There is little doubt that Canada is a leader in LGBTQ rights. We are well known to millions around the globe for our tolerant society. Yes, our laws protect us, and our citizens generally accept that fact.
That is not to say that we are in the clear. There are millions in this country who do not, and will not accept the fact that LGBTQ folks even exist. The religious right will assure us that change will not be accepted, and indeed will focus on the status quo. We are reminded by Christian private schools in this country, as well as by many religious denominations that LGBTQ people are “sinners” and must be chastised for their behaviour.
As has been pointed out in the past, many support “conversion therapy,” a procedure to change a person’s sexual orientation. Of course, that is not possible.
The question is, where our leaders stand on the issue of LGBTQ equality. In past years we have experienced some harsh realities regarding this issue with prime ministers leaning to the right. Except for Jean Chretien, who changed his views on same-sex marriage towards the end of his term, and Paul Martin, who staunchly supported equal marriage, the picture has been bleak. The subject was not even mentioned during John Diefenbaker’s tenure as prime minister, nor by Lester B. Pearson.
Stephen Harper fought to rid Canada of equal marriage, and his well-known rhetoric on the acceptance of LFGBTQ equality made it clear that his religious beliefs trumped equality. In 2013, Harper established the Office of Religious Freedom that would ensure religious beliefs were protected everywhere and would, as a result, increase discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Those were the former prime minister’s attempts to exert pressure to thwart equal treatment. Today, we have a new crop of leaders. Who are they and where do they stand on LGBTQ equal treatment?
Let’s have a look at Andrew Scheer, the newly minted Conservative Leader, and his belief on this matter. Before becoming leader, Scheer had been very vocal about his opposition to equal rights and treatment of LGBTQ citizens. He made it clear that he does not support transgender rights. However, Sheer did support the apology, although he thinks it went a bit too far.
Some of his MPs were not in the House and a number of them sat on their hands during the apology, in protest. He has made it known that he will never participate in Pride celebrations.
The new NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh has pledged full support to the LGBTQ community and is also concerned about programs for LGBTQ youth. Sheer and Singh are worlds apart when it comes to supporting Canada’s LGBTQ community.
Justin Trudeau has made inroads not previously experienced in this country. From the onset, he has made it clear that his support and his sincere interest in the well-being of those who belong to the LGBTQ citizens of this nation are beyond reproach. He also appears on the international stage, and does not hesitate to call upon other countries to join in supporting equality. Trudeau, in his quest to ensure equal treatment of Canadians, has indicated strongly that he will not sway from making it a reality, not an easy feat.
The apology made in the House was a phenomenal and sincere act that was welcomed by the LGBTQ community. No other prime minister has equalled this approach for inclusion. These are the views of past and present political leaders.
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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.