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COLUMN: Alberta’s LGBTQ community under a possible Jason Kenney government

During Ralph Klein’s tenure as Alberta’s PC premier, the gay community in that province felt the wrath of his homophobic, discriminatory tongue.

The longtime leader was an outspoken opponent of equal rights and was one of the most hateful enemies of the LGBTQ community, along with New Brunswick former MP Elsie Wayne, who made a habit of rising in the Commons to spew hateful rhetoric against this community. Both are now gone, but not forgotten.

Of course, a follower of this attitude was former mayor of Toronto, the late Rob Ford, who was extremely vocal in his opposition to equal rights. Alberta’s Progressive Conservatives have ruled that province for many years, until the NDP and Rachel Notley defeated them in a landslide.

On July 22, 2017, the PCs and the Wildrose joined forces with the intention of beating the NDP in the next election and return to right-wing, ultra-conservative rule under either Jason Kenney or Brian Jean. Known as the United Conservative Party, the move was to established a party primarily made up of right-wing conservatism that, if elected, will surely set back the clock of progress towards equal treatment for the LGBTQ community in that province.

Jason Kenney, a former MP in Stephen Harper’s government, will be seeking the new party’s leadership, in competition with Brian Jean. Kenney, as Citizenship and Immigration Minister, blocked any reference to gay rights in Canada in a brochure, voted against same-sex marriage and consistently voted against transgender rights. As a promoter of “Unite the Right,” he supports the firing of a gay teacher at a private religious college in Edmonton recently.

As well, he refuses to recognize gay/straight alliance groups in Alberta schools, stating that parents must know what their child is joining, thereby outing them, regardless if that child is ready to divulge his/her sexual orientation to family. This may cause rejection from family and even could cause suicide. Kenney also supports Christian places of learning that promote an anti-LGBTQ agenda.

Jean, in a recent statement, said he supports gay/straight alliances, even as many Wildrose party members do not. Older members are certainly against any equal rights because that former party had a solid anti-gay agenda. Perhaps the younger politicians will serve to change that attitude.

Depending on the support for Kenney, the province will experience drastic changes again and return to the Klein era if he becomes the new leader. Can we expect Jason Kenney could possibly change his attitude toward the LGBTQ community and embrace equality for all? Not likely! Either way, the results may be similar as both former party members will continue to stamp their right-wing ideology on the province of Alberta.

Who leads the future conservative government, or the NDP, is dependent on the Albertan voters. Will they embrace equal rights and treatment for their LGBTQ brothers and sisters by choosing a party that historically has supported equal rights, namely the NDP, or backtrack to an earlier era when Albertans were under the rule of a homophobic, biphobic and transphobic premier Ralph Klein?

Time will tell and meanwhile both Kenney and Jean perhaps to a lesser extent will proclaim their right-wing agenda towards the LGBTQ community.

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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.

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