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Detail from the event poster

Candidates to set the record straight on LGBTQ issues

By Lee Pepper on September 25, 2015



The One World Film Festival, an annual documentary film festival that focuses on social justice, human rights and environmental issues, is wading into the political fray with a candidates’ debate on topics affecting LGBTQ communities.  The event promises to see where some of Ottawa’s federal candidates stand on “trans rights, HIV criminalization laws, the blood-ban, support services for youth at risk, and community-based educational programs”.

LGBTQ-Election-Debate (1)The debate takes place tonight at the National Gallery.  The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Ten Oaks Project, Gender Mosaic, and *Kind partnered with the film festival to organize the event.

Paul Dewar (NDP), Catherine McKenna (Liberal), and Tom Milroy (Green) will be debating.  Conservative candidate Damian Konstantinakos has opted not to attend the debate, citing a policy not to attend ‘specific issue’ debates. The debate will be moderated by Dawn Moore, President of Ten Oaks Project,

We spoke with Jessica Ruano, Manager of the One World Film Festival, about how this debate came into being, and what attendees can expect from the evening.

Apt613: It seems like an unusual choice to have a candidate’s debate as part of a film festival. Could you tell us a bit about how the event was conceived of and planned?

Not so unusual considering we have a rather important election coming up. Everyone’s talking about it, so why shouldn’t we? As artists and filmmakers, I believe we have a responsibility to be engaged with the world around us, and election season (lord, sounds like ‘hunting season’…) is a time when information is making the rounds: is it true? is it accurate? how do we feel about it? how do we think about it? what can we DO about it? Do our research, for a start. Watch documentary films. Hear what the politicians have to say. Ask them the right questions. And then take action. Repeat as necessary.

How does the debate fit in with the rest of the evening’s programming?

Our first film of the evening is The Year We Thought About Love about an LGBTQ theatre troupe in Boston that puts on shows in schools to educate their classmates on queer issues. Well, that reminded me of the work of one of my favourite organizations the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. So founder and director Jeremy Dias and I had a chat, got a number of other wonderful organizations involved, and the idea for a Candidates Debate on LGBTQ issues was born.

We’re also showing a second film titled Landfill Harmonic, that features this incredible youth orchestra from Paraguay whose instruments are made from recycled garbage. The theme for the evening is “The Kids Are All Right” and it’s focused on youth and the arts as a vehicle for change.

unnamedCan you give us a preview of some of the questions you’ll be asking the candidates, or issues you’ll be touching on?

At risk of giving away too much, we’ll be tackling everything from support for local LGBTQ community groups to global awareness of LGBTQ refugees.

Do you know if a Conservative candidate will be joining the debate, given that Damian Konstantinakos has chosen not to attend?

We have searched far and wide for a Conservative candidate to join the table, and we await an answer with baited breath.

What has the response been from candidates about being invited to participate in this debate, given that it’s the first time there has been a debate specific to LGBTQ topics?

Paul Dewar, Catherine McKenna, and Tom Milroy have been wonderfully enthusiastic about the debate, which thrills me. But we’re planning on asking them some pretty tough questions, so although all three are supportive of the LGBTQ community, I’m curious to see how their answers will differ on the more complex issues. Stay tuned!

The debate will be held at the National Gallery of Canada tonight, September 25th, at 7:30 p.m.  The One World Film Festival continues on Saturday with the “Our Home on Native Land” program. For details, see the festival schedule.