OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says his response to the apology for past state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBTQ people in Canada was sincere, but some of his MPs say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau crossed the line.
Conservative MP Harold Albrecht said Trudeau strayed too far past apologizing for historical wrongs when he expressed his support for children discovering their sexual orientation or gender identity at a young age.
“It went beyond an apology,” Albrecht said Wednesday when asked why he was among a handful of Conservatives who did not rise to their feet with the rest of the witnesses to the keenly anticipated expression of regret in the House of Commons Tuesday.
“When you start talking about six-year-olds, in that context, I’m not there,” he said.
Towards the end of his speech, Trudeau had included a message to children.
“To the kids who are listening at home and who fear rejection because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity and expression, and to those who are nervous and scared, but also excited at what their future might hold: we are all worthy of love, and deserving of respect,” said Trudeau, whose two eldest children, Xavier and Ella-Grace, were watching from one of the galleries.
“And whether you discover your truth at six or 16 or 60, who you are is valid.”
Conservative MP Ted Falk acknowledged his response to the remarks by Trudeau was lacking in enthusiasm.
“I firmly believe in the apology and I stand behind the apology,” said Falk. “I think some of the statements went further than that.”
Conservative MP David Tilson, meanwhile, said his choice to sit throughout the apology was unrelated to its content.
“I broke my ankle,” he said.
Scheer, who voted against the transgender rights bill and has refused to take part in gay pride parades, is among those in his caucus who hold socially conservative views.
But, he was in full support of an apology as a means to move Canada forward on the issue of championing individual rights. Many other Conservatives took a similar view — that their party is one that believes in equal treatment for all, especially by the government, and supporting the apology reflects that.
Scheer said Wednesday he did not want to politicize the issue and that he had delivered his response to the apology on behalf of the Conservative caucus as a whole.
“I touched upon the injustice that was done to members of the LGBTQ2 community and acknowledged that this was a dark chapter in Canada’s history,” Scheer said Wednesday.
“It’s an opportunity for us to move forward and look for new opportunities to defend and promote the rights of members of that community around the world,” he said.
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, who identifies as gay, said he does not begrudge those who did not applaud or skipped the event entirely.
“Everyone comes to these things in a different route, with different biases, different understandings, different experiences,” said Oliphant.
“I think when you’ve actually been in a minority group, you have a strange graciousness that says we will work with you.”
Oliphant, who noted his own Liberal party has struggled with these issues, said he plans to reach out to those who were not entirely on board.
Although, he said, he would first take the time to thank those who did attend and join the standing ovation.
“Over the next year or two or 10, I’ll work with the others,” he said.