Has Canada become a leader in LGBT rights because of Justin Trudeau?

Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau works the crowd during Toronto's Pride Parade on Sunday, June 28, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

It’s hard to overstate how thirsty for change Canada’s LGBT community was after a decade under Harper, so when Justin Trudeau came to power at the end of 2015, many were optimistic that our photogenic PM would usher in a golden age for queer Canadians.For the first time, the prime minister — and much of the federal cabinet — marched in a Pride parade.But much of the progress should be attributed to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has taken the lead on several key files. Most prominently, she stickhandled the speedy passage of Bill C-16, the trans rights bill, through the House of Commons, after a decade of failed attempts. The bill faces an unclear future in the Senate, but Xtra’s Ottawa reporter feels pretty confident it will pass.Raybould is also responsible for introducing Bill C-32, which will finally remove the anal sex prohibitions from the Criminal Code, finally completing the decriminalization process that started under Pierre Trudeau. With minimal opposition from the Conservatives, this bill should also sail through in the new year.And just last week, Raybould announced that she was taking the lead to end the criminalization of HIV, through the development of prosecutorial guidelines. This will be a major challenge, as there is no simple statute that can be amended or repealed. She’ll have to work with her provincial counterparts to get agreement on how to handle HIV-transmission cases, and even then, it will be difficult to stop police and Crown attorney actions, given the hash the Supreme Court has made of the law. The Liberals have made little apparent progress on amending the Conservatives’ hated spying bill, C-51. There has similarly been no apparent action on the Conservatives’ likely unconstitutional anti-sex work law, which just last year, Raybould told Xtra she was “committed to reviewing.” It has to be noted that the sea change in attitudes to LGBT rights has also seeped into the Conservative party and even its provincial cousins. In 2016, the federal Conservatives finally ended their formal opposition to same-sex marriage, and only a minority of members opposed the federal trans rights bill. The BC Liberals also passed a trans rights bill, and Ontario’s PCs spent much of the year tied in knots over their new leader’s newfound desire to stand up for LGBT rights. Depoliticizing our basic rights is probably the most welcome change.


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