In The News: Ontario group looking for politically engaged gays

Justin Ling,,  Published on Friday, May 10, 2013

ProudPolitics is opening up what its supporters hope will be one big, gay political incubator, protecting queer little eggs until they hatch into full-fledged political birds.
The group, itself only recently broken out of its shell, is an Ontario-based outfit looking to get more openly gay politicians into the democratic sphere. Rather than advocating and agitating for policy changes, ProudPolitics figures that getting out homosexuals into public office can foster the cause -- more acceptance, more good policy and more positive role models for youth struggling with their sexual orientation.
Arthur Kong is the group's executive director. He says the approach has several prongs -- encouraging queer candidates, making sure they have the resources needed, fighting homophobia in the political sphere and prodding sitting politicians who are in the closet to come out. "We believe the fight is here," Kong tells Xtra.
The group launched their effort in April with a Proud to Lead party featuring a keynote speech by MPP Glen Murray and a panel of queer politicians from each of the province’s three main parties.
Kong notes that the group is seeking to tackle the issue in both a multi- and non-partisan way, arguing that, at present, queer resources are really available only within the parties and not for independents or those who are just wading into the political pond.
The event takes its name from the group's flagship program, a leadership training program that seeks to build up prospective gay candidates. Its sister programs aim to train and foster queer spokespeople and encourage representation on public boards and commissions. Beyond that, there's a plan to create a diverse political network and make the organization a hub for queer outreach and political involvement.
The group is also hoping to enter the Canadian social-media political scene, breaking into the discourse, directly challenging perceived homophobia. For example, Kong points to the "whisper campaign" about how Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's sexuality was somehow a hindrance during her leadership bid.
While the group's message is steeped in fertile soil -- most Canadians are nonchalant about the idea of a gay prime minister -- Canada has yet to face a prominent trans person seeking public office.
Kong says the group, which is still getting on its feet, is looking to do everything from a "coming-out toolkit" to, one day, offering organization and financial support (all under Elections Canada financing laws, of course). "I don't think we're quite there yet," he says. "That's the long-term goal."
The group has received support from all parties, federally and in Ontario. They received a letter of support from Wynne, the country's first out leader.

Tatum Wilson, Ontario Liberal Party candidate and panellist for the group's inaugural event, sees the value of the group in offering a "perspective that is brought from a history of marginalization." He adds that queer leaders can add diversity to the political scene and serve as role models for society at large.

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ProudPolitics August 2021 Panel Webinars

ProudPolitics is excited to announce that we will be holding a series of webinars for the month of August! There will be three webinars in this series, each webinar are as follows:

  • Running Out: Conversations About Being A 2SLGBTQ+ candidate - Topics of discussion will include identity politics, campaign challenges, and how the political landscape has changed for 2SLGBTQ+ candidates.
  • Student Groups and 2SLGBTQ+ Advocacy - Topics of discussion will centre around how post-secondary institutions have addressed 2SLGBTQ+ concerns. Hear from 2SLGBTQ+ student organizations on how their educational institutions impact their advocacy.
  • Representation in Politics - We will discuss the importance and impacts of 2SLGBTQ+ representation in Canadian politics, whether there have been improvements, and identifying things that Canadian parliament can do better.

Please RSVP for all three webinars here, and spread the word! By amplifying the stories and experiences of 2SLGBTQ candidates, we can identify ways to achieve greater representation for our communities in office.

ProudPolitics is hiring | for Summer 2021!

Attention university students, ProudPolitics is hiring for Summer 2021!

Are you looking for meaningful and exciting projects to take on in the summer?  ProudPolitics is looking for three talented summer interns to join our team.

For more details, check-out the opportunities in our Careers section.

By CURTIS ATKINS, Ph.D., Deputy Executive Director, ProudPolitics

The posting of a 14-year-old video of Conservative leader Andrew Scheer declaring that same-
sex unions were unequal to the “natural” marriages of heterosexual couples by Liberal MP Ralph
Goodale was, of course, a well-timed political move. With a federal election now just a couple of
months away, it’s no surprise that politicians are digging up their opponents’ dirty laundry and
hanging it out for voters to see. Whatever the Liberals’ political motivations may be, though, the
fact remains that Scheer has done little to prove his views have evolved from the anti-LGBTQ
sentiments he expressed in the House of Commons in 2005.

The content of what was said in the video is itself no great revelation. It’s a matter of public
record that Scheer, like most members of Stephen Harper’s Conservative caucus, voted against
the Civil Marriage Act when it was proposed by the Paul Martin government. The queer
constituency group in Scheer’s own party, LGBTory, was cool to him when he was running for
Conservative leader for this very reason, among others.

In the clip circulated by Goodale, Scheer says that marriage equality can never be seen as a right
under the Charter and that the procreation and raising of children is the “essence” and “primary
focus” of marriage. If two women or two men cannot produce children on their own, then their
unions are “contradictory” to nature and therefore do not qualify as a marriage. In his rather
bizarre analogy, a dog’s tail cannot be seen as a fifth leg just because someone wants to call it

Scheer went even further, though, characterizing marriage equality as a threat to religious liberty. In a forerunner of the bigoted baker wedding cake controversies of recent years, Scheer told the supposedly sad tale of a Knights of Columbus group in British Columbia that was sued after refusing to rent out an events hall for a same-sex wedding reception. In the Conservative MP’s mind, requiring people to treat others with dignity and equality amounted to persecution. Freedom of religion apparently must mean freedom to discriminate.

The things Scheer said were standard fare for social conservatives at the time in Canada; they still are among Christian fundamentalists south of our border. What made his video so jarring to our ears this week is the fact that such talk has (mostly) passed from the realm of acceptable public debate in this country.

The official response from the Conservative Party’s campaign communications team to the video’s resurfacing was to repeat the by now worn-out line that their leader would defend the law as prime minister and has no desire to re-open the debate around marriage equality. Essentially, that’s like saying: We lost that fight and don’t want to have it again. Scheer’s quiet backing for dropping the “one man, one woman” marriage plank from the Conservative platform in 2016 amounted to the same. 

By no means does simply avoiding the issue signal that Scheer’s views have changed in any significant way over the last decade and a half. His opposition to extending civil rights and criminal code protections to transgender Canadians—Bill C16—as recently as 2016 suggests quite the opposite. His personal boycott of pride parades only seems to further confirm a continuing commitment to the belief that, even if the law says so, LGBTQ Canadians are not really equal to other Canadians.

Every individual is entitled to their personal beliefs, but when an individual seeks to hold the highest elected office in the country, their beliefs have policy ramifications—they take on public importance. 

Of course, it is true that people and parties change. The viewpoints and positions taken in the past don’t necessarily mean they’re still adhered to in the present. But another part of the Conservative response to the release of this old video gives LGBTQ Canadians ample reason to question whether they would be viewed as equal citizens under the government of a Prime Minister Andrew Scheer.

As the Conservative Party was at pains to point out this week, a lot of Liberal MPs also opposed marriage equality in the past, including Goodale, the circulator of the video. The fact that the opposition party rather foolishly answered the Liberals’ charge by attempting to redirect attention to the latter’s past mistakes, however, rather than apologizing for Scheer’s own bigotry just screamed to Canadians: We’re not the only homophobic ones!

This is not a debate about who was most eager to discriminate against and demonize LGBTQ Canadians in the past. This a question of who has evolved politically and come to appreciate all Canadians as equal and valuable parts of our country’s social fabric. 

Has Andrew Scheer evolved? Has the Conservative Party? 

Only the Tories and their leader can answer that question.

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