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Despite low number of election victories, advocates say Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ candidates are becoming more diverse

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EDMONTON — Despite a low number of victories for LGBTQ2S+ candidates in Monday night’s election, advocates say it’s a positive development to see a more diverse and partisan mix of contenders engaging in federal politics.

Of the 41 candidates that identified as LGBTQ2S+ running for Canada’s major political parties, five were elected Monday. According to CTVNews.ca’s election tracker, two more are leading in the polls with the race too close to call.

“Seeing such a low number elected is certainly disappointing, even as we are encouraged by the fact that the number of LGBTQ2S+ candidates putting themselves forward increases every time Canadians head to the polls,” Curtis Atkins, deputy executive director of ProudPolitics, a non-partisan organization aimed at diversifying Canadian politics, told CTVNews.ca Tuesday.

“Despite the low number of victories, it is a positive development to see that the winning LGBTQ2S+ candidates are becoming more diverse, even if slowly. The partisan mix of Canada’s out LGBTQ2S+ parliamentarians also continues to improve, as more Conservative queers come out of the closet politically.”

Those elected include NDP candidate Blake Desjarlais in Edmonton-Griesbach, Alta. – a Metis two-spirit activist who campaigned on fighting climate change and creating jobs in a sustainable economy.

Desjarlais, 27, beat the Conservative incumbent Kerry Diotte to become Alberta’s only Indigenous MP and Canada’s first openly two-spirited MP.

Liberal incumbents Rob Oliphant, former parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, won his Toronto-area Don Valley West riding, along with Seamus O’Regan, who represents Newfoundland and Labrador’s St. John’s South-Mount Pearl riding. O’Regan has been a cabinet minister since 2017, most recently as natural resources minister.

Two Conservative LGBTQ2S+ candidates took their ridings, including Eric Duncan who was re-elected in the Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry riding in southeastern Ontario and Melissa Lantsman in Thornhill, Ont.

“The win for Blake Desjarlais, a Metis activist and community organizer, was one particularly worth celebrating last night,” said Atkins.

“But the queer contingent in the federal parliament continues to be too male and a too white to truly represent the diversity of our community.”

Overall, fewer open LGBTQ2S+ candidates ran in this election compared to 2019, yet the number of out MPs has been essentially flat for the last several election cycles, hovering around five to six candidates.

Helen Kennedy, executive director at Egale Canada, the country’s leading organization for 2SLGBTQI people and issues​, says that lack of representation leads to a lack of accountability on issues impacting LGBTQ2S+ Canadians, like conversion therapy or blood bans.

“It is disappointing, but not surprising to us, to see how few openly 2SLGBTQI candidates were elected,” Kennedy told CTVNews.ca by email Tuesday.

“When there is a lack of representation of our communities in government, it is certain to impact the progress we will see on key issues like conversion therapy, the blood ban, mental health, poverty, employment, and health care access.”

Atkins adds that even though all the major federal political parties have increased their number of LGBTQ2S+ candidates, it is still far too often the case that the ridings these candidates run in are ones that their parties don’t expect to win.

“Not enough attention is given to developing LGBTQ2S+ political leadership that can translate to wins on election day,” Atkins explained.

“LGBTQ2S+ candidates face unique challenges that require unique tactics – coming out again as a public figure, the homophobic and transphobic whisper campaigns that go on behind the scenes to undermine support for queer candidates, and more.”​ 

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