The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Michael Motala

Equality rights

Legislation for past wrongs against LGBTQ2 falls short of meaningful action

By Michael Motala November 30, 2017 30 November 2017

Legislation for past wrongs against LGBTQ2 falls short of meaningful action

Though it was characteristically brisk in the nation’s capital last Tuesday, partly cloudy and hovering just two degrees above centigrade, inside the centre block of Parliament, there was an unusual feeling of warmth.

Lining the House of Commons’ parliamentary gallery, bearing witness to an historic moment, were a handful of the victims of the government’s “queer purge,” a national security campaign targeted at LGBTIQ2S in the civil service, Military and RCMP.

A stone’s throw away from Parliament Hill, at the Cartier Drill Hall, an even larger group was gathered. Scores of victims, human rights campaigners, and other community members were invited to the off-site viewing. The anticipation in the room was palpable.

At ten minutes past three, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose from his seat, delivering a much anticipated apology for Canada’s shameful history of state-sponsored discrimination toward LGBTIQ2S communities.

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LGBTQ2 rights

Interview with Randy Boissonnault

By Michael Motala March 13, 2017 13 March 2017

Interview with Randy Boissonnault


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.

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Is Uber taking its drivers for a ride?

By Michael Motala November 10, 2016 10 November 2016


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.

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In Egale’s fight for LGBTIQ2S equality, when it rains, it pours

By Michael Motala August 17, 2016 17 August 2016

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.

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Equal rights

Restoration of queer dignity: Toward a more just society

By Michael Motala May 17, 2016 17 May 2016


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.

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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.

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