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NDP pits gay against Rae

Toronto Centre nom goes to queer lawyer

KISSING BABIES. NDP Candidate El-Farouk Khaki celebrates with a young supporter immediately after his victory was announced.

Local queer immigration lawyer and activist El-Farouk Khaki was selected as the NDP’s candidate in Toronto Centre for the next federal election, which, if he wins, would make him the first openly queer person to represent the riding that includes Canada’s largest gaybourhood.

“We can take this riding. We can take this city,” Khaki told a cheering crowd upon being declared the winner.

Close to a hundred members of the party faithful convened in a studio in the downtown YMCA for the nomination meeting Apr 30. Khaki was running against NDP activist and social worker Susan Gonzalez.

Khaki, who recently received the 2007 Steinert And Ferreiro award from the Lesbian And Gay Community Appeal for his work on immigration and HIV issues, was introduced by a series of NDP activists who cheered his work with disenfranchised communities.

One of Khaki’s nominators was gay Nicaraguan refugee Alvaro Orozco, for whom Khaki’s pro-bono work resulted in a stay of his deportation order earlier this year.

“He knows what the gay community needs,” Orozco said in a brief speech.

Khaki touted his personal history as an immigrant, a queer, a Muslim and an activist in his speech to the voters that was long on identity but short on specific agendas he would like to push for these communities in Parliament.

For queers, Khaki suggested that Canada must first step up to ensure equality for women.

“We cannot have equality for gays unless we address misogyny and equality for women.”

Later, Khaki told Xtra that he saw the gay agenda moving away from policy issues.

“I don’t think there’s any specific issues facing us right now,” he says. “I think we’re very complacent in our cities about where we have reached, but that’s not even true everywhere in this city, let alone in this country.

“Queer kids are still disproportionately victims of violence and violence in the family,” he says.

Khaki was reluctant to take a stand on legalizing sex work.

“I stand on safety for everybody. They need safety and options. Whatever that means, I’m willing to work with them,” he says.

When the election writ is dropped, Khaki will face off against former Ontario premier Bob Rae for the Liberals and Conservative business lawyer Mark Warner. Khaki had fighting words for Rae to open his speech.

“I don’t think Bob Rae is a Liberal. I think he’s a Tory,” he said to raucous cheers.

After the election, Khaki acknowledged and welcomed the uphill battle he will face in a riding the NDP have never won.

“My life has been full of challenges. I think I’ve done okay with them,” he says.

NDP leader Jack Layton had been scheduled to speak at the nomination meeting, but had to stay in Ottawa to vote for an NDP motion for an immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.