Justin Trudeau: Gay Ally or Fair-Weather Friend?

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“It’s been 25 minutes and the sunny ways are over,” said CPC interim leader Rona Ambrose about the poor performance of the governing Liberals. I can’t remember if she was referring to some budgetary kerfuffle or an inappropriate comment by a minister of the Crown, but it so aptly captures the realization that Justin Trudeau’s honeymoon period with the Canadian public is not long for this world.

Trudeau failed to deliver the sweeping positive change that he promised in the 2015 election. Electoral reformers, marijuana advocates, working youth; these are just some of the people who are a little bit more than annoyed at the Prime Minister whose party recently fell nearly 10% in public opinion polls (actually quite a remarkable feat considering that among those of the three major parties, he is the only permanent leader).

But this is especially true for members of the LGBTQ community. In this sector of the voting public, optimism about #RealChange was particularly high. The prospect of a Prime Minister of Canada lauding feminism at international forums, and who goes to every Pride parade he can fit into his schedule, put Justin Trudeau ahead with LGTBQ voters.

While LGTBQ voters seemed by and large okay with the Liberal election promise to withdraw from Canada’s combat mission against ISIS, an international terrorist organization that has repeatedly and proudly published video evidence of torturing and killing homosexual men, other broken election promises have finally exposed more than a few cracks in the armour of Trudeaumania 2.0. It may have taken more than 25 minutes, but the sunny ways attitude towards the Prime Minister is dissipating, and it’s my hope that this attitude is shared by those in the gay community.

On the Liberal Party website you’ll find a petition titled “END THE GAY BLOOD DONATION BAN”. The petition states that “Canadian Blood Services (CBS) & Héma-Québec (HM-QC) currently ban gay men who have been sexually active at any point in the previous 5 years from donating blood, even if it’s been entirely safe and monogamous.It’s a ban that ignores scientific evidence, and it needs to end.”

This seems pretty clear to me. VICE News did a great article a few months ago about how this Liberal-petition-turned-campaign-promise was really just a way to fundraise, by redirecting signatories to a donation page. The Liberals back-pedalled, and the ban was reduced to only one year of celibacy.

While there may be some debate surrounding the eligibility of non-celibate homosexual men to donate blood (the Conservatives have kept awfully quiet on this issue), it’s reasonable to expect that most of those gay-identified would want this ban lifted, and advocating for such action would qualify as being an “ally”.

"Prime Minister Trudeau's praise for Castro was mocked on social media and some tweeted fake eulogies for other polarizing figures using the hashtag #trudeaueulogies. (Nicholas Kamm, Adalberto Roque/Getty)" — CBC News

“PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU’S PRAISE FOR CASTRO WAS MOCKED ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND SOME TWEETED FAKE EULOGIES FOR OTHER POLARIZING FIGURES USING THE HASHTAG #TRUDEAUEULOGIES. (NICHOLAS KAMM, ADALBERTO ROQUE/GETTY)” — CBC NEWS

November brought us the death of long-time Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, an event that should have been celebrated by anyone who would identify as “liberal”. However, our “Liberal” Prime Minister found it appropriate to issue a statement of mourning so full of childishly outlandish hero-worship that it garnered ridicule and scorn from across the globe.

As a both a homosexual and a writer, I find it hard to describe what a monster Fidel Castro was. I’d like to think that gay and lesbian Canadians would take offence to our Prime Minister issuing a heartfelt eulogy about a man who rounded up thousands of homosexual men (and men with long hair) and imprisoned them in work camps where they were subjected to harsh, torturous labour until they died. This is hardly what I’d call “tremendous love and dedication for the Cuban people”, but for whatever reason it suits our revisionist historian PM. It really makes one wonder then, if this is truly how the Prime Minister feels, why does he come to Pride?

The next issue is fundamentally different from the previous two examples. While neither waffling on an election promise nor issuing a statement really have much impact on the status quo, and don’t do much to combat homophobia or better the lot for LGTBQ Canadians, this one actually takes us backwards on that front.

Over 40 AIDS/HIV research and support organizations were notified recently that they’d no longer be eligible for funding from the federal government. These community organizations, including those that work to alleviate the disproportionate impact of AIDS/HIV on aboriginal communities (another voting constituency let down and fed up with Ottawa), face closure should the government of Justin Trudeau continue down this path of “unprecedented investment in Canada”. Keep in mind that these are organizations that were funded by the previous Harper government.

Much like marching at Pride and then praising homophobic despot Fidel Castro, Justin Trudeau had no qualms about speaking at a flag raising ceremony in Ottawa about World AIDS Day, declaring that “there’s still work to be done” and affirming Canada’s support for people living with the disease, while cutting funds that support the organizations that actually do this work. At a time when people living with AIDS and HIV is on the rise, this is absolutely no time to be forcing community organizations (sexual health education, support groups, social groups, and federally sponsored medical research) to close their doors.

As a member of the “gay community”, I shudder to think that if a poll of LGBTQ voters was taken today, Trudeau would still be on top. But it’s probably true. However, when, as it typically does to most politicians, the tide turns against the Prime Minister, I hope LGTBQ voters eventually do see Justin Trudeau for what he is – most certainly not an ‘ally’, and at best a fair-weather friend.

Willem Hart
Thornhill, Ontario

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