HASH(0x811f9c)

Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault: ‘amazing’ how far we have come on LGBTQ2 rights

Liberal LGBTQ2 champion 'working on' apology

OTTAWA — Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault said his time at the University of Oxford taught him the importance of staying on top of a busy schedule.

There as a Rhodes Scholar studying philosophy, politics and economics, Boissonnault also took up German and Spanish, rowing and ice hockey — all while making sure to be far away from his college, Corpus Christi, one evening a week.

That was the night a campus pride group held its meetings, and Boissonnault, who was in the closet at the time, found it too close for comfort.

“I thought if I came out, I wouldn’t have any career prospects,” Boissonnault, 46, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“I wouldn’t be loved. I would lose my family and my friends and it would be a big, dark, scary hole.”

Coming home to Canada in 1996, it was as if the world was shifting, he recalled. There were gay role models in politics and popular culture. Soon, benefits were extended to same-sex couples and then, eventually, marriage was too.

“To see all the change that has happened in my lifetime and to see how far we’ve come as a country and as a people is really amazing,” said Boissonnault, who was elected to represent the riding of Edmonton Centre in 2015.

There is more work to do, both at home and abroad.

As the special adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on LGBTQ2 issues, Boissonnault has been working with advocacy groups to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited people — a term used broadly to describe indigenous people who identify as part of the community.

Boissonnault is a member of the Liberal indigenous caucus and identifies as “non-status adoptive Cree,” a heritage traced back to a maternal great-grandmother in the family that adopted him.

That role of special adviser, which Boissonnault took on last November, now also has some support.

The 2017 federal budget committed $3.6 million over three years to set up and support an LGBTQ2 secretariat within the Privy Council Office.

One part of that job is to better co-ordinate the machinery of government so that policies are not blind to sexual orientation and gender diversity.

Boissonnault said he saw that happen when Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced last year the federal government had revamped a program that covers up to 50 per cent of the costs for places of worship, schools and community centres to beef up their security in response to real or anticipated threats.

Boissonnault said when the leader of a pride centre asked him whether they would be eligible for the funding, he had to go and check with Goodale’s office to find out that yes, they would be.

“Because we didn’t say LGBTQ2 communities in there, the community didn’t know,” said Boissonnault, who is also a member of the Liberal indigenous caucus, tracing his identity back to a maternal great-grandmother in the family that adopted him.

He said viewing policy through this lens has led to other recent decisions, such as expanding a federal tax credit for fertility-related medical expenses to include those who rely on the use of reproductive technology to have families but are not necessarily considered medically infertile, such as same-sex couples.

As he looks to the future, Boissonnault is also being reminded of the past: he has also been tasked with exploring an apology to LGBTQ2 people whose lives and careers were harmed by discriminatory government policies over the decades.

That was the top recommendation in a report from the Egale Canada Human Rights Trust last June, and nearly a year later, advocates have been expressing frustration with the slow pace. Asked for an update, Boissonnault said only that he continues to listen and learn.

“We have to get this right for the Canadian context and to make sure that once we do have an apology, that it is broadly accepted by members of the community,” he said.

The role also involves looking to the rest of the world, where in many countries, LGBTQ2 people are still fighting for survival â€” including in Chechnya, where there are ongoing reports of gay and bisexual men being detained and killed.

Canada can play a role, said Boissonnault, such as working behind the scenes at the Commonwealth, where 36 of 52 member nations still criminalize homosexual activity in some way. But he’s urging a cautious approach.

“We can’t simply come in waving the rainbow flag and say, ‘This is how you should do things here,'” he said.

— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Ghostriders show grit and tenacity

Hard work and heartbreak; a reoccurring theme in Fernie’s past two hockey… Continue reading

Fernie Swim team aims for Nationals

Aidan Chudleigh has high hopes for his swim team this year, and… Continue reading

Jaffray Area OCP goes to public hearing

The public hearing will be held November 22nd at 7:00 PM at the Jaffray Community Hall.

Oil dumped illegally at Tie Lake Transfer Station

The Regional District of East Kootenay is searching for any information in… Continue reading

Forecasters promote avalanche safety awareness

Avalanche Canada advising backcountry enthusiasts to get proper training and equipment.

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

Sparwood florist to compete nationally

The Maple Leaf Cup; where art and flower design meet under one… Continue reading

Start on time: Canucks looking to shake first-period struggles

Canucks centre Bo Horvat said the formula for getting a leg up is there for everyone to see

COMMUTER ALERT: Snowfall warnings in effect across B.C.

Travelling this weekend? Check the forecasts before hitting the road

Drones take off to search for missing North Okanagan women

A volunteer search party was supported by professional drone operators

Tips for keeping your personal data safe, from the experts

It’s important to keep your ‘online footprint’ safe

Lights to turn blue ahead of funeral for fallen Abbotsford police officer

Buildings across B.C. are going blue Saturday night in honour of Const. John Davidson

Ride-share pioneer drives up quietly to B.C. battleground

Lyft approaches B.C. without Uber bombast, eyes small towns

Rising gas prices have valley drivers fuming

Two weeks ago, $20 worth of gas got Delenia Phillips twice as… Continue reading

Most Read