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REFOCUS: Politicians Robinson, Brison and others influenced gains for LGBTQ+ equality

The Member of Parliament for Kings-Hants in Nova Scotia, and until recently the president of the treasury board, has a profound influence on the equality of LGBTQ+ citizens in Canada.

Scott Brison, 66, has represented his riding federally for the past 22 years and as a gay man has been re-elected many times, obviously his sexual orientation not an issue. Repeatedly, he was voted back for other terms, regardless of his sexual orientation. In 2005, he crossed the floor and left Stephen Harper’s Conservatives to join the Liberals under Paul Martin. Harper and most of his MPs voted against same-sex marriage. Mr. Brison chose to leave, having decided to come out in 2003. He was the first openly gay cabinet minister in Parliament.

In 2007, Brison married his partner, Maxime Saint-Pierre, a wedding that was attended by hundreds of family, friends and politicians. Paul Martin was one of the guests. Recently, Brison decided to resign from politics in order to spend more time with his husband and their two daughters. He never considered himself as an activist, but quietly lives his life as it is meant to be lived.

In an interview, Mr. Brison revealed he embraced his sexuality in 1997. He will be celebrated as a huge contributor to equality as he never shied away from who he really is, and for that we are thankful.

In 1988, Svend Robinson, the NDP Member of Parliament, was elected and was in that position for 16 years. The Burnaby MP was a vocal proponent for equal rights and fought diligently in the House of Commons for years. He said it was the possibility of giving, “a message of hope and solidarity to younger gay men and lesbian people” that spurred him to do so. Having participated on numerous committees and other forms of study, Mr. Robinson exerted considerable influence. Among his noted accomplishments are involvement as an activist for the anti-apartheid movement and part of the physician assisted movement. Robinson has received many honours nationally as well as internationally for his work for equality for LGBTQ+ citizens.

Married to Max Riveron, the 66-year-old is making a strong case to return to politics. He was recently involved with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria from a base in Switzerland. Svend Robinson has proven to be a stalwart in the LGBTQ+ community for many years.

BC MP Spencer Chandra Herbert came out because of trailblazers like Robinson. Bill Siksay, Libbie Davies and Randy Boissonnault are among those who have served, or are presently representing federal ridings. Boissonnault was appointed the special advisor to the prime minister on LGBTQ+ issues. He is the MP for Edmonton Centre.

Canada is well positioned to be one of the leaders world-wide. Even as discrimination is alive and well around the world, some inroads are being recognized, and leaders in Ottawa are necessary to write the laws of protection, and those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community will pave the road for advancing a more positive future.

Let us be positive and give a hand to those who represent us in Ottawa, and those who are in other jurisdictions in our provinces. Our children and grandchildren must be assured of a future that recognizes them as complete individuals, regardless of identity. Those who represent us in our nation’s capital are few, and the need for more LGBTQ+ representation is essential for further change. The changes have been rather speedy over the past years, but we are also aware that we cannot be remiss as changes in government may also signal changes in policies and attitudes. We only have to glance at Ontario where PC Premier Doug Ford may just set back the gains LGBTQ+ citizens have enjoyed in that province.

Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime gay rights activist and resident of Pictou County. Comments and information: lgbtconnectionsgv@gmail.com

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