Sound the trumpets

So, Canada has its first openly gay premier—sound the trumpets, right? Score one more for Canada on the greatest, most liberal country ever sheet!

Before we go ahead and do any cheering and whatnot, we need to look a little closer at this development. Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Liberal, was elected as the new leader of the Ontario Liberal Party on Jan. 26. She is not only Ontario’s first gay Premier, but also the first woman. But, she isn’t the only female provincial or territorial leader in Canada.

For me—someone who was brought up believing that all people are equal, no matter their gender, skin-tone, sexual preference, or disability—this doesn’t come as a surprise. There are plenty of women involved in Canadian politics and there have been for many years. Let’s not forget that between June and Nov. of 1993 Kim Campbell led the Liberal Party of Canada, who, at the time, made up the Governing Party of Canada. Though her stint was short, and she was never elected to the role by the Canadian populace, Campbell was still Prime Minister.

Why then did the large media outlets of Canada decide to focus on Wynne’s gender and sexual orientation as talking points? She most certainly isn’t the first female Premier of a Canadian Province, but she may be the first homosexual to hold that position. So, is she the first homosexual to be elected to any Federal or Provincial position? The answer is an unsurprising ‘no.’ In 1988, a member of the Federal NDP party, Svend Robinson, came out as homosexual. At the time he was serving as a Member of Parliament, and had been since 1979. He would continue to have a seat in parliament until 1997, when he was defeated by Bill Siksay—who is also homosexual. Robinson is one of the longest-serving members of Canadian Parliament, having been elected and re-elected for seven consecutive terms, sitting in Parliament from 1979–97.

After Robinson came out, the floodgates seemed to have opened up, and several more Canadian politicians, from city councillors to federal party leaders, have come out. Some of these homosexual politicians include Libby Davies (Federal NDP), Bill Siksay (Federal NDP), Alison Brewer (leader of the New Brunswick NDP), Mike Farnworth (BC NDP Minister), Gerry Rogers (Newfoundland and Labrador NDP), and Dale Eftoda (Yukon Liberal Party). This list in not exhaustive, nor is it complete. There is one more I think is deserving of special attention: Canada and the world’s first openly homosexual mayor of a large city – Glen Murray, the current mayor of Winnipeg.

Wynne is joining five other female Provincial or Territorial leaders, who, between them, are in charge of a gross proportion of the Canadian Population. Wynne, who is Premier of Ontario, joins Pauline Marois (Q.C.), Christy Clark (B.C.), Alison Redford (A.B.), Kathy Dunderdale (N.L.), and Eva Aariak (N.T.).

So, again, why are media outlets focussing on those two facts? Wynne is a woman, and she is gay. There are certainly countries in the world—hell, even countries in North America (that’s right, I’m talking about you America)—where such events would be considered important and noteworthy. But in Canada?

Yeah, this country isn’t perfect and terrible things still happen to both women and homosexuals, but they’ve been holding political offices for years. It shouldn’t be a talking point anymore. In fact, I would argue that making it a talking point brings it to the audience’s mind more readily. And why would you want to do that? Is it important to the story? I don’t think so. What’s important is that Wynne is the new Ontario Premier and she faces challenges as Ontario struggles with many of the same issues as B.C. Wynne herself had this to say about her sexual preferences: “The historians will determine how big a deal it is…I don’t think it’s an issue in terms of the way people in Ontario or Canada choose their leaders.”

It’s certainly not an issue for me. I am much more interested in what the politicians have to say, not who they are sleeping with or what organs exist between their legs. Talking about these issues in the media, in my mind, seems to distract from what the real story is. One thing the media are not mentioning very loudly is that Wynne’s main enemy in her election campaign was also a woman.

I guess I’m still waiting, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be waiting for—sometimes it feels like it could take several decades longer. But, I want to live in a time when mentioning one’s gender or sexual preference to add depth and interest to a story—any story, whether that story is non-fiction, fiction, or an in-depth feature article—simply doesn’t happen.

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