(The following is an edited version of a speech given at LGBTory’s Ontario PC Convention After-Party in Toronto, Nov 25 2017)
In the few years that LGBTory Canada has been involved in political activism, there has been one question directed at us more than any other: “Why are you a Conservative?” Often accompanied by either angry denunciation or patronizing condescension, we get this from critics on both the left and the right who find it hard to believe that LGBT people could naturally gravitate to the conservative movement in this country or be welcome in a Conservative party. Coming from the left this is understandable; left-of-centre political parties have taken support from the LGBT community for granted for decades. Coming from the right, this is harder to understand. Our opponents on the right frequently accuse us of trying to force a “secret gay agenda” on unwilling Conservative parties, as if there is nothing that LGBT people want from their governments that is compatible with conservative ideology. To those people, we’re finally coming clean; there IS a gay agenda, and it’s not secret anymore. In an LGBTory exclusive, we reveal that agenda to the public; here’s what we want from Canadian governments and political parties:
We want to be treated the same as every other Canadian citizen. We want the civil and legal rights that are enshrined in the Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be guaranteed to us the same as they are to any other individuals. Those rights include freedom of conscience; freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association. We want the justice system to protect those rights without prejudice.
We want to be secure in our homes and communities. We want to live in a society that respects the rule of law, where governments and police protect us from threats to our persons and property both domestic and foreign. This is especially important to LGBT people, who face existential threats from hostile ideologies both at home and abroad.
We want to live our lives and enjoy our property as we wish, free from undue interference by governments, subject, as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states, “only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.
We want a strong free-market economy that provides opportunity for all people, LGBT or otherwise. We want a tax system that allows LGBT people to keep more of their own money and spend it as they see fit, and a business climate that allows LGBT entrepreneurs and businesses to prosper along with all other enterprises.
In short, our gay agenda is the same as that of most Canadians and certainly of most Conservatives. We support Conservative parties because we believe their values most closely align with ours, and there is nothing inconsistent in that position. We may disagree with other Conservatives on some issues, but on the fundamental principles we are on the same team.
We have been accused of “infiltrating” Conservative parties in Canada, and one of our frequent critics on the religious right once said we had “orchestrated a coup in the Conservative Party of Canada” after we helped to successfully lobby for change to the party’s same-sex marriage policy in 2016. I guess it’s true that we’ve infiltrated Canadian Conservative parties, to the extent that a number of us are active in grass-roots politics at the riding level and sit on the boards of directors of our federal and provincial riding associations. We lobby Conservative politicians and support Conservative candidates and leaders who are LGBT allies. We call out anti-LGBT public figures when necessary, including those on the right. We advocate for our community’s interests in policy forums and at party conventions. In other words, we do everything that every other politically-involved citizen does in this country; we just happen to also be members of the LGBT community.
There is nothing in our gay agenda that is inherently hostile to the Conservative ideology, or, to use that tired cliché, to “traditional Canadian values”. We want what most Canadians want, and it has been our experience that our fundamental goals resonate with most Conservatives. To suggest that we don’t belong in Conservative political parties or aren’t welcome in the big Conservative tent is ludicrous. Like any other family, Conservatives have their disagreements, but there is more that unites us than divides us. To paraphrase a statement from John A. Macdonald, the great Conservative statesman and our first Prime Minister, “above all let us be Canadians”.
Hastings County, Ontario