On Feb.10, Liberal McGill welcomed Member of Parliament (MP) Randy Boissonnault to Gerts bar for a conversation with McGill students. Boissonnault serves as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appointed special advisor on issues pertaining to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirited (LGBTQ2) community and is the first to serve in this capacity.
Liberal McGill hoped the event would give students a platform to network and discuss important issues, according to the group’s Vice-President Communications June Gleed.
“The event was an opportunity for students to voice their opinions in an informal manner to [an MP],” Gleed said. “Randy is fighting for issues that many of our students are passionate about, so we appreciate that he could take the time to meet with us at McGill.”
Students spoke with the MP in a discussion geared towards important issues facing the LGBTQ2 community at McGill, in Canada, and worldwide.
Topics of discussion were varied and included the Canadian Blood Services’ restrictions on gay men donating blood, providing safe spaces for queer youth to access mental health support, and gender-neutral bathrooms in Canada. Foreign relations with nations that deny their LGBTQ2 communities basic human rights was also covered.
Boissonnault highlighted the ability of millennials to communicate on social media and emphasized how personal LGBTQ2 issues can be.
“We want to engage youth, […] seniors, […] people at the university, and in civil society because this is not only […] a government approach,” Boissonnault said. “Where can we find […] civil society activists that are going to help us not just tell the stories and adjust the wrongs of the past, but really figure out ‘How do we build together and move together’?”
After the informal discussion at Gerts, Boissonnault participated in a roundtable meeting to discuss the major issues facing the Quebec LGBTQ2 community. Attendees included Florence Ashley Paré, a trans law student at McGill and an active member of the LGBTQ2IA+ community. Paré attended the event as a representative of OutLaw, a club for queer students and their straight allies based in the Faculty of Law.
Boissonnault followed up on a number of issues, especially Quebec-specific problems, of which he was previously unaware: Bill C-16, which made discrimination based on gender identity illegal, and the repeal of Bill C-36, a piece of legislation that threatens sex workers, were both discussed, according to Paré.
“I must say that Randy Boissonnault was very receptive to our comments […],” Paré said. “I'm very excited for changes that might come out of that, but I also recognize that large-scale systemic changes are unlikely coming from a Liberal government.”
Paré said that changes to funding will be difficult, given the misinformed actions of the federal government and the widespread collaboration needed to achieve progress.
“Improving queer and trans lives necessitates funding of community organisations, and the defunding of [Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q)] in Montreal is a really hard blow for the trans communities around here […],” Paré said. “I hope that they increase funding across the board because [only] funding events, such as Pride, is wholly insufficient, and some might even say inadequate, given the depoliticization and corporatization of Pride over its long history.”
Boissonnault said that the event was a productive experience.
“Every time I get to be a part of a conversation like this, I’m learning, and so that’s the kind of information I’m going to be able to take back to my colleagues in government and to inform the Prime Minister’s Office,” Boissonnault said. “It [was] a great visit to McGill [….]”