After a divisive campaign, Canada has re-elected a Liberal government.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party was elected with a minority government for the country’s 43rd Parliament, with 157 seats at the time of publication. Canada has been under a Liberal government since 2015, after ending the nearly decade-long reign of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
How does Trudeau’s Liberal Party stack up when it comes to LGBTQ2 issues? Xtra unpacks the last four years of Liberal governing, and predicts what’s in store for queer and trans Canadians.
The Liberal record so far
Under the previous Liberal government, there was some progress on LGBTQ2 rights in the country.
In 2016, the party appointed Randy Boissonnault, an openly gay MP for Edmonton Centre, as Special Advisor to the PM on LGBTQ2 Issues. (Boissonnault lost his seat in this election and will not be returning to Parliament.) In its first term, Trudeau’s government also created the LGBTQ2 Secretariat role within the Privy Council to help inform the government on issues and potential solutions that affect LGBTQ2 people in Canada. The secretariat supported Boissonnault in his role as special advisor and, according to the government’s website, also “helped link LGBTQ2 stakeholders with relevant federal organizations” to fund LGBTQ2 programs and/or organizations.
In 2017, the Liberals successfully passed Bill C-16, a trans-rights bill, and turned it into law. That came 12 years after NDP MP Bill Siksay of Burnaby, B.C., introduced a private member’s bill to add “gender identity or expression” to the protected classes in the Canadian Human Rights Act in 2005. The law enshrined protections on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression in both the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.
That same year, the Canadian government, alongside Chile, also became chair of the Equal Rights Coalition, the first-ever international, intergovernmental coalition committed to protecting the rights of LGBTQ2 communities around the world.
On Nov. 29, 2017, Trudeau’s government apologized to the thousands of public servants, members of the military, police and intelligence employees who were discriminated against, fired and criminally prosecuted between the 1950s and 1990s, on the basis of their sexual orientation.
This February, the Liberals made a commitment of $30 million in funding over the next five years, followed by $10 million a year after that, to Canadian LGBTQ2 and intersex organizations in their efforts to collaborate with partners to advance human rights and socio-economic outcomes for LGBTQ2 people in developing countries.
In a statement, former minister of international development Marie-Claude Bibeau said, “Globally, LGBTQ2 communities continue to face discrimination and injustice because of who they are,” she said. “Everyone matters, no matter who they choose to love, no matter where they live. At the heart of its efforts, Canada will continue to take concrete action to advance human rights and gender equality for all people, including LGBTQ2 communities abroad.”
In March, when the party released its 2019 budget, the Liberals committed $20 million to LGBTQ2 service organizations to support capacity building and community-level work. In August, the government committed $400,000 to support Egale Canada to expand the organization’s national LGBTQ2 research. The party also promised $100,000 to the Canadian Trans Network to host a Canadian Trans Summit to identify a way forward to trans and non-binary advocacy in Canada.
Despite some significant victories, Trudeau’s Liberals haven’t made good on all of their commitments to LGBTQ2 communities. During the 2015 election campaign, the party promised to entirely 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. After being elected, the Liberals reduced the abstinence period from five years to one but did not end the ban altogether. This decision was met with criticism from LGBTQ2 communities and experts who say it unnecessarily targets queer and trans folks.
Earlier this year, former NDP MP Sheri Benson also presented a petition to the House of Commons, calling on the federal government to ban the use of conversion therapy on children. In March, the government responded, calling conversion therapies “immoral” and maintaining that those practices don’t reflect the government’s—or Canada’s—values. But since conversion therapy is often administered by members of the health profession, the government said it was largely a provincial and territorial issue. Currently, if a person is alleged to have subjected someone to conversion therapy, the penalty could be administered through existing sections of the Criminal Code; this means that if a person is forced to undergo conversion therapy, criminal charges like kidnapping, assault and forcible confinement may apply. But after eight months of refusing to do so, the Liberals announced during their campaign earlier this month they’ll amend the Criminal Code to make conversion therapy illegal throughout Canada if re-elected.
In its platform, the Liberal Party committed to more funding for LGBTQ2 community organizations, more support for LGBTQ2 communities by continuing to support a 24/7 mental health crisis line, a $2-million investment to continue the work of hotlines and other support services, such as those that provide sex education. The Liberals also promised—once again—to end the blood ban.
You can watch the prime minister’s victory speech below.
With files from Fae Johnstone