Pascale St-Onge is Canada’s first cabinet lesbian

OTTAVO – While representation and diversity continue to gradually improve in federal politics, historic firsts are still happening, the latest being the appointment of Pascale St-Onge to cabinet.

She is the first out lesbian to become a federal minister, accepting the role as minister of sports and minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec.

“It’s a little surprising because we’re in 2021,” St-Onge told CTVNews.ca in an interview on Wednesday when asked what she thought when she realized that this remarkable milestone in LGBTQ2S + representation has been reached.

Brome-Missisquoi Representative, Ke. after a nail-biting race that came down to less than 200 votes, St-Onge said she feels privileged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tapped her to join a cabinet, and vows to bring a new perspective to government decision-making.

“When you have more diversity around the table, there will be new concerns that will be raised, or angles that have not been seen before by other people, because we all bring our different experiences to the table,” she said. said.

‘MANY INTERESTS’

While St-Onge said it’s important that these firsts are still noted, especially to send the message to young people and members of the LGBTQ2S + community that there is room for them in politics, “at the same time, my professional past speaks for itself. ”

Prior to politics, St-Onge was the president of a Quebec-based trade union organization the Federation nationale des communications et de la culture, where she focused on advocacy for the media and cultural sectors. She studied French literature at the University of Quebec, and has a journalism certificate from the University of Montreal.

“Obviously I have a lot of interests in life,” she said.

She also played bass in an independent rock band, Mad June, along with five friends for about a decade. Years have passed since they played, St-Onge said they still get together often.

“It was a good time … But at the same time with my responsibility at the Federation it was like having two lives. Really high-pressure work, and at the same time playing in bars and events at night. So once, I had to make a decision, and I went for another passion of mine, which is the arts and the media, ”she said.

Deciding to run federally came after a call from then-national liberal campaign co-chair and current foreign minister Melanie Joly, asking if she would be interested in running.

“Even though I never thought I would do it, I guess it opened the door and thought,” she said. She also said she spoke with Steven Guilbeault about her path, and concluded that she wants to adhere to what she sees as the Liberal government’s push to “make Canada more equal and inclusive”.

‘Keep pushing forward’

In terms of pledges made to the LGBTQ2S + community by the current government, two of the main commitments have now been carried out during successive elections, left unfulfilled. The 2021 election was the second campaign in which the Liberals promised to pass legislation against the harmful practice of conversion therapy, and since 2015 they have promised to eliminate the blood ban.

“There is still a lot of work to be done … We cannot take any rights, any human rights for granted. We’ve seen a setback in different countries, so we have to make sure we’re vocal, that we’re loud about these issues, and that we’re continuing to push forward, ”she said.

St-Onge is one of two extraordinary women in the 44th parliament, the other being a fellow rookie Conservative MP for Thornhill, Ont. Melissa Lantsman. Former NDP MP Libby Davies was Canada’s first openly lesbian MP, representing Vancouver East, BC between 1997 and 2015.

While the list remains relatively short, there are lesbians elected at other levels of government, including current Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin and former Ontario Liberal Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne.

St-Onge joins fellow rookie and returning Liberal MP for Edmonton Center, Alta. Randy Boissonault, who was named the Canadian Minister of Tourism and Assistant Minister of Finance, as well as Minister of Labor and St. John’s South — Mount Pearl, Nfld. MP Seamus O’Regan Jr. like the strange contingent of the cabinet.

PLANS FOR HIS FILE

St-Onge has spent much of the last week in briefings, agreeing on her new files, as she will soon face questions in the House of Commons on key issues under her responsibility including the ongoing conversation about the NHL’s sexual treatment. assault charges, and the upcoming Winter Olympics.

While she is still diving into these worlds, she said a key focus for her will be to ensure that Canadian sports environments are safe.

“We know how important sport is to mental health, and inclusion, as well as social connection. And I think making sure that vulnerable people, vulnerable communities make sure they feel included, that they can practice physical activity,” she said. “I think we still have a lot of work to do, but the first steps are done.”

St-Onge said the new position reconnects her to her past, as a former athlete. She said she was a swimmer from the ages of six to 16, and then she took volleyball and was recruited to play while at university. She stopped when she was injured and now mostly jogs, swims and goes kayaking for fun.

“I really understand the reality of the competitive world and the federations, with the coaches and everything that happens to make an athlete successful, so I’m really excited to get to know everyone involved and make sure that sport has a unique and important place in Canada.” she said.

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