LGBTQ groups want to talk, MP doesn't

Northwestern Ontario LGBTQ organizations want to talk with Kenora’s Conservative MP about “transphobic rhetoric,” but he doesn’t seem interested.

Eric Melillo has not responded in any way to a public request this week for him to meet and discuss threats to LGBTQ communities, Caitlin Hartlen of Rainbow Alliance Dryden said Wednesday.

"We're not looking to attack him,” Hartlen said. “We simply want him to understand the responsibility that he holds with his office and that he can actually help to bring change to our region — if he will talk to us, but that has to be the first step.”

Melillo did not reply to numerous requests from Dougall Media for comment.

Pride groups in Kenora, Thunder Bay and other parts of the province’s Northwest say some of the rhetoric coming from the right side of Canada’s political spectrum — including the federal Conservative Party — is alarming.

“We are speaking today with one voice to express our grave concerns about the rise in transphobic rhetoric coming from certain political movements and the Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) response to them,” a joint statement Tuesday from Rainbow Alliance Dryden, Kenora Pride, Borderland Pride, Rainbow Collective of Thunder Bay and Thunder Pride declared.

“We are especially troubled by recent comments by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre,” they added. “His words appear to signal support for misinformed policies targeting 2SLGBTQIA+ people. These policies put trans, non-binary, two-spirit and queer young people at risk of harm.”

The groups also noted that Conservative caucus members who have spoken against anti-LGBTQ bigotry in the past have more recently been silent “in our community’s time of need.”

Those silent caucus members include Melillo. The groups have sent him a letter asking that he “stand with us,” but received no response as of Wednesday afternoon. They are now requesting “an urgent meeting” with Melillo and representatives of Northwestern Ontario’s federal Conservative riding associations.

Anti-trans demonstrations and counter-protests took place in cities and towns across Canada last week. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement condemning anti-LGBTQ hate and federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh lent support to counter-protesters in Ottawa, Conservative MPs were reportedly told not to discuss the protests with news media.

As well, the Pride groups noted, party members passed “a number of transphobic policy resolutions” at this year’s Conservative Party of Canada convention.

“The political attacks on this community are a tremendous setback to all of those in our region and elsewhere who have worked to build more inclusive and understanding communities for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and forms of gender expression,” their statement said.

Hartlen cited two prime reasons why it’s important for Melillo to speak up.

“On the one hand, he is our local representative of the Conservative Party and it is their party that is proposing some policies that will be harmful to transgender people and youth in this country,” Hartlen said.

It’s also significant that Melillo is among the youngest MPs, Hartlen added.

“We feel that his voice will carry a weight and perhaps influence other young people to stand up and support transgender people in this country.”

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source