Election day in Canada is less than a week away, and it’s shaping up to be a close race in many ridings across the country.
And while a rainbow of party signs dot lawns throughout the country, a few rainbows can be found on your ballots, too.
In the last federal election, Xtra identified 74 openly queer or trans candidates and asked 44 of them about the issues that mattered to them.
For 2021, we’re back to hear from LGBTQ2S+ federal candidates across Canada about the issues that matter to them—and LGBTQ2S+ voters—this election.
Think of this as you’re one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the queer and trans candidates in this year’s federal election. And with polls as tight as they are right now, every little bit of information can make a difference.
Xtra put out a call for LGBTQ2S+ candidates to identify themselves and fill out our survey. In total, we were able to identify 62 openly LGBTQ2S+ candidates across the four major parties. Of those, 27 completed our survey, representing a wide ridings from Victoria, British Columbia, to St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Here’s what we found out.
Queer and trans candidates by the numbers
According to Xtra’s data, there are nine openly LGBTQ2S+ candidates running for the Liberal Party, four for the Conservative Party, 40 for the New Democratic Party and nine for the Green Party.
Xtra also reached out to the Bloc Québécois, but did not hear back. We were unable to independently identify any LGBTQ2S+ candidates within the party. We did not include notably transphobic far-right party the Peoples’ Party of Canada (PPC) in our survey; however, they are apparently running a trans candidate in Quebec who has made headlines for spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.
In an Xtra survey completed by 27 candidates, seven candidates said they are gay, six said they are bi or pansexual, four said they are lesbian and a slew of others used queer or multiple identifiers.
Five candidates self-identified as non-binary and/or genderfluid: Teneshia Samuel (Mississauga Centre), Nicole Robicheau (University-Rosedale) and Rowan Woodmass (Laval-les-Îles) for the NDP, and Karla Villagomez Fajardo (Waterloo) and Nicki Ward (York South-Western) for the Greens.
Four candidates self-identified as trans, with one representing each major party: Hannah Hodson (Victoria) for the Conservatives , Trevor Kirczenow (Provencher) for the Liberals, Ward for the Greens and Woodmass for the NDP .
The six trans and/or non-binary candidates represent an increase from the five openly trans or non-binary candidates Xtra identified in the 2019 federal election, and is hopefully a sign of good things to come. So is the presence of openly Two-Spirit Edmonton-Griesbach NDP candidate Blake Desjarlais.
What’s the queerest riding in Canada? Both Edmonton Centre and Toronto Centre are running two openly LGBTQ2S+ candidates, which we absolutely love to see.
An overall decline
However, overall we identified significantly fewer openly LGBTQ2S+ candidates compared to 2019. Only the NDP matched the their total of 40 candidates from 2019. While fluctuations in data like this are to be expected, there are likely a few contributing factors.
The snap nature of this election, as well as the short writ period, could mean there wasn’t enough time for parties to recruit or support marginalized candidates like LGBTQ2S+ folks.
Many of the LGBTQ2S+ candidates identified in 2019 ran in ridings where they were unlikely to win. It makes sense that many of them chose not to run again—the vast majority of the candidates identified by Xtra are newcomers to the federal campaign trail.
The disparity between the last election and this year’s shows the parties still have a lot of work to do in not only recruiting LGBTQ2S+ candidates, but supporting them and putting the party brass behind their campaigns.
In addition to gathering demographic data on this year’s crop of LGBTQ2S+ candidates, Xtra also asked them why they’re putting their hats in the ring and what they hope to accomplish if elected. Here’s what we learned. (Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
What issues are LGBTQ2S+ Canadians facing right now?
The candidates surveyed by Xtra identified a variety of key issues for LGBTQ2S+ folks.
“Homelessness impacts queer people at alarming rates, access to affirmative health care for trans people is highly lacking in rural communities, mental health services which queer people desperately need are tied to so many financial barriers, and the blood ban continues. To name one issue, then, I have no choice but to say the blatant systemic disregard for our communities,” said Konstantine Malakos, NDP candidate for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.
“Violence and hate crimes [are an issue]. The recent attack [against a gay man] on Toronto Island is a stark reminder that the safety of LGBTQ2S+ Canadians are still not guaranteed, and safety is the most basic human right,” said Ran Zhu, Green candidate for Wellington-Halton Hills. “We need better sex education in school to teach empathy toward different sexual orientations.”
Several candidates also specifically called out the People’s Party and its leader Maxime Bernier by name for their transphobic policies.
“I think we should all be worried about the rise of the extreme right in Canada. The people who are protesting against COVID-19 vaccinations and against wearing masks are also using inflammatory language to discuss the LGBTQ2S+ community, specifically transgender people,” Trevor Kirczenow, Liberal candidate for Provencher said. “PPC leader Maxime Bernier is actively campaigning to remove our hard-won hate speech legislation. We all need to stand up together against this extremism.”
Vancouver Quadra Green Party candidate Devyani Singh agrees. “The biggest issue facing LGBTQ2S+ people in Canada right now as I see it is the general acceptance of discrimination against us, especially that of trans people and the rise of anti-LGBTQ2S+ hate,” she said. “This hatred is being amplified by the PPC and some Conservatives, as well as the anti-mask anti-lockdown protesters. And this discrimination and hatred is compounded by intersectionality for the racialized, disabled and those living in poverty.”
What will they push for if elected?
“I will push to end the blood ban. There is no reason why this should still be in place. I remember advocating for this to change 20-plus years ago. I will also push for a federal ban on conversion therapy,” said Yukon NDP candidate Lisa Vollans-Leduc.
“Once and for all ban conversion therapy, it’s long overdue,” Waterloo Green candidate Karla Villagomez Fajardo said. “There is no room in our society for such an outdated and harmful practice.”
Others touched on issues of trans health care access and LGBTQ2S+ education within government.
“As someone who has benefitted from gender-confirming surgery, I’m deeply committed to ensuring that access to gender-affirming health care is accessible across the country, no matter where you live, or how you identify,” said University-Rosedale NDP candidate Nicole Robicheau.
“Make [it] mandatory that every federal employee and elected official receive education on the LGBTQ2S+ community and the issues they face and this education be done by the LGBTQ2S+ community,” St. John-Rothesay NDP candidate Don Paulin said.
What does it mean to be an LGBTQ2S+ candidate?
All candidates surveyed spoke candidly about what running as an openly LGBTQ2S+ person means to them.
“In my riding of Mississauga Centre, I am the first Black, openly queer and non-binary candidate to run. I am running to inspire my community—especially the Black and trans community. With the LGBTQ2S+ community having lost a generation of many elders and mentors to the AIDS crisis, I take the responsibility of representation and advocacy seriously,” said Mississauga Centre NDP candidate Teneshia Samuel.
“I believe that our government needs to look like the society it represents and I am proud to be a part of that,” Victoria Conservative candidate Hannah Hodson said.
“Being Two-Spirit is an honour and it’s important to ensure other 2S folks see representation in Canada,” Edmonton-Griesbach NDP candidate Blake Desjarlais said.
“Being an openly gay candidate may show anyone questioning his/her sexuality or being shy about his/her sexual orientation that it is possible to be a public figure and a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community,” said Trois-Rivières Liberal candidate Martin Francoeur. “Maybe it could also inspire some younger LGBTQ2S+ members to take part in politics.”
To read all the responses from candidates who participated in our survey, click here.
Canadians head to the polls on Monday Sep. 20. If you haven’t already voted in advance polls or by mail, make sure to get out and make your voice heard. The only way we see more LGBTQ2S+ folks in Parliament is if we elect them there!
Update: September 27, 2021 10:48 amThis story has been updated to include new queer candidates identified after its publication.