NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert says Andrew Scheer is making a strategic mistake by boycotting Pride events

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      Several politicians who spoke to the Straight at today's Vancouver Pride parade said they weren't surprised that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was a no-show.

      But few were as dismissive of the Opposition leader as Spencer Chandra Herbert, the long-time NDP MLA for Vancouver–West End, where the parade takes place.

      Scheer has refused to attend any Pride-related events this year in Canada.

      According to Chandra Herbert, it means that Scheer is "not a serious contender to be prime minister".

      "It shows that he's written off a huge chunk of the population—and actively doesn't want engagement with lesbian, gay, bi, or trans people, or anybody who cares about them," Chandra Herbert said. "That is, I would say, the majority of Canada.

      "So it's a strategic mistake—dumb, stupid, whatever phrase you want to have—or it's just revealing about who he is."

      Chandra Herbert was the first gay B.C. MLA to adopt a child while serving in the legislature.

      He said that he didn't bring his son Dev to the parade because it was "nap time".

      Svend Robinson, who was the first openly gay MP in Parliament, was also at the parade. He said that Scheer's decision to boycott Pride events "speaks volumes" about the Conservatives' lack of commitment to the LGBT community.

      Robinson recalled when he was an NDP MP from 1979 to 2004, battling right-wing politicians over equal rights for the LGBT community.

      "Every single one of them voted against basic human rights protection," Robinson said. "So, have they moved? Yes, but have they moved enough?"

      Svend Robinson (seen with Minister for State for Child Care Katrina Chen) remembers right-wing politicians consistently voting against equal rights for the LGBT community when he was in Parliament from 1979 to 2004.
      Charlie Smith

      Trudeau accuses some of standing with intolerant people

      Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also highlighted Scheer's absence from the event, emphasizing to reporters that LGBT people "continue to suffer a greater degree of hate crimes and intolerance than other communities".

      He also pointed out that today marked "50 years of a fight that is not over", referring to the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City that set off the modern LGBT rights movement.

      "That's particularly why I'm glad to be here walking alongside a number of party leaders, including Jagmeet Singh and Elizabeth May. This is important and it shows that we are standing unequivocally in favour of human rights, in defence of Canadians.

      "It's just unfortunate that there are still still some party leaders who want to be prime minister who choose to stand with people who are intolerant instead of standing with the LGBT community."

      Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May said that she's been to Toronto Pride, Halifax Pride, Victoria Pride, and now Vancouver Pride and hasn't seen Scheer at any of these festivities.

      "I don't expect to see him at Montreal Pride and I sure don't think he'll be at Salt Spring Pride," she added.

      According to May, this sends a "disturbing signal...because celebrating Pride is celebrating human rights".

      "And celebrating Pride is celebrating the progress of this community, particularly in this year, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots," May said. "It sends a message that perhaps the Conservative party is prepared to challenge the rights that are so hard won."

      The Green leader then acknowledged that there have been Conservative MPs, such as Michelle Rempel, who have spoken up strongly in Parliament for trans rights. And May suggested that Scheer should rethink his position with regard to Pride parades.

      She also said she was disturbed when NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh's decided to skip a leaders debate on LGBT rights on a Toronto radio station.

      At the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent his special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues, Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault.

      "The NDP boycotted the entire debate and sent no one because Scheer wasn't there," May said. "That's a mistake, too...When you're invited to come as a leader, you should show up, especially for debates."

      Jagmeet Singh led New Democrats in the parade.
      Jagmeet Singh

      Singh was another politician who told the Straight today that he wasn't surprised by Scheer not coming to Vancouver for Pride.

      But he quickly pivoted in the interview and accused Trudeau of perpetuating a homophobic myth by not allowing gay men to donate blood if they've had sex with other men within the past three months.

      "Scheer doesn't attend the events, sure, but Trudeau attends the events but he has the power to change this law and he hasn't done it," Singh said. "I believe you've got to attend these events to show support but also have policies. So it's not enough to just attend and not say, 'Hey, I'm going to actually end the ban on blood [donations], which perpetuates homophobic beliefs that are not based on science."

      Here in B.C., Chandra Herbert, in particular, is proud of the NDP government's record on LGBT issues, calling it an "incredible two years".

      "Of course, we're bringing back the human rights commission to actively fight hate once again in B.C.," he noted.

      In addition, Chandra Herbert pointed out that there have been changes in the health-care system to enable transgender people to have access to top and bottom surgery in B.C.

      Not only that, but at the start of 2018, Health Minister Adrian Dix offered preventive medication for HIV known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, for free.

      Chandra Herbert also mentioned that the sexual orientation and gender identity curriculum is now in ever B.C. school district to counter hatred against LGBT students and build inclusion in schools.

      "That's now the rule of law in B.C.," he said. "There's more to do, but it feels great."