December 7, 2018 at 5:14 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Trudeau LGBTI advisor defends new North America trade deal

Randy Boissonnault, gay news, Washington Blade

Canadian MP Randy Boissonnault speaks at the Canadian Embassy on Dec. 6, 2018, during the LGBTQ Victory Institute’s 2018 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference. Boissonnault later defended a North America trade deal his country brokered with the U.S. and Mexico. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s advisor on LGBTI issues on Thursday defended an LGBTI-inclusive trade agreement his country signed with the U.S. and Mexico.

“It’s important for us because it’s a Canadian agreement with the United States and Mexico to be able to reflect what we think makes important trade deals,” MP Randy Boissonnault told the Washington Blade during an interview after he spoke at a reception at the Canadian Embassy in D.C. that coincided with the LGBTQ Victory Institute’s annual International LGBTQ Leaders Conference. “It’s why we made sure that there was a robust section on labor.”

“If women, and indigenous people and minorities and LGBT (people) are participating fully in our economies, we’re all going to do better and people will be able to lead their lives the way they see fit because they will have more of an economic base to grow from,” he added.

Trudeau, President Trump and then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement — on Nov. 30 during the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

Section 23 of the USMCA contains a provision that encourages the signatories to adopt policies against discrimination based on sex in the workplace.

The provision’s definition of sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Section 23 also calls for cooperation between the U.S., Canada and Mexico “in promotion of equality and elimination of employment discrimination” based on sexual orientation, gender identity and other factors.

The Blade previously cited Canadian press reports that indicated the final version of the USMCA that Trump, Trudeau and Peña Nieto signed contains less stringent LGBTI protections and does not require the U.S. to change its nondiscrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender in order to adhere to it. Boissonnault on Thursday did not specifically say whether he is confident the Trump administration will enforce the USMCA’s LGBTI-specific provisions.

“That’s a matter for the U.S. administration,” said Boissonnault.

“We’re going to continue to work,” he added. “The United States is our largest and greatest trading partner. We know that and we value the relationship, we always have. It’s why we’re strong partners with the United States on security matters as well and we’re going to continue to develop our relationship.”

Trudeau in 2017 apologized to victims of anti-LGBTI discrimination

Boissonnault, 48, is a member of the governing Liberal Party who has represented portions of Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, in the Canadian House of Commons since 2015. Trudeau in 2016 appointed Boissonnault as his special advisor on LGBTI, queer and two-spirit issues.

Trudeau in November 2017 formally apologized to Canadians who suffered persecution and discrimination under the country’s anti-LGBTI laws and policies.

Boissonnault was sitting next to Trudeau in the House of Commons when he issued the apology. Boissonnault told the Blade that Trudeau began to cry after he saw a lesbian woman who had been kicked out of the Canadian Army because of her sexual orientation salute him while wearing a red beret from her time in the country’s military.

“I pulled on his sleeve and pointed up and he leaned up and she saluted him,” said Boissonnault. “Then the tears started falling down his face. She said that’s the day that my soul was set at peace and she said she’s Canadian again.”

A bill that allows Canadians who were convicted of “gross indecency” before the country decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 1969 to expunge their criminal records took effect in June. The Canadian government has agreed to pay $108.9 million (145 Canadian dollars) as part of a class-action settlement with members of the Canadian military, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other government employees who suffered discrimination, harassment or termination from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Boissonnault spoke with the Blade hours after Canada and Ecuador joined the U.N. LGBTI Core Group. Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on World AIDS Day directed provincial governments and prosecutors to limit the use of what HIV/AIDS service providers have described as laws that criminalize people with the virus.

Boissonnault conceded challenges nevertheless remain for LGBTI Canadians, in spite of these advances. He noted reducing discrimination against trans Canadians and homelessness among LGBTI youth are among the priorities for Trudeau’s government.

“There should be no youth homelessness, let alone 30 to 70 percent of homeless youth being LGBT2Q,” said Boissonnault. “That is a national, provincial and municipal issue that we are all working to tackle together.”

Chris Johnson contributed to this article.

Justin Trudeau, gay news, Washington Blade

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marches in Toronto’s annual Pride parade on July 3, 2016. (Photo by Adam Scotti)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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