applied for an exemption,” he said, “and we’ve been reviewing it. We haven’t made a determination either way yet.”

He said the issue had gone to the parade committee for further review.

Committee members were to vote on whether or not to allow the Conservatives’ requested exemption, Lam told Daily Xtra.

Lam said some pledge exemptions would be allowed but generally only for media organizations that cannot take a political stance. He couldn’t say if other organizations had applied for an exemption.

The pledge is part of the Pride Society’s Trans Equality Now campaign. “The purpose of the pledge is to highlight the need for equality legislation supporting the trans and gender-variant community and it’s also to raise awareness on the issue,” Lam explained.

The pledge is part of Pride being a political event, he said. “Pride is absolutely political.”

Lam said signing the pledge is an agreement to support the Pride Society’s core values. “Promoting human rights and equality is one of our core values,” he said.

“We’re just highlighting the fact that trans people are not equal under the law,” he continued.

With that information in hand, Daily Xtra began talking to other federal parties who would be fielding candidates in Vancouver Centre in the expected fall election.

The NDP, Liberals and Greens all confirmed they had signed the pledge.

All expressed shock that an exemption might be sought.

Daily Xtra then turned to the Conservatives. A riding association member first directed Daily Xtra to the federal party headquarters in Ottawa, where we were met with an answering machine. No one returned our call prior to publication.

But the riding association member, who refused to speak on the record, maintained that the Conservatives had signed the trans pledge. No exemption was sought, he said.

The riding association member said he would call the Pride Society to seek clarification. That call was scheduled for 4pm.

At 4:26pm Lam called Daily Xtra to say he had been mistaken and that the Conservatives would be in the parade.

“I was mistaken,” he said. “They applied to be in the parade and they’re in the parade.”

“There is no exemption request from the Vancouver Conservatives,” Lam said, adding that he had been out of town and was just catching up on his work.

Asked how he could be mistaken about the riding association of the governing party of Canada applying for an exemption, Lam replied, “I was just mistaken with the applications.”

“I’m not actually involved in this process, so I don’t look at any of the exemptions,” he said. “I don’t know who’s applied for exemptions or who’s approved or declined.”

The Conservatives have been at the core of debate over trans rights since NDP MP Randall Garrison championed Bill C-279 to recognize and protect gender identity and expression in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

Though elected MPs in the House of Commons passed the bill in 2013, it’s been mired ever since in Senate hearings, where Conservative senators added multiple amendments — one of which undermines the very point of the bill — before sending it back to the Commons in February.

Parliament has now broken for the summer and with a fall election in the offing, the bill is likely dead.

The bill, as originally drafted, is meant to codify human-rights protections for trans people in the federal Human Rights Act, allowing them to file complaints over workplace harassment, for example, and offering a clear indication to the courts and the community that the government believes these protections should be afforded to the trans population.

Daily Xtra has now asked the Pride Society to produce the signed pledge forms for the Conservative, NDP, Liberal and Green parties in Vancouver Centre. No reply was received prior to publishing this article.