What can Trudeau celebrate at his second Toronto Pride as prime minister?

He’ll have to match his rhetoric with actions in Parliament if he wants the continued support of LGBT Canadians

For many Toronto queers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marching down Yonge Street as part of Toronto Pride is a symbol of the tremendous progress we’ve made as a community in securing our rights and acceptance in Canada.

It’s also undeniably a powerful opportunity for Trudeau to earn thousands of on-brand photos and social media posts, reinforcing the image of Trudeau as the hunky progressive saviour of the downtrodden.

But how much of that is deserved?

To be sure, this week the Trudeau Liberals did deliver on one big promise they made to our community in 2015: the federal trans-rights bill that had been debated in Parliament for more than a decade was finally signed into law. Together with trans-rights bills passed in New Brunswick, Nunavut, and Yukon this year, trans folk have a lot to celebrate this Pride.

And in general, the Trudeau government has changed the tone on LGBT issues from the often-prickly-to-hostile Harper government. Over 19 months in office, Trudeau has generated hundreds of headlines around the world for his LGBT-inclusive work and intentions.

But beyond the headlines, we’re seeing a lot of promises with little delivered.

Despite the victory in passing the trans-rights bill, a government review of the collection of gender data and use of gender markers on passports and other documents is still ongoing, with no decision date in sight. Remarkably, it required a human-rights investigation to get this LGBT-friendly government to even commit to the review. And the government has still not revised a department of transport rule that bars trans people from flying if their gender presentation doesn’t match their ID — a change that doesn’t even require legislation.

Trudeau’s other signature promise to the LGBT community in the 2015 election was an end to the ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men. Last year, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott announced a reduction in the deferral period to one year, which leaves the ban effectively still in place for any sexually active gay and bisexual men and raises complicated questions for trans people.

We also have to add Trudeau’s announcement two weeks ago that the government would introduce legislation this year to purge unjust convictions under Canada’s old anti-gay laws. Well, since last February, he’s announced this plan more than once. Maybe he means it this time.


Also expected by the end of this year is an apology to hundreds of public servants and soldiers who were fired by the federal government up until 1998 just for being gay. Even this seems like a half-measure, since it doesn’t seem like the government intends to compensate any of the victims of these discriminatory dismissals, at least until ordered to do so by the courts.

Speaking of the anti-gay laws, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that the government’s plan to erase the sodomy law from the Criminal Code for good has basically gone nowhere since being introduced in Parliament last November. Along with all the other Criminal Code revisions they’ve tabled, it’s still stalled in the House, which is quite a feat for a government with a strong Parliamentary majority.

There’s also the commitment to review Canada’s tough laws on HIV transmission and disclosure, about which we’ve heard very little since it was announced nearly seven months ago.

We’ve also yet to see details of a federal housing strategy that is supposed to include housing support for LGBT seniors. Emergency and transitional housing is also incredibly important for homeless LGBT youth, who make up a huge proportion of homeless youth in Canada.

And don’t forget, our unconstitutional sex work laws continue to routinely put sex workers in physical danger and threaten free speech.

If talk is cheap, then walking in the Pride parade may be even cheaper. If Trudeau wants our community’s continued support, he needs to match his rhetoric with actions in Parliament and in government.

Rob Salerno is a playwright and journalist whose writing has appeared in such publications as Vice, Advocate, NOW and OutTraveler.

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