News / Ottawa

LGBT advisor Randy Boissonnault can't set timeline for feds' apology

Liberal MP says government wants to get apology right. He wants to ensure that it's done "respectfully and sensitively."

Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault is the government special advisor on LGBT issues.

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Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault is the government special advisor on LGBT issues.

Randy Boissonnault, the government’s special advisor on LGBT issues, promises an apology to LGBT Canadians is coming, but he can’t promise exactly when.

“I’m focused on working with my government colleagues to make sure that we get the apology right, that we do it respectfully and sensitively,” he said.

The Edmonton MP got a boost in last week’s budget with $3.6 million to fund an LGBT secretariat, which will allow him to staff an office.

“That’s table stakes to get a support team in place,” he said. “And we’re thrilled because we’ve never done this as a government before.”

He said the apology to Canadians who were forced from the public service, military or RCMP for being gay is important, but it’s not the only file.

Boissonnault said his goal is a permanent office dealing with a wide range of LGBT issues, like the trans-rights bill C-16, support for Pride events and expansion of tax credits for in-vitro fertilization.

He said recent funding for religious and cultural institutions to increase security can also be used for Pride centres, but the government didn’t initially announce it as such, a problem he has since corrected.  

“We looked at the language and sure enough it was inclusive,” he said.

In his Ottawa office, the bookshelf holds Pride Hockey Tape, which NHL players have put on their sticks to show support, as well as safe-space badges from across the country.

He said the office can connect the LGBT community across the country.

“There are really good things happening across the country and we want to shed a spotlight on those success stories as well.”
 
On the apology and the pardons for gay men who were charged criminally, Boissonnault said it’s an opportunity for the government to bring attention to the failures of the past, which many Canadians could be blind to.   

“I understand why the apology is important, because it’s important to know. It’s that part of our truth and reconciliation to let the country know what happened to us.”

Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, said she’s prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt on the apology.

“I want to make sure that when we get the apology that it’s well thought out and it’s authentic,” she said. “If you’re asking me this question a year from now or six months from now I will have a totally different answer.”

She said the office overall has a lot of work to do.

“There are many, many things that our government needs to do in order to address the much needed cultural shift in this country, for full acceptance.”

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