National News

Poilievre's office silent on leader's Pride plans, other party chiefs look to attend

By The Canadian Press

Published 10:17 PDT, Fri June 28, 2024

Last Updated: 2:40 PDT, Fri June 28, 2024

Pierre Poilievre is the only federal leader whose staff won't answer questions about whether their chief intends to participate in Pride events this summer.

Officials for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May all responded to queries to confirm they will attend various Pride events.

Poilievre's office replied to the same question by saying that Melissa Lantsman, the party's deputy leader, attended a Pride flag-raising ceremony on Parliament Hill earlier this month.

Jordan Ames-Sinclair, a two-spirit activist, said during that ceremony on June 3 that people should pay attention to who attended.

"I do believe it is noteworthy to note who is not here, and leaders we do not see making it a priority to uplift our community," Ames-Sinclair said.

Poilievre has not publicly observed Pride month during cross-country June travels to meet community groups while marking other events including St-Jean-Baptiste Day, Italian Heritage Month and Toronto's Christian Music Festival.

LGBTQ+ groups across North America celebrate June as Pride month, although festivals and parades happen throughout the summer in different Canadian cities.

Pride Month has been celebrated annually in June, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which erupted over police raids of a gay club. The overarching purpose is to achieve equality for the LGBTQ+ community, while also uplifting members' voices and culture.

Singh's office confirmed he will be marching in the Pride parade this weekend in Toronto, a tradition dating from his days as a member of the provincial legislature.

He is also expected to march in Montreal's Pride parade in August. While Singh did not attend the flag-raising ceremony on Parliament Hill because of a scheduling conflict, his office said he recently attended a Pride flag-raising ceremony in Winnipeg. 

Trudeau's office confirmed he will be attending summer Pride events across the country, but didn't disclose details.

Blanchet's officials confirmed he too will be participating in Pride events, without disclosing details.

May has discussed plans to attend Pride events on her social media pages, and her staff confirmed Friday she intends to join Pride events in Victoria, Vancouver, Salt Spring Island, B.C., and Halifax.

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, said since the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a substantial increase in hate crimes targeting people for their sexual orientation.

A Statistics Canada report released this year reported 491 hate crimes targeting a sexual orientation in 2022, marking a 12 per cent rise from the previous peak recorded in 2021.

The targeting of race and sexual orientation also accounted for most of the overall increase in hate crimes seen in 2022, the report shows. 

"When there is this level of hatred and violence against a marginalized group I think it's really important to send a clear message that there are certain politicians who won't tolerate it," Kennedy said. "That there are certain politicians who will stand beside — and with — and promote what real inclusiveness means."

Attending Pride also sends a strong message that LGBTQ+ community members "are part of the broader Canadian fabric and society," said Kennedy, as gender rights are increasingly targeted by provincial policies.

Canada has not been immune to the rising debate, including what bathroom people should be allowed to use and whether kids can decide, without parental input, to change their name or the pronoun they identify with.

Conservative premiers in Saskatchewan, Alberta and New Brunswick all introduced new policies in recent months that require schools to notify parents when transgender or non-binary students want to go by preferred names and pronouns.

In Saskatchewan, the government used the notwithstanding clause — a rare measure that lets governments override certain Charter rights for five years — to implement its law after the policy was challenged in the courts.

In response, Saskatchewan Party politicians were banned from parades by Pride organizers in Regina, Saskatoon and other places throughout the province. 

In Alberta, Premier Danielle Smith introduced a controversial plan to prevent young people from accessing gender-related therapies like hormones and puberty blockers, a policy Poilievre has supported.

In February Poilievre said kids should be protected from making "adult decisions" until they are adults.

Polls have suggested that Canadians are divided on the issue, and some protests have resulted in heated confrontations.

"People feel emboldened to speak out more violently against some of these issues," Kennedy said.

"I think there's a lot of misinformation, I think the queer communities, especially the trans community, are being scapegoated for political interest and political gain."

– Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press

With files from Jeremy Simes in Regina.

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