OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is wishing LGBTQ people a happy Pride month, linking it with his platform's focus on freedom, but he is not saying whether he'll be attending any Pride events.
The Opposition leader also joined a weeklong chorus of condemnation of Uganda's plan to jail gender and sexual minorities.
"I wish everyone a happy Pride month, because our freedom is something in which all of us can take pride," Poilievre told reporters in Winnipeg on Friday morning.
LGBTQ groups across North America celebrate June as Pride month, although festivals and parades happen throughout the summer in different Canadian cities.
When asked whether he'd march in any Pride parades, Poilievre instead talked about the values of choice and openness.
He said that for LGBTQ people, this includes "the freedom to marry, start a family, raise kids; freedom from bigotry and bashing; freedom to be judged by personal character, not by group identity; freedom to start a life and be judged on your merit."
He also said Canada should continue to resettle LGBTQ refugees from abroad.
His comments come as conservative groups in the U.S. take aim at LGBTQ people, such as by blocking access to gender-affirming care for transgender people or protesting drag queen performances.
When asked about a Uganda law that allows judges to jail people for up to 10 years for same-sex relations, Poilievre called the legislation "outrageous and appalling." He noted that former prime minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government had been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ people.
Poilievre's comments on the Uganda bill come four days after condemnation from members of his caucus, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and numerous MPs from various parties.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly spoke against the bill on Monday, noting that it includes the death penalty for certain offences.
“The reversal of human rights that this law represents is deeply concerning, and we are disturbed by the heinous forms of violence it legalizes against a segment of Uganda’s population, only because of who they are and who they love," she wrote in a statement.
"This act is a blatant violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTQ+ Ugandans. It exposes them to systematic persecution, oppression, violence, including the possibility of life terms in prison and the death penalty."
Joly said the Liberals will work with groups in the region to respond to the bill.
The Equal Rights Coalition, a group of 42 countries including Canada, said the bill includes draconian punishments and will harm programs aimed at shoring up health, echoing concerns from HIV-prevention groups.
The Dignity Network, a coalition of 61 non-governmental Canadian groups that advocate for LGBTQ rights abroad, says it's working with contacts in Uganda to scope out how Ottawa and grassroots organizations can respond.
The group says that Canada should have a special envoy, similar to the U.S., who can monitor LGBTQ rights around the world and speak out when people are under threat.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2023.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press