Proud to Vote: LGBTQ Issues in the Federal Election

October 1, 2015

On September 24 in Toronto, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) issues were front and centre on the campaign trail as the Dignity Initiative (co-founded by the Legal Network) co-hosted “Proud to Vote: LGBTQ Issues in the Federal Election.” September 24 also marked the launch of the Dignity Initiative’s Call to Action in support of LGBTQ rights globally, endorsed by more than 120 organizations Canada-wide.

At the Proud to Vote event, it was a packed house. Candidates who appeared on behalf of their respective parties included Bill Morneau (Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre), Craig Scott (NDP candidate in Toronto Danforth), and Chris Tolley (Green Party candidate in Toronto Danforth). The Conservative Party did not send a participant.

The event was an opportunity for the co-sponsoring organizations and members of the audience to question the party representatives on a range of issues of interest to LGBTQ communities in Canada, including federal funding for the country’s HIV strategy, aid for LGBTQ refugees, criminal laws that undermine sex workers’ safety, poverty and the need for a guaranteed annual income, pharmacare, the criminalization of people living with HIV and more. You can read the Storify ― a compilation of real-time posts on Twitter ― of the entire #LGBTQVotes debate here.

Here are a few hot-button questions and answers we would like to highlight:

Q) Canada needs an adequately funded federal strategy on HIV and AIDS, which disproportionately affects LGBTI communities. Canada is falling down in its response to HIV at both global and domestic levels, and we are currently lacking a coordinated, national strategy and corresponding funding ― and the political will ― to end HIV here at home. Will your party commit to collaborating with leading HIV organizations in Canada to envision a new, fully funded strategy to end HIV and AIDS in this country and globally?

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Q) Recently, Bill C-36, which was ostensibly created to protect sex workers, passed through our last government. However, sex worker advocacy groups have criticized the bill as unduly endangering the lives and livelihoods of sex workers. Will your party look at revising or repealing this bill?

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Q) The Syrian refugee crisis has brought attention to refugee and immigration policies. For many LGBTQ people living in places where being queer or transgender is illegal and their safety is continually threatened, gaining refugee status in a country like Canada is critical to survival. Yet, Canada is closing its doors. According to the UN refugee agency, in 2010, Canada ranked 5th in the world for the number of refugees that we admitted. We are now ranked 15th. And our current government’s cuts to refugee health care have been called “cruel and unusual” by the courts. If elected, what changes would your government make to better support LGBTQ refugees?

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Q) Let’s think about Canada’s trade relationships: the list of countries (besides ours) involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam; countries that do not meet normative, minimal standards in environmental protection and human rights, including labour rights. Brunei has imposed a law that can punish same-sex acts with stoning to death. Malaysia is also repressive to gay, lesbian and transgender people, whose rights are routinely violated by federal and state authorities. So far, Canada’s message has been clear – no rights, no problem. What will change under your government?

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Q) Does your party support the decriminalization of [people living with] HIV?

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As you can see, it’s an important time for LGBTQ rights in Canada and around the world. On September 29, the United Nations released a joint statement on ending violence and discrimination against LGBTI people that was endorsed by UNDP, OHCHR, UNAIDS, ILO, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNHCR, UN Women, UNODC, WFP and WHO. The statement recognizes the need to ensure that the rights of LGBTI people are part-and-parcel of sustainable development. Read it here.

For more details…

Please visit the following links for some media coverage of the #LGBTQVotes debate. If you missed the debate, it can be found on on Daily Xtra’s Youtube channel and broadcast on Rogers Television beginning October 12 through to October 19 (check here for airtimes as they become available).

NDP, Liberals, Greens Commit to Repealing Anti-Sex Work Law
NOW Magazine, September 27, 2015
Jonathan Goldsbie

The Conservatives Were Represented By An Empty Chair At An LGBT Debate
Buzzfeed Canada, September 25, 2015
Lauren Strapagiel

Conservatives A No-Show at National LGBTQ Leaders Debate
Torontoist, September 25, 2015
Erica Lenti

Élection : le milieu LGBT veut se faire entrendre
TFO, le 25 septembre 2015
Étienne Fortin-Gauthier 

Élections fédérales : Les enjeux LGBTQ sous la loupe
Radio-Canada, le 24 septembre 

Marginalized communities’ concerns not election focus, expert says
Yahoo News, October 1, 2015
Brent Jolly

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