Scheer won’t march in Pride parades this year, but Conservatives say they fight for gay rights in ‘many ways’
OTTAWA — As his party continues to lead in the polls in the run-up to this fall’s federal election, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer does not plan to march in any Pride parades this year.
The Conservative Party confirmed Scheer’s plans this week, even as Ontario premier Doug Ford faces criticism from some quarters for announcing he will not participate in Toronto’s parade later this month, citing Pride Toronto’s ban on uniformed police officers. But the federal Conservative Party says there are “many ways” to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community, and Scheer is doing so.
“Canada’s Conservatives have a proud history of fighting for the rights and protection of all Canadians, including those in the LGBTQ community, at home and abroad. There are many ways to support these communities, and it is vital that the rights all Canadians are protected regardless of race, gender or sexual preference,” said Scheer spokesman Daniel Schow.
“While Mr. Scheer does not plan to march in the Toronto Pride Parade, he will continue to stand up against hatred and discrimination in all its forms.” Schow clarified there are no plans for Scheer to attend Pride events in other cities, such as in Regina, where he is an MP.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper also did not attend Pride events.
Pride Toronto would not comment on Scheer’s decision but had said in a statement this week it was disappointed Ford wouldn’t attend.
“Premier Ford is the elected leader for all Ontarians, and the Toronto Pride Parade is one of North America’s largest Pride Festivals, and a signature event for Toronto and Ontario,” the statement said. “We all must bring more openness to these important conversation for this community if we are going to move forward.”
Scheer summed up his general position in a recent immigration speech: “I find the notion that one’s race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation would make anyone in any way superior or inferior to anybody else absolutely repugnant. And if there’s anyone who disagrees with that, there’s the door.”
Still, he has continued to face scrutiny on social conservative issues, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals trying to make a domestic political issue of challenges to abortion rights in the United States. Scheer has not hidden his personal views, his Christianity or that he is pro-life. He has a “perfect” voting record on such issues, including voting against legalizing gay marriage in 2005, according to the Campaign Life Coalition, a group that primarily advocates against abortion but also opposes homosexuality.
That group disqualified him as its preferred candidate in the Conservative Party’s 2017 leadership race because he promised he would not reopen issues such as abortion and gay marriage. For example, he had spoken in favour of formally striking down the party’s definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, a change in the policy book that only happened in 2016.
However, his narrow leadership victory was achieved with the help of significant runoff support from the most socially-conservative candidates in the race.
LGBTory, a group that advocates for queer rights within the conservative movement, admitted in a statement following Scheer’s leadership win that they had some reservations because of how social conservatives were “claiming responsibility” for that victory. “We are encouraged by his promise to focus on the issues that unite the party, not divide it,” their statement at the time said. The group didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Schow pointed out more-recent examples of Scheer’s advocacy for members of the community. In June 2017 Scheer moved a motion in the House of Commons that, among other things, condemned the actions of Vladimir Putin’s Russian government against LGBTQ individuals. In November of that year he supported Trudeau’s apology to public servants who historically lost their jobs because of their sexual orientation. This past April he condemned a Brunei law that allows stoning as punishment for gay sex as “offensive and dangerous.”
For that matter, the party is running several openly gay candidates in the election planned for October. Campaign manager Hamish Marshall said Ryan Lester, the candidate for Toronto Centre, worked with Pride Toronto and the AIDS Committee of Toronto on their finances.
“When the Liberals accuse us of being very narrow or bigoted, or whatever lies they want to throw at us this week, it’s a lot harder for them to do that when the candidate in your local riding is someone who’s got a story that counteracts it,” Marshall said in a recent interview.
“There are a lot of ways that Canadians can show their support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, and Two Spirit (LGBTQ2) communities, and marching in Pride Parades is just one of them. Creating safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ2 people in Canada happens in our homes, workplaces, and in our own communities through the conversations that we have every day,” Lester said in an emailed statement to the Post.
“And as policies and laws impacting LGBTQ2 communities have evolved over the years, so too have opinions within the Conservative Party of Canada. I am proud to bring my true, authentic self to the Conservative Party of Canada and will continue to advocate for the full inclusion of Canada’s LGBTQ2 communities.”