New Democrats are questioning Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to defending LGBTQ rights abroad after his response to a question about same-sex marriage in an African nation where gay activity is criminalized.
At a press conference with Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Thursday, Trudeau was asked to address how many people in the West African nation don’t accept gay marriage, even though it has been legal in Canada for more than a decade.
Trudeau said “different countries have different paces of evolution in terms of recognizing and enshrining those rights.”
NDP MP Sheri Benson rose in question period Friday to say Trudeau’s response wasn’t good enough.
Benson called out the prime minister for refusing to “condemn” Liberia’s approach to LGBTQ persons.
“Let me remind the prime minister that human rights are universal, no matter where you live or who you love,” Benson said. “Can the minister of foreign affairs explain this missed opportunity?”
"Let me remind the prime minister that human rights are universal, no matter where you live or who you love."
Alberta MP Randy Boissonnault, who was named Trudeau’s special advisor on LGBTQ issues last week, responded.
Boissonnault said that while advancing human rights at home and abroad is important, Canada must be “sensitive” to where other nations are in their “own evolution.”
“Over time the long arc of history bends toward progress and we are helping with that long arc,” Boissonnault said.
The Canadian Press reports Trudeau will address gay rights in a speech Saturday at the summit of la Francophonie in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Nearly a dozen African nations expected to attend the meeting criminalize sexual acts between same-sex couples.
Tories also pushed issue
The previous Conservative government also spoke out forcefully on the issue.
During a Royal Commonwealth Society meeting in London in 2012, then-foreign affairs minister John Baird called out African and Caribbean nations that still have such “regressive and punitive” laws.
“We will continue to press countries in the Commonwealth to live up to their international obligations, and uphold the basic contract any government should have with its people,” Baird said at the time, according to The National Post.
“The criminalization of homosexuality is incompatible with the fundamental Commonwealth value of human rights.”
With a file from The Canadian Press