From left to right: Andrew Scheer, Maxime Bernier, Elizabeth May, Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld, THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick, Nick Lachance/Xtra; Francesca Roh/Xtra
Politics
6 min

Where do Canadian political parties rank on LGBTQ2 issues?

With the federal election coming in October, we explore parties’ commitments to queer and trans Canadians

The last Canadian federal election in 2015 saw renewed promises for LGBTQ2 issues — from commitments to pass trans-rights legislation to ending the blood ban. But this time around, there’s a brand new People’s Party of Canada all too willing to rail against diversity, while the Conservative Party is being led by Andrew Scheer and his anti-trans, anti-marriage equality, anti-abortion voting record. It’s bound to be an especially tumultuous election for queer and trans Canadians.

To keep voters informed about our political parties’ commitments — and transgressions — we’ve noted each party’s policies on LGBTQ2 issues. And because these policies and promises will be changing throughout the election campaign, we’ll keep this story updated. Be sure to revisit it as campaign season begins.

The Liberal Party

Coming into office in 2015 after 10 years of Conservative governance, the Liberal Party immediately got to work tackling LGBTQ2 issues. Over the past four years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s party has taken a ton of action on those issues, which they’ll definitely be relying on to earn our votes come election day on Oct 21.

Here’s what the party has accomplished since 2015:

– After more than a decade of trans activism, and in large part due to historic and ongoing efforts of New Democrat Members of Parliament (MPs), the Liberal government successfully passed a trans-rights bill — Bill C-16 into law in 2017 — enshrining gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.

– On Nov 29, 2017, Trudeau issued an apology on behalf of the federal government to the thousands of public servants, members of the military and police and intelligence employees discriminated against, fired, criminally prosecuted and sometimes imprisoned for their sexual orientation from the 1950s to the 1990s.

– The party appointed Randy Boissonnault, the openly gay MP for Edmonton Centre, as Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 Issues. Trudeau’s government also created the LGBTQ2 Secretariat within the Privy Council to help inform the government on issues and potential solutions of importance to our communities.

– In 2017, the Canadian government became co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, the first-ever international, intergovernmental coalition committed to protecting the rights of LGBTQ2 communities around the world.

– This February, the federal government made a commitment to advance human rights and socio-economic outcomes for LGBTQ2 people in developing countries, with $30 million in funding over the next five years, followed by $10 million a year after that.

In their 2019 budget, the Liberals committed $20 million to LGBTQ2 service organizations to support capacity building and community-level work.

For some, their actions have rung hollow. While many applauded the 2017 apology to LGBTQ2 Canadians, others, like Michael Motala, one of the authors of the Egale report The Just Society Report: Gross Indecency, which was commissioned by the Department of Justice, said, “It feels like the government is just using these issues as a bit of a PR stunt and they’re really not tackling things substantively.”

And despite some significant victories, the Liberals haven’t made good on all of their promises to LGBTQ2 communities. The party campaigned in 2015 on a commitment to end the blood ban — which prevents men who have sex with men and trans people from donating blood unless they’ve remained abstinent for a period of time — but have failed to do so thus far. In 2016, the Liberals reduced that time period from five years to one, but the ban still exists despite outcry from LGBTQ2 communities and experts who say it unnecessarily targets queer and trans folks.

The New Democratic Party

While the New Democrats have never been the federal party in power, they’ve had a strong influence on LGBTQ2 issues. They were the first party to formally announce its support for the gay movement in 1976 and were home to Canada’s first openly gay MP Svend Robinson, who came out in 1988.

When the House of Commons voted on marriage equality in 2005, the NDP was the only party that required its MPs to vote in favour. And while Bill C-16 passed under a Liberal government, the NDP championed four separate legislative efforts since 2005 to enact federal trans-rights protections, re-introducing new legislation to keep the issue up for discussion, and building support across political parties.

The NDP hasn’t yet announced its 2019 election platform or any specific commitments on LGBTQ2 issues. But during his run for leadership two years ago, Jagmeet Singh made three key commitments:

– A total review of government policies and practices to ensure full compliance with trans-rights Bill C-16.

– A complete end to the blood ban.

– An LGBTQ2 lens on housing and homelessness reduction, with an emphasis on addressing the unique needs of homeless LGBTQ2 youth, though the commitments remain vague.

The NDP made a number of commitments of its own in the previous election, backed up by statements in their policy book, which include:

– Contributing to the repeal of the anti-sex work legislation Bill C-36, passed in 2014 under the Conservative government.

– Improving federal data collection on issues specific to the LGBTQ2 community, including health care needs and experiences, to improve availability of data to inform policies on a federal, provincial and local level.

– Investing in programs to promote equity for LGBTQ2 people, particularly LGBTQ2 young people. (No specific programs, however, were referenced.)

– Supporting international struggles against discrimination directed at LGBTQ2 communities.

The Conservative Party

Heading into the upcoming federal election, the Conservative Party of Canada is stuck in an uncomfortable position: facing a challenge on one side from Maxime Bernier’s right-wing People’s Party, which has the potential to split the conservative vote, and, on the other side, competing with an incumbent Liberal majority government for the centrist votes crucial to either party’s electoral success. With Andrew Scheer — a staunch social conservative who has voted against marriage equality, trans rights and pro-choice legislation — as its leader, the party seems likely to continue leaning into social conservatism. Scheer claims he’ll keep divisive social issues out of his government’s policies, but whether that’s true is debatable.

While the Conservative platform hasn’t yet been released, the party’s policy book is devoid of any references to LGBTQ2 communities. It’s worth mentioning that this is the party that only struck its definition of marriage as between a man and a woman from its policy book in 2016, more than a decade after Canada legalized same-sex marriage. Some members of the party, like Michelle Rempel and Michael Chong, have broken ranks from their peers in an effort to advance LGBTQ2 issues, with some success. When Bill C-16 came to a vote in the House of Commons, for instance, 38 Conservative MPs voted for it.

But whether or not the party will stay true to Stephen Harper’s legacy and sneak its way to electoral success without any discussion of LGBTQ2 identities remains to be seen.

The Green Party

Like the NDP, the Green Party has a strong history of tackling LGBTQ2 issues. In 1996, it became the first federal political party to officially support same-sex marriage, and was the first — and only — major federal political party to have an openly gay leader in Chris Lea.

While the Greens have yet to announce particular policies or commitments for LGBTQ2 communities for the upcoming election, the party articulated some vague commitments in the 2015 election that will likely shape their approach to LGBTQ2 issues this election. These commitments included:

– Investing in HIV/AIDS education and prevention services to ensure that those living with the virus are receiving comprehensive and effective treatments.

– Advocating for increased federal funding, coordination and support for strategies on mental health, addictions, sexual education, sexualized and gender-based violence and housing for all Canadians, with specific measures to address the needs of LGBTQ2 Canadians.

– Supporting public education to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

– Ending the targeting of LGBTQ2 bookstores and other LGBTQ2 businesses by Customs Canada.

– Improved protections for trans people and raised awareness of policies for inclusion.

– Advocating internationally to protect the human rights of LGBTQ2 communities.

The People’s Party of Canada

The People’s Party has been around less than a year, and it’s already collected a slate of candidates with ties to anti-abortion organizations, white supremacist groups and committed transphobes. One of the most infamous: Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, the Burnaby-South candidate — who earned more than 10 percent of the vote in a recent by-election — is on the record stating that gender fluidity is “the greatest and most insidious assault against our children that this nation has ever seen.”

Meanwhile, Maxime Bernier, founder and leader of the party, went on a Twitter rant in August 2018, claiming that diversity was threatening to “destroy what has made us such a great country.” Bernier has also spoken out against Bill C-16 in 2017, and previously voted to re-open the marriage equality debate in 2006, though he claims abortion and gender identity won’t be part of his platform.

While the People’s Party hasn’t yet announced its platform, the rhetoric of its leader and the politics of its candidates speak volumes about what we can expect.

Editor's note, Apr 03, 2019: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Svend Robinson came out in 1998, not 1988.

This story is filed under Politics, Analysis
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