Randy Boissonnault, the MP for Edmonton Centre, is the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 issues. His job is to advise on the federal government’s advancement of the LGBTQ2 agenda, working to promote equality for the LGBTQ2 community, protecting its members’ rights, and addressing discriminatory practices against them. Michael Motala interviewed him for CBA National.
Michael Motala: Last June Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Egale's Just Society Report, saying the government shared the same values and objectives and that it would work with Egale “to end discrimination and further guarantee equality for all citizens." Can you please elaborate on what those values and objectives are?
Randy Boissonnault: The values are pretty clear. We believe fundamentally that we are stronger because of our differences, [we are] a welcoming country and that includes LGBTI newcomers in the regular immigration stream, but also LGBTI refugees. This is a place where you can come and you can be who you're meant to be and you have protection under the Charter’s rights freedoms to worship if you want to worship, to love who you want to love and that you're not going to be discriminated against.
In terms of some of the objectives, we [introduced] legislation to have gender diversity and gender expression written into the six sections of the Criminal Code but also to protect people under the Canadian Human Rights Act. That passed the House of Commons; it just last week passed second reading in the Senate. Now, it's going to one of the senate justice committees, then will go to the Senate for a vote. We need to see that get over the goal line, but that's progress.
Just [last week] the Minister of Justice put a piece of legislation in front of the House that will get rid of Section 159 [of the Criminal Code], an anti-sodomy provision that's just going to come off the books. Just the fact that the Prime Minister has announced a special adviser on LGBTQ2 issues is an indication of where our government's heading.
A landmark ruling out of a British tribunal has put Uber’s wage policies in the cross-hairs. In the decision delivered on October 28th in London, Justice Anthony Snelson blasted Uber’s labour market practices. The tribunal’s ruling comes in the wake of the Airbnb ban in New York City and the EU’s ongoing battle with Google, another sign of a worldwide regulatory backlash against the so-called “sharing economy.”
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” read Justice Snelson’s reasons, quoting Shakespeare’s Hamlet as he responded to the “grimly loyal evidence” presented by Uber’s lawyers. At times, the judge found that Uber’s defense had resorted to “fictions, twisted language, and even brand new terminology.”
Contrary to Uber’s claim that drivers are independent contractors, a finding that would allow the tech company to continue operating while skirting the relevant labour regulations, the tribunal declared that they are in fact workers.
“The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common platform is to our minds ridiculous,” read the decision.
Classified as workers, the tribunal held that the time drivers spend between rides qualifies as unmeasured time in accordance with the UK’s National Minimum Wage Regulations. The decision means Uber, and similarly modeled tech companies operating in Britain, could be on the hook for the minimum wage and holiday pay.
Last Saturday, deep inside the Chateau Laurier’s L’Orangerie Board Room, a dozen human rights activists from across the country—men and women, cis and trans, representing diverse races and indigenous experiences—listened intently to constitutional lawyer Douglas Elliott’s opening remarks at the meeting of the Just Society Committee of Egale Human Rights Trust.
In light of last Thursday’s revelations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will adopt most, if not all, of the recommendations in Egale’s Just Society Report, it was an historic gathering. In just eight months, the federal government has reversed course on gender and sexuality. For Egale, it is a decisive victory.
Canadian gay rights groups have advocated for law reform and redress since 1971, and the unofficial list of reforms outlined in John Ibbitson’s recent column look very promising.
Participants from the We Demand Network, who were purged from the Canadian military and bureaucracy, have been campaigning for a formal apology most of their lives. For Martine Roy, a lesbian who was expelled from the military because of her sexuality, news of the upcoming apology is surreal. Martine has spent her life fighting for change.
In the struggle for LGBTIQ2S equality, when it rains, it pours.
Details about the government’s plans on key international questions are scarce. While the LGBTQI2S community has won many battles in Canada’s courtrooms, it is clear Canada must do more for human rights in the global context.
Today, the Minister of Justice is poised to introduce amendments to the Criminal Code and Federal Human Rights Act in a historic legislative effort aimed at protecting gender identity. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent promise to pardon Everett Klippert, the last man convicted of gross indecency, also starts an important, and long overdue, national conversation about the redress of queer injustice. Canada has a checkered history of homosexual regulation, circumscribed by the enforcement of sexual and gender norms, as well as unjust discrimination outside the criminal law. The queer community’s calls for a formal apology have gone unheeded by successive federal governments. Fatefully, political context has shifted.
What is the appropriate scope for the government’s acknowledgment and redress toward the queer community? Should state-authorized action, through Canadian ministries and state agents—administering residential schools, enforcing institutional discrimination in the military and public service, and enforced with heavy-handed police tactics—factor into the conversation?
The history of gender and sexual regulation in Canada points to numerous examples where the law and state-authorized action targeted men and women, both cis and trans, of every race and class, as well as aboriginal populations. Viewed comprehensively, there was a coherent policy aimed at oppressing and criminalizing same-sex conduct through heteronormalization. Persecuting homosexuals was first a tool of European conquest and then a form of aboriginal assimilation. Canadian policy toward indigenous populations in residential schools, for example, oppressed the two-spirited identity in aboriginal culture.
Offshoring and tax rarely makes front-page news. After Sunday’s release of 11 million documents revealing shady fiscal practices, touted as the biggest data leak kind in history, suddenly the nexus of international tax and political corruption are in the spotlight. From Russian President Vladimir Putin to Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmund Gunnlaugsson, 72 world leaders are implicated by the so-called Panama Papers. Offshoring and multinational tax planning and avoidance are not necessarily illegal. After all, the law privileges form over economic substance. Still, the fallout from the release will have enormous political consequences.
Tax is at the heart of the social contract, and the global corporate tax system is broken. The Panama Papers present a crucial opportunity to seriously debate the state of the international tax regime. Tax base erosion has been prominent several decades, although it has received relatively scant attention. Since the 1980s, a period which saw the rise of global mergers and acquisitions in leading capital markets, the United States and other large democracies have received diminishing corporate tax receipts.
Why? Tax sovereignty has induced ugly state policy competition. On the supply side, national corporate tax rates have plummeted, illustrating a real race-to-the-bottom. On the demand side, multinational enterprises take advantage of elective corporate residency, and fictive corporate planning structures such as the Double Dutch Irish Sandwich. Moreover, the complex architecture comprised of thousands of bilateral double tax agreements offer innumerable opportunities for corporate treaty shopping, planning and avoidance. The system is needlessly complex. Welcome to the era of stateless income.
Michael is a co-author of the Just Society Report, a law and graduate student co-enrolled at Columbia University and Osgoode Hall Law School, and a freelance business journalist. Opinions expressed are his own.