Leader of the federal Conservative Party, Pierre Poilievre, recently spoke at a meet-and-greet event in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Since then, he, along with the Deputy Mayor of Richmond Hill, Godwin Chan, have been criticized for Poilievre’s comment which has been viewed as homophobic and transphobic.
In the video, Poilievre was shown saying, “Justin Trudeau does not have the right to impose his radical gender ideology on our kids and on our schools.”
The comment was met with applause from the crowd as well as Deputy Mayor, Chan. In response, the Liberal Party of Canada posted a video showing similarities in word choice between Poilievre and United States Republican politicians like Ron Desantis and Lauren Boebert.
2SLGBTQIA+ groups also weighed in on the matter, condemning the comments. The president of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Canada York Region—an international 2SLGBTQIA+ non-profit organization—called out Poilievre’s “dangerous” statement, saying that it “provides legitimacy to the generalized and frankly bigoted statement from the Conservative Party of Canada.” The President of Momentum Canada, a group that supports 2SLGBTQIA+ people nationwide, Fae Johnstone, called the comments a “transphobic and homophobic dog whistle.” They said, “the term ‘gender ideology’ is based in repackaged homophobia from the 1970s,” says Johnstone, “it is nothing less than the latest evolution of a hate movement that, for decades, has painted queer and trans people and our inclusion in society as a threat, especially with regards to schools and young people.”
The most concerning aspect of this rhetoric is not only the alienation of 2SLGBTQIA+ people but that it was simply incorrect. Aside from the fact that no provinces allow minors to undergo surgical treatment to transition without parental consent, Justin Trudeau and the federal government are not capable of changing the education system because there is no federal department of education. The leader of the opposition should know this. Because education is operated at the provincial level, and these comments create dangerous disinformation that seem to paint the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, allies, and education workers as villains.
When PressProgress News reached out to Poilievre, a spokesperson said, “the video stands on its own.”
While some say that Poilievre is exempt from punishment for his statement, the man next to him in the video, Deputy Mayor Chan, has had far more critiques and even calls for resignation from 2SLGBTQIA+ groups. Chan quickly released a statement apologizing for his actions. “I apologize for my reaction that may have been viewed as hurtful to anyone [including the 2SLGBTQIA+ community],” says Chan, “my reaction was based on reflecting my own belief that minor children would need parental consent for undergoing surgical procedures for gender changes.” Chan says that he would like to learn more about gender issues and challenges faced by 2SLGBTQIA+ people and work with PFLAG Canada. There is a difference in how both responded to the concerns of constituents, Chan apologized and explained his stance on the matter while Poilievre’s spokesperson left the issue as is.
The Conservative Party is less clear than other parties when it comes to 2SLGBTQIA+ issues. Pierre Poilievre recently held a closed-door meeting with his party to discuss the ongoing protests and changes in New Brunswick’s policies for 2SLGBTQIA+ students. A memo from the meeting read, “Please do not talk to the media or post on social media about the issue.” “Protestors have legitimate points to make and enjoy the freedom of assembly and expression to make them,” it read. Justin Trudeau of the Liberals says he “condemns this hate and manifestation,” while the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh says they “stand with the trans community in solidarity.” For the federal conservatives, their stance is not outright solidified.
Since numerous laws were recently enacted within the United States that target 2SLGBTQIA+ adults and kids, Canada is not immune to this divisive and false rhetoric. When politicians paint a specific group as the wrongdoer, it can spread quickly and create a dangerous sentiment towards a group of people to score political points. With the leader of a frontrunner party starting to bring up these issues, it is important to stay informed and aware when disinformation and divisive content are present.