TORONTO – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has made great strides in achieving equality for LGBTQ people but there’s still work to be done.
Trudeau was greeted with a standing ovation as he took to the stage at a Toronto hotel on Thursday night to accept an award from human rights group Egale Canada for his LGBTQ advocacy.
As he reflected on his efforts to make amends for historic wrongs suffered by LGBTQ Canadians, the prime minister affirmed his commitment to remedying present-day discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
“I am on your side,” he told the crowd at the Egale Identity Gala. “I will fight for you, and I will fight with you.”
The prime minister mingled with advocates and allies as he found his seat in the rainbow-hued ballroom at the downtown Toronto Hilton.
Speakers fondly recounted their interactions with the prime minister at Pride events and private meetings, sometimes censoring their accounts to protect his political sensibilities, and teased him about having looks that appeal to people across the sexuality spectrum.
TD Bank CEO Bharat Masrani described Trudeau as “the very definition of what it means to be an ally” as he presented him with Egale’s inaugural leadership award honouring his contributions towards advancing rights for LGBTQ people in Canada.
In his speech, Trudeau recalled his apology last November to public servants and members of the military who had their careers sidelined or ended due to their sexual orientation between the 1950s and early 1990s.
He said he pulled his kids out of school that day so they could to share in what he described as one of the most poignant moments of his political career, just as he watched his father, Pierre Trudeau, patriate the Constitution alongside the Queen in 1982.
“Ella and Xav watched their dad stand on the floor of the House of Commons, surrounded by colleagues, and promise that we as a nation will do better,” he said.
“It was an incredible day that I will never forget, and I certainly don’t think they will either. And I am deeply privileged to be a part of this larger moment.”
Trudeau pointed out some of the areas where progress still needs to be made, such as the prevalence of homelessness among queer youth and the disproportionate violence suffered by the trans community.
He also expressed disappointment with the persistence of what he described as discriminatory restrictions preventing sexually active gay men from becoming blood and organ donors.
“Yes, we’re working on it, but I’m upset too that it’s not there yet,” he said, waving his hand as if to assure the crowd.
“Our entire government is committed to full equality for the queer community. You have my word on that.”