Richmond Hill Deputy Mayor Apologizes for Cheering On Pierre Poilievre’s Homophobic and Transphobic Speech
2SLGBTQIA+ community groups question why Pierre Poilievre’s “bigoted” and “discriminatory rhetoric” keeps getting a pass
A municipal politician who cheered on Pierre Poilievre as the Conservative leader delivered a homophobic and transphobic speech is publicly apologizing for his role in the incident following a backlash from local 2SLGBTQIA+ community leaders.
But 2SLGBTQIA+ groups say the apology doesn’t go far enough — and they question why Poilievre’s “bigoted” and “discriminatory rhetoric” keeps getting a pass.
Godwin Chan, a councillor and Deputy Mayor of Richmond Hill, Ontario, appeared on stage with the Conservative leader during a meet-and-greet event last week.
During a speech at the event, Poilievre accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of personally imposing “radical gender ideology” on children.
Pierre Poilievre is under fire after a video surfaced of a homophobic and transphobic speech.
— PressProgress (@pressprogress) November 9, 2023
Video from the event shows Chan standing on stage next to Poilievre through his entire speech, nodding along and applauding at various moments — including in response to Poilievre’s “radical gender ideology” comments.
Poilievre’s comments came under fire from 2SLGBTQIA+ leaders and the Liberal Party of Canada released a video showing showing US Republican figures, including Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, using the same language as Poilievre.
In a statement to PressProgress, Chan apologized for his actions and acknowledged Poilievre’s words at the meet-and-greet were harmful to 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.
“In a video clip that is circulating on social media, I am shown nodding and clapping when the Leader of the Official Opposition spoke on a wide range of subjects, including the general statement on gender ideology and children,” Chan said.
“It was brought to my attention that my actions at that event may have been interpreted as discriminating against the LGBTQ2IA+ community.”
“My reaction was based on reflecting on my own belief that minor children would need parental consent for undergoing surgical procedures for gender changes,” Chan added.
“I apologize my reaction that may have been viewed as hurtful to anyone, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, Asexual, and other identities that fall outside of cisgender and heterosexual paradigms. Throughout my life, as a private citizen and a local official, I have demonstrated by actions and conduct that I have never, ever, discriminated against any person.”
Chan said he is “committed to learning more about gender issues and challenges the LGBTQ2IA+ community face every day” and pledged to “work with Pflag Canada York Region, and others to further that knowledge and understanding.”
York Region chapter of Pflag Canada, an 2SLGBTQ+ advocacy group, is demanding the resignation of Richmond Hill Deputy Mayor Godwin Chan.
They take issue Chan stood on stage and applauded as Poilievre railed against “radical gender ideology” during a meet-and-greet last weekend: pic.twitter.com/JvX162kqeR
— Luke LeBrun (@_llebrun) November 10, 2023
Pflag Canada York Region, a local 2SLGBTQIA+ advocacy group that had called for Chan’s resignation a day earlier, says it appreciates Chan’s “forth right explanation,” but stressed that his statement as worded is “not enough.”
“We have advised Mr. Chan to revise his statement and frankly, make a better effort at learning and educating himself,” Pflag Canada York Region President Tristan Coolman told PressProgress
The group issued a letter responding to Chan’s statement asking the Deputy Mayor to issue a “public apology which demonstrates an understanding of the nuances involved.”
“There isn’t a province in Canada that currently allows minors to seek surgical interventions to support gender changes without parental consent,” the letter notes. “If that is what Mr. Poilievre has led you and others in that room to believe, they are mistaken.”
“The issue though is much more nuanced than a one-liner.”
“Your head nod, your applause, wasn’t just an approval of that discriminatory statement from Mr. Poilievre, it was incredibly dangerous,” the letter adds. “Your applause and nod of approval provides legitimacy to the generalized and frankly bigoted statement from the CPC, from someone running to be the next Prime Minister of our country.”
“Others will listen to Mr. Poilievre, see your nod of approval, and seek to suppress their loved-ones identity.”
Poilievre’s office did not respond to a request from PressProgress inquiring if the Conservative leader agrees his rhetoric was harmful or if he would join Chan in issuing a public apology.
Poilievre’s spokesperson, Sebastian Skamski, previously told the Western Standard that Poilievre stood by his statement: “The video stands on its own.”
Poilievre’s comments have been widely denounced by 2SLGBTQIA+ groups.
Tyler Boyce, the Executive Director of the Enchanté Network, Canada’s largest network of 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations, said Poilievre’s “divisive rhetoric” will have a harmful impact on children in Canadian schools.
“Pierre Poilievre’s divisive rhetoric puts children and youth in danger,” Boyce told PressProgress.
Fae Johnstone, President of Momentum Canada, described Poilievre’s “radical gender ideology” rhetoric as a “homophobic and transphobic dogwhistle.”
“The term ‘gender ideology’ is based in repackaged homophobia from the 1970s,” Johnstone told PressProgress. “It is nothing less than the latest evolution of a hate movement that, for decades, has painted queer and trans people and our inclusion in society as a threat, especially with regards to schools and young people.”
“I can only hope Canadians will see through the veiled dogwhistles of Pierre Poilievre and hold him accountable for aligning himself with a movement that hates gay, queer and trans people.”
We just love that Poilievre can use an anti-queer dogwhistle and everyone (politicians, media, etc) just lets him get away with it.
— Fae Johnstone, MSW (@FaeJohnstone) November 10, 2023
Coolman says it is “unfortunate” Chan has become “collateral damage” in this incident while Poilievre’s anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric gets a pass from the media.
“Mr. Poilievre gets to continue to espouse his discriminatory rhetoric across the country,” Coolman said. “Because Mr. Poilievre doesn’t believe in the concept of personal accountability, he will escape this local news event unscathed.”
“This is frankly bigoted.”
Pflag Canada York Region’s letter to Godwin Chan:PDF-2023-11-01
Statement from Richmond Hill Deputy Mayor Godwin Chan:PDF-2023-11-02
Our journalism is powered by readers like you.
We’re an award-winning non-profit news organization that covers topics like social and economic inequality, big business and labour, and right-wing extremism.
Help us build so we can bring to light stories that don’t get the attention they deserve from Canada’s big corporate media outlets.