Above: MP Boissonnault giving Pride socks to the PM
Increase in homo- and transphobia Boissonnault says part of his new role is to learn from other countries with good LGBTQ2 records. “[Canada is] sharing human rights around the world but we’re not leaders in this space.” He says Germany, Austria and Australia are doing good work, and we should listen to them. Countries with poor LGBTQ2 records Boissonnault says the Liberal government stands up for human rights and the Canadian values of pluralism. “That’s why we’re re-engaging with the world, so we can champion those values. Trade is one of the best ways to open a dialogue and share those values. It does change hearts and minds over time.” He hopes to use Canada’s soft power (everyone loves us!) to influence trading partners and change minds. This includes working closely with the Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Refugees as well as the Global Affairs team. Gender-neutral identification It was announced in July 2015 that the federal government was exploring the use of gender-neutral identification. Boissonnault says
the file is open and ongoing, but adds that while the government may want to move ahead, it needs the relevant statistics from the provinces. “Alberta has made some great headway in this,” he says. Blood donation Boissonnault is oblique on the whole topic of the current blood donation deferral period (one year for gay men who are abstinent, reduced from five years). “We ran on five to zero, we’re at one, we’re not done, I’m not happy,” he says. But “some things in government are third-party,” he adds. “You can’t send out edicts, so we’re working with our colleagues in the Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec. We’re going to keep pushing and follow the science.” In 2017, Boissonnault will be sharing his road map with communities, individuals and organizations. He also plans to reach out to Canadians—those in the LGBTQ2 community and allies—who are already asking how they can help. He plans on using technology and engagement approaches to help people understand the issues in a way that’s going to stick with people and help them see why LGBTQ2 concerns matter. “I came into politics to help. I’m not going to have a basket of announcements to make. When we deliver on something, we announce it.”
RENÉE SYLVESTRE-WILLIAMS is a Toronto-based journalist. She has been published in Forbes, Canadian Living and The Globe and Mail.