Human Interest
3 min

Randall Garrison talks about Vancouver Pride and the Outgames

While NDP
MPs were in Ottawa to meet regarding the interim leadership, I caught
up with queer rights critic Randall Garrison.

Q: It’s the Outgames and Pride in Vancouver. What were you involved with there before this
caucus meeting came up?

A: I’m at
the Outgames human rights conference, technically. I’m leaving in about an hour
to head back to the conference. I’ll have been there for the opening
morning and the closing day.

Q: Of
what you were able to participate in, how have you found it?

A: I
thought it was great to bring people, a lot of people from all
around the world, 
together to talk. The session I was at in the morning was called Where We Are, Where We’re Going. It was interesting because a lot of people,
especially from the US, were talking about how advanced Canada and some other
countries seemed to them, yet Canadians were talking about the work we still
need to do. It was an interesting contrast. And, really, I was only there for
that one session and then had to fly here.

Q: What are you up to with Pride?

A: I’m
going to be at the parade on Sunday. I’m at the conference until Thursday
night, and then I’m going home to Victoria for Friday and Saturday because I have
commitments there. I'll come back over for the parade on Sunday, but
that’s also the night of the Splash Concert in Victoria. It's one of the
biggest concerts of the year: the symphony plays on a barge in the harbour. I’m
rushing back over to Victoria that night for it.

Q: So it’s a busy day for you.

A: Really
I’m only going to be in the parade, other than being at the human rights
conference this week.

Q: How
has your summer been up until the point when the news [about Layton’s
health] broke?

A: We
were focusing on a lot of stuff in my riding: just getting the office open and
the staff in place; catching up with people that we had put off for a little
while; and saying we’ll get to this just as soon as we can, but right now we don’t
have a fax, a phone or a photocopier. We have all of those
problems to solve. We were just getting into the meat of some of the work when
this came up.

Q: How
has the feedback been with your critic portfolio been so far?

There’s been more reaction to the fact that there are four out New Democrats
than there has been to me being the critic, and I’ve been emphasizing that
there’s a team of people. Certainly with Dany Morin, who is my associate
critic, there are more people to work on these issues when we get our priorities
in order and get revving up. In September, you should see a lot more action as
a result of that. I like to joke, which is true, that the first time we sat
down together, we said, “Wow, a meeting! We have enough out gay MPs to have a
caucus.” I think people recognize that, and I am working to get the trans
rights bill reintroduced. I’ve just been in conversation with the House of
Commons again about the process here, so that’ll be coming up early in

Regarding that bill, were you planning to introduce it exactly with the
language as is, or do you plan to make any amendments, thinking in particular
about the issue of “sex” being included as a category under the Criminal Code
provisions? I know this was something that certain Conservative
senators had spoken about possibly amending the last time around?

A: My
intention was to introduce it as it was, and we can have this discussion with
senators when I get this through the House of Commons, so it’ll be a while yet.
I think mixing other issues, which is how I see that, takes the focus off trying to improve the lives of trans Canadians. I’d
like to keep the focus squarely on those issues. All the evidence we have on
hate crimes is that it is a severe problem that we have to keep a light on. I
understand people have other concerns, and we’ll cross the bridge of what we
have to do to get that protection from the unelected Senate when we come to it.

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