This article was published on October 28th, 2015
Did Canada just elect its most gay-friendly Prime Minister in History? It sure seems like it. One of Stephen Harper’s first actions as Prime Minister was to have a vote to get rid of same sex marriage after it had become legalized in 2005. Jean Chretien and Paul Martin needed to have the Supreme Court push them into legalizing same sex marriage in the first place. But Justin Trudeau? He has unashamedly courted the LGBTQ community and might prove to be one of our strongest allies in Canadian history.
This former drama teacher is definitely a personable fellow who enjoys the day to day interactions with ordinary Canadians. No more so than at this country’s many Pride festivals. Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Edmonton: Trudeau made it his mission to march in as many Pride parades as he could. But he didn’t just sit up in a float or march down the centre of the street waving a Pride flag. Instead, as Canadians are becoming accustomed to, he went out into the crowds along the entire route: shaking hands, kissing cheeks, giving hugs, and taking selfies with the gay community. And he didn’t limit his interaction to just those that might appeal to a mainstream audience – he had photos taken with drag queens, folks in leather, and even a few with people nearly in their birthday suits. Perhaps it’s a combination of his relatively young age, his liberal arts background, his upbringing in Canada’s urban centres, his iconic fashionable mother, and, of course, his left-of-centre politics. We also cannot leave out the fact that it was Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who decriminalized homosexual acts back in the good ‘ol ’69.
However, Trudeau will be able to consider himself an ally of the community for more than just the ease at which he interacts with the LGBTQ community. He has promised a number of policies that is going to have a direct impact on it.
Firstly, Trudeau has promised to enshrine the rights of trans peoples in the Canadian Human Rights Act by adding gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination. Furthermore, he intends to add gender identity to the list of distinguishing characteristics of identifiable groups protected by hate speech provisions in the Criminal Code. In the last Parliament, this came up as a private member’s bill but Trudeau intends to have this as a government bill and with 22 more senators that he’ll be appointing, it stands a very good chance of becoming the law of the land.
Secondly, Trudeau has pledged to end the discriminatory ban that prevents men who have had sex with men from donating blood. Health Canada would need to change its regulations to allow this and that department will be managed by a Trudeau-appointed cabinet minister. It’s uncertain how the regulation will change as it certainly isn’t as easy as simply removing it – it will likely be replaced with a softer policy. However, change in this area is much welcomed indeed after decades of gay men being prevented from donating blood.
Thirdly, Trudeau intends to join with provincial and territorial governments to buy drugs in bulk, reducing the cost Canadian governments pay for these drugs, and making them more affordable for Canadians. HIV medications can be a financial burden in many parts of the country, causing men to delay treatment and also impacting the treatment as prevention (TasP) strategy. Cheaper drugs will mean fewer Canadians will need to make that difficult decision between their health and their finances. This could also impact the cost Canadians will need to pay for Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) if or when it gets approved by Health Canada.
And fourthly, Trudeau has promised to invest $380 million in new money into the country’s cultural and creative industries, after years of cutbacks by the Harper government. Some of the funding will likely make its way to LGBTQ events across the country and we no longer need to fear that a hostile minister is going to fudge the rules to make sure our events aren’t funded.
With a Prime Minister who is more at ease in the LGBTQ community than any other in history, and policies that will help support our health and wellbeing, sunny days really are back.