'It shouldn't be a big thing': Trudeau first sitting PM to march in Toronto's Pride parade
Emma Jarratt, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, July 3, 2016 7:32AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 3, 2016 10:31PM EDT
Toronto's Pride parade marked an important milestone on Sunday as Justin Trudeau became the first sitting prime minister to join the annual march.
While many are heralding the landmark moment, for Trudeau the fanfare is slightly puzzling.
“It’s sort of frustrating that it has to be a big thing," Trudeau, a long-time Pride marcher, said in an interview with CP24.
"It shouldn’t be a big thing that that prime minister is walking in Pride parade and from now on it won’t.”
Trudeau also told CP24 that Ottawa is considering offering a gender-neutral option for identity cards, after the Ontario government announced plans for gender-neutral drivers’ licences and health cards.
“It’s something we’re looking at federally. We’re just trying to figure out the best way to actually get around to doing it,” Trudeau said. “That’s part of the great arc of history sweeping towards justice.”
Having the head of the federal government stand in open solidarity with the community is a poignant reminder that, despite the celebratory party tones, Pride is at its core a political protest, said one activist.
“We still have to remember that Pride is a political march – it’s a protest," journalist and queer activist Andrea Houston told CTV News Channel.
“It’s by our community and for our community and there are still a lot of issues on the table that we need to discuss.”
Houston said Trudeau's appearance is "very exciting", but also criticized the prime minister for not doing more to strike down rules that prevent gay men from donating blood.
“He betrayed our community,” she said.
"It sends a message that gay sex is still 'icky' in the mind of the government – and that's not acceptable."
Blood donation rules have been pushed to the forefront in the wake of the June massacre of 49 clubbers in Orlando, Fla. when local blood banks were making desperate calls for donations, but initially barred gay men – including survivors of the violence – from donating due to legislative restrictions.
Canada upholds a similar ban on gay blood donation as the U.S., but Trudeau says his government is working on it.
“I think there is still work to be done on Canadian blood services. We got them to move from a five year [ban] to a one year [ban], but even that’s not good enough,” he said, also citing getting a transgender rights bill passed in parliament as a key priority.
The victims of the Orlando shooting – who were predominantly LGBTQ people of colour – were also honoured with a moment of silence during Sunday’s event.
The Orlando massacre also meant security was higher than normal at this year's parade.
Shortly after the attack, Pride organizers met representatives of the RCMP, city police and the prime minister's office to discuss security precautions.
However, the beefed up security detail didn’t appear to dampen Trudeau's enthusiasm. Prior to the march, Trudeau attended an outdoor church service in the heart of the city's gay village where he belted out Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" along with other attendees.
Members of Toronto’s Black Lives Matter group also attended, halting the parade for roughly 30 minutes for a sit-in which only ended when Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois signed a list of demands that included better representation for visible minorities within Pride Toronto and agreeing to not have police floats at next year’s parade.
Other notable politicians who marched this year included Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown, Toronto mayor John Tory, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and Rona Ambrose, interim leader of the federal Conservatives.
The theme of this year's parade was "inclusivity" – something that Houston says is resonating far outside the core community as thousands flocked to join the march.
“So many people are behind this movement. So many people want the change we have been fighting for, for years," she said.
"We have so much more to do so, yes, come and celebrate with us, but stand with us and fight with us...we have to continue to fight for human rights, queer rights, around the world.”
It's a sentiment echoed by Trudeau.
“What we see here is really projecting not just across the country, but around the world,” he said.
“Hopefully my kids or anyone in their class is not going to have the same kinds of challenges [if] they come out in their teens.”
The parade wrapped up a month of Pride festivities in Toronto, which saw entertainment heavyweights like George Takei and Lindsay Lohan participate.
With files from The Canadian Press and CP24