Ryan & Xtra! Magazine

October 08, 2019

@XtraMagazine asked Ryan to answer the following six questions. Here's what he had to say:

#1) In your opinion, what’s the biggest issue facing LGBTQ2 Canadians right now?

LGBTQ2 Canadians are struggling to get by. And we certainly aren’t getting ahead. Bill Morneau’s policies have made daily life for LGBTQ2 Canadians more and more expensive over the past four years and getting a decent full-time job to try and keep our heads above water seems further and further out of reach.

Canada’s Conservatives know that small business is essential to creating stable, long term, good paying jobs. Small businesses employ more than eight million individuals in Canada, or almost 70% of the total private labour force. Justin Trudeau’s never-ending tax hikes and new regulations are making it harder and harder to launch, sustain, and grow local businesses. These include his job-killing carbon tax, increased CPP and EI premiums, increased personal income tax rates for entrepreneurs, and changes to the small business tax rate that will disqualify thousands of local businesses.

And let’s not forget the Liberal’s attack on local businesses. Despite an uprising by mom and pop shops across the country, Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau steamrolled ahead for months, claiming that business owners were just rich tax cheats. Bill Morneau and the Liberal Government are not as advertised and just can’t be trusted to make daily life more affordable for LGBTQ2 Canadians. A Conservative Government will take action to put more money in your pocket so you can finally get ahead.

#2) What are the major issues you’re hearing about from LGBTQ2 Canadians?

LGBTQ2 Canadians tell me that they like our positive vision of fiscal responsibility and social progress. They know that I have been working in social purpose for most of my career, right here in Toronto Centre. I’ve been a director at the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, and Pride Toronto. LGBTQ2 Canadians know that I will bring my experience and the lived experiences of my community with me to Ottawa.

People in the community are also telling me that they are disappointed in Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau for having broken Canada’s ethics laws. They tell me that they feel like their trust has been betrayed. In addition, people in the community say they’ve recognized a pattern among Liberals of making promises and abandoning those promises as soon as they are elected. Promises that were important to people. Promises like balancing the budget, electoral reform, and doing politics differently.

And I hear a lot about how Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau have failed to deliver on key election promises made specifically to the LGBTQ2 community, including a promise to end the discriminatory ban on blood donation. Canada’s health care system faces a chronic shortage of donated blood and blood products. But despite this shortage, Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec still discriminate against men who have sex with men. A new policy also bans trans women who have not had gender-affirming surgery, who also have sex with men, from donating. These policies are based on stigma, not science and their continued existence represents a broken promise from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Another promise made directly to LGBTQ2 Canadians was to end to the criminalization of HIV. LGBTQ2 Canadians living with HIV continue to be convicted of serious criminal offences and sentenced to years in prison for not disclosing their HIV status to their sexual partners – even when there is little to no risk of transmission. The effects of this broken promise are real. The continued criminalization of HIV undermines HIV testing, creates a false sense of security that the law can protect people from HIV, contradicts the message that every person is responsible for their own sexual health, and leads to human rights abuses by increasing the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV.

People tell me that after twenty-six years of Liberals in this riding, they feel like the Liberals are taking their support for granted. And they’re not alone – I supported Bill Morneau and the Prime Minister in the last election. I won’t be making the same mistake this time, and neither should you.

#3) If elected, what’s the first change you’d push for LGBTQ2 Canadians—whether in your riding specifically or on a national level?

After the Liberals were elected in 2015, we saw the appointment of a special advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues. It turns out, this new role would produce nothing more than meetings with LGBTQ2 organizations, delivering the Prime Minister’s message that Canada was focused on “quiet diplomacy,” and that funding critically needed by Canada’s LGBTQ2 organizations was just not available.

It’s hard to imagine this Liberal government turning down requests for funding of any kind, yet for the past four years, that’s exactly what they did. Instead of a virtuous yet ineffective position like the special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues, I would like to see the $3 million used to fund Mr. Boissonnault’s office granted to a network of Canada’s LGBTQ2 organizations. These organizations, working at the grass roots level, best understand the issues and interventions that have been proven to work in their specific communities.

For me, it’s more about empowering those organizations to do what they do best and less about fancy titles, travel budgets, excuses, and selfies.

#4) What does it mean to you to be an LGBTQ2 candidate in this election? Why was it important for you to run?

As an LGBTQ2 candidate in this election, I am proud to bring my true, authentic self to the Conservative Party of Canada. And I’m proud to bring what I’ve learned as a director with organizations working to reduce barriers for LGBTQ2 Canadians, right here in Toronto Centre. One of my mentor’s once told me, “if you aren’t at the table, then you’re on the menu.” And that has really stuck with me.

Being an LGBTQ2 candidate in this election means being at the table and representing the bodies and lived experiences of everyone in our community. Running in this election is important because I see an opportunity to actually deliver on promises and make changes that will improve life for everyone in our community.

Most of my career has focused on making a difference in people's lives. Politically, I was first compelled to try and make a difference at a local level. I was your candidate in the Toronto Municipal Election last year for the same boundary as the federal riding of Toronto Centre. That election was a tough one. Boundaries were changed, multiple incumbents ran in merged wards and people were confused. But through it all I stayed focused on the reasons I entered the race to begin with: safety, affordability, and building neighbourhoods we love to live in. Safety is a critically important issue for the LGBTQ2 community. I believe that creating safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQ2 people in Toronto Centre and across Canada happens in our homes, workplaces, and in our own communities through the conversations that we have every day.

And I know, through my work at Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, that hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ2 community remain the most violent in Canada, year after year. While we are seeing a decline in other types of hate crime, the targeting of LGBTQ2 people continues with a degree of violence that sets us apart. The Liberal Government has had four years to take meaningful action to address this issue and yet has done little when it comes to addressing violent hate crime here in Toronto Centre and across Canada.

I am encouraged by Egale Canada’s research that shows a positive impact where Egale delivers its crime prevention training to police services and communities. The Liberal Government has known about this training and its positive impacts on rates of hate crime against the LGBTQ2 community and yet for the last four years, there has been no investment by the federal government to bring this program to more communities. 

#5) What do you think of the current representation of LGBTQ2 candidates running in this election?

It's great to see another LGBTQ2 candidate in the race for Toronto Centre. The NDP candidate and I both worked on Olivia Chow’s campaign for Toronto Mayor in 2014. That campaign was truly a big tent, with Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats at all levels of the organization and among its supporters. For me personally, I was excited by the possibility of having an immigrant woman of colour lead the country’s most diverse city. And while the electoral result wasn’t what we hoped for, I join with my neighbours in recognizing the great work that our current Mayor has done in leading our City.

#6) Is there anything else you want LGBTQ2 Canadians to know about you?

Those who know me would say I’m a fighter. I’m a tough negotiator, but I’m careful to fight for the community from a position that is fair, thoughtful and compassionate. I never lose sight of the fact that there are real people who are affected by policy decisions – or the absence of policy decisions.

Some might say that I have a bit of a reputation. And I agree. It’s a reputation for setting goals with people and working hard to meet them. I’m proud of the work that I’ve been able to do with organizations that are working to improve lives within the LGBTQ2 community and I will continue to advocate for policies that reduce barriers faced by the community, here in Toronto Centre, across Canada, and internationally.

The LGBTQ2 community welcomed me with open arms when I moved to Toronto from a small town in South-Western Ontario more than a decade ago.This is the community where I continue to live my daily life, volunteering and enjoying all the social groups, dining, and nightlife that the Village has to offer. I love my LGBTQ2 community here in Toronto Centre and believe strongly that it’s worth fighting for.