OTTAWA – Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said that a new travel advisory warning Canadians who are LGBTQ to be careful travelling in some parts of the United States is in no way politically motivated, and is meant to focus on Canadians’ safety.
On Tuesday, Global Affairs Canada updated its travel advisories website for Canadian travellers visiting the United States. It now reads: “Some states have enacted laws and policies that may affect 2SLGBTQI+ persons. Check relevant state and local laws.”
Freeland defended the advisory, which she said was initiated by the public service, when she was asked about it at a press conference in Moncton on Tuesday.
“As someone who has had the real privilege of serving as Canada’s foreign minister, I know that our travel advisories are done very professionally,” she said.
“We have professionals in the government whose job is to look carefully around the world and to monitor whether there are particular dangers to particular groups of Canadians. That’s their job and it’s the right thing to do,” she added.
No states are specifically identified in Canada’s travel advisory. In recent months, some Republican state governments have advanced bills that include limits on public drag shows and prohibit permanent medical transitions for children seeking to change their gender.
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Jason Opal, professor of American history at McGill University, said he thinks the timing of the travel advisory indicates that Canada is considering the repercussions of new laws in certain states impacting LGBTQ issues.
“While I think it’s a big deal to make an advisory basically discouraging certain Canadians to go to the United States, I think it is merited in this case because of the nature of the language around these bills, which are truly alarming,” he said.
Opal said it is reasonable for the Canadian government to tell its citizens to proceed with caution when going to a drag show or a gay bar in certain states, given the heated rhetoric around some gender-identity issues.
“We’re not talking about a situation where the state is organized around a certain form of fundamental sexual morality. But some of these states, Tennessee is an example, are now more similar to or analogous to or parallel with Russia on these issues,” he said.
Freeland, who was foreign minister when Canada renegotiated NAFTA with the Trump administration, said she has experience dealing with American leaders of various political stripes. She dismissed suggestions that the new advisory would strain Canada’s relationship with its closest neighbour and trading partner.
“I think our government has shown that that’s a priority … that we’re able to manage that relationship, regardless of the choices that the people of the United States make,” she said.
Freeland however refused to tell reporters if the Liberal government had discussed the new travel advisory with the Biden administration, insisting that such decisions are made independently.
“Even as we work hard on that government-to-government relationship, every Canadian government, very much including our government, needs to put at the centre of everything we do the interests and the safety of every single Canadian and every single group of Canadians,” she said.
“That’s what we’re doing now.”
The travel advisory comes as politicians in Canada have been grappling with the issue of minors who ask to change genders. In New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, governments are backing a requirement for parents to be informed if children ask at school to change their name or gender identity.
Ontario’s education minister, Stephen Lecce, sad this week that “parents must be fully involved and fully aware of what’s happening in the life of their children” but did not indicate if his province was planning to legislate on the issue.
At next week’s Conservative Party of Canada convention, members will debate and vote on resolutions such as preventing children from receiving permanent gender-transitioning medical procedures, and keeping people born male from participating in female-only sports.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Tuesday he would not comment on any members’ proposals until after party members vote on them.
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