“Any opportunity that we have to work with national and subnational governments to advance LGBTQ causes we do that,” MP Randy Boissonnault told the Washington Blade during an interview at the WorldPride International Human Rights Conference that is taking place in the Spanish capital. “We work with countries on an individual basis.”
Trudeau last November appointed Boissonnault as his special advisor on LGBT, queer and two-spirited issues. Boissonnault, a member of the governing Liberal Party who is from Alberta, has represented Edmonton Center in the Canadian House of Commons since October 2015.
Boissonnault, who is one of six openly LGBT members of the Canadian Parliament, told the Blade his role is to advise Trudeau and his government on “issues that relate to advancing rights for the LGBTQ2 (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited) community and making all Canadians feel and be welcomed in our society.”
“It’s to serve as a focal point for the LGBTQ2 (community) into the government and the clear ability for us to communicate back,” said Boissonnault. “It’s to coordinate the machinery of government.”
The Canadian Senate earlier this month approved Bill C-16, which adds gender identity to the country’s nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws. Boissonnault and Trudeau are among those who marched in Toronto’s annual Pride parade on Sunday.
— Randy Boissonnault (@R_Boissonnault) June 25, 2017
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 25, 2017
Boissonnault told the Blade that 700 public school students are among those who participated in a Pride march earlier this month in his hometown in Alberta, which has a population of less than 10,000 people. He also noted a Pride month barbecue is scheduled to take place in Fort McMurray, a city in northern Alberta that a massive wildfire ravaged in May 2016.
“There are towns and communities that are having their first Prides ever,” Boissonnault told the Blade. “Society’s changing.”
Boissonnault conceded LGBT Canadians continue to face challenges in spite of these gains.
He said 50 percent of homeless youth in Canada identify as LGBT or queer. Boissonnault also noted the leaders of some Canadian political parties still do not march in Pride parades.
Boissonnault on Monday did not provide a specific timeline as to when the Canadian government will formally apologize to men who were convicted of “gross indecency” before the country decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 1969. Boissonnault nevertheless told the Blade that expungements of their convictions “are coming.”
‘The world is changing for the good’
Boissonnault is among the hundreds of current and former elected officials and activists from around the world who are attending the conference, which coincides with WorldPride that is expected to draw up to three million people to the Spanish capital this week.
Trudeau is among the world leaders who have publicly condemned the crackdown against gay men in Chechnya. Boissonnault and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland earlier this month announced Canada, along with Chile, will co-chair the Equal Rights Coalition, which formally launched last July at a global LGBT and intersex rights conference that took place in Uruguay.
The U.S. is among the more than two dozen countries that are part of the coalition, which seeks to promote LGBT and intersex rights around the world.
Boissonnault said the Canadian government will also continue working with the U.N., the Organization of American States and the group of French-speaking countries known as la Francophonie to promote LGBT and intersex rights. He also noted Canada works with the Commonwealth Equality Network, which includes the Toronto-based Egale and other LGBT and intersex advocacy groups from countries that are members of the British Commonwealth.
“The world is changing for the good,” said Boissonnault.
Boissonnault: Canada remains committed to diversity
Boissonnault spoke with the Blade shortly after he met former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who had just spoken at the conference.
Zapatero was prime minister in 2005 when Spain extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Spanish lawmakers in 2006 approved a law that allows transgender people to legally change the gender on their birth certificates, passports and other documents without undergoing sex-reassignment surgery.
“José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is a personal hero of mine,” Boissonnault told the Blade.Boissonnault met Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Randy Berry, who is also the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBT and intersex rights abroad, last December at a Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute conference in D.C. Boissonnault said he and Berry “have stayed in touch since.”
Boissonnault noted to the Blade in response to a question about President Trump and his administration’s stance on LGBT-specific issues that Freeland in a recent speech said Canada “is stronger because of our diversity and not in spite of it.” He also pointed out that she said her country is “going to continue to fight for human rights and equal rights around the world.”
“What we continue to do is work with our international partners and civil society organizations,” said Boissonnault. “We have an opportunity to meet with legislators at the state level, at the national level, and we continue to share the message of inclusion and diversity.”
“That’s an important message that continues to resonate with individuals in all orders of government,” he added. “We’re going to continue that conversation.”