Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre sought to distance himself Wednesday from a man who wore a “straight pride” T-shirt while posing for a photo with Poilievre at the Calgary Stampede over the weekend.
Poilievre stood for a photo with a man wearing a bright green T-shirt bearing the message: “Thank a straight person today for your existence. Straight pride.”
A smiling cowboy hat-clad Poilievre and his wife, Anaida, were pictured with the unidentified man at the annual rodeo and exhibition. The man also posed separately for a photo with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.
The man also has been seen carrying a “F— Trudeau” flag — the favoured prop of elements associated with the Freedom Convoy that protested COVID-era restrictions.
Speaking to reporters in Penticton, B.C., Poilievre offered a terse response to a question about the T-shirt and its message, which is offensive to many in the LGBTQ community.
“I don’t agree with that shirt,” Poilievre said before moving on to the next question.
The “straight pride” movement has emerged in recent years as a backlash against growing social acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other sexually diverse people.
LGTBQ Pride parades are held around the world throughout the summer months. They mark the June 1969 Stonewall riot, when gay bar patrons fought back against a police crackdown — a pivotal moment widely seen as the start of modern gay rights movement.
The parades are meant to celebrate a community that has endured generations of oppression and marginalization.
These events have taken on new prominence at a time when some jurisdictions, notably in the U.S., have been enacting laws to curb LGBTQ rights — with a particular focus on transgender people.
Poilievre’s spokesperson has said he was posing with “hundreds of people” at Saturday’s event.
The photo was taken before Poilievre had a chance to read what was written on the man’s shirt, the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said Conservatives are working to build a country where everyone is free to be themselves, “regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Poilievre’s adoptive father is gay.
When composing his shadow cabinet in Parliament, Poilievre picked a lesbian and a gay man for two prominent positions.
Poilievre wished the LGBTQ community a happy Pride month in June.
“I wish everyone a happy Pride month, because our freedom is something in which all of us can take pride,” Poilievre told reporters.
He said that for LGBTQ people, this includes “the freedom to marry, start a family, raise kids; freedom from bigotry and bashing; freedom to be judged by personal character, not by group identity; freedom to start a life and be judged on your merit.”
He also said Canada should continue to resettle LGBTQ refugees from abroad.
When asked about a Ugandan law that allows judges to jail people for up to 10 years for same-sex relations, Poilievre called the legislation “outrageous and appalling.”
As an MP, however, Poilievre did vote against same-sex marriage in Parliament in the early 2000s — votes that garnered recognition from socially conservative groups like Campaign Life Coalition, an anti-abortion group.