Wednesday, 19 December 2012

BROADWAY'S NEW QUEEN? PLUM POSTING FOR FORMER PQ LEADER ANDRE BOISCLAIR



Quebec’s newly-appointed delegate-general to New York, Andre Boisclair (wearing black suit, standing next to Pauline Marois), attended the Dec. 14 Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal premiere at NYC’s Joyce Theate (Photo courtesy Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal)


Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair, Quebec’s newly-appointed delegate-general to New York, attended the Dec. 14 premiere of Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal at NYC’s Joyce Theater with Quebec's current premier Pauline Marois and Louis Robitaille, BJM artistic director.

The event comes just over a week after Boisclair declined his partisan double-posting as assistant deputy minister for International Relations which would have allowed him to remain in the Quebec civil service on a permanent basis even after his delegate-general to New York job ended, with a guaranteed annual salary of $170,000. Boisclair would have then been able to start taking his full pension at the age of 55.

Boisclair reportedly sought permanent status in the civil service because his New York appointment meant he had to renounce his consultancy work. But on Dec. 6, after a public outcry, Marois held a snap news conference to announce that Boisclair was giving up the civil servant position.


André Boisclair debating in 2005

(Photo by Rantes, via Wikipedia)
“I heard the various points of views and judgments made by people on this situation and I don’t want my government to be attacked on ethical questions,” Marois said at the news conference. “I am therefore acting quickly to rectify this situation.”

CTV Montreal reports, “Boisclair was first elected to the National Assembly in 1989 and served as cabinet minister from 1998 to 2003. He left politics to earn a post-secondary degree at Harvard University, and became PQ leader in [November 2005], only quitting the party after leading it to a third-place defeat in 2007. Boisclair also admitted in 2005 that he had used cocaine repeatedly between 1996 and 2003.”

During his successful 2005 PQ leadership campaign, I wrote in Three Dollar Bill about why I outed Boisclair in this column in 1997. Back then Boisclair was a 31-year-old minister responsible for the Quebec Human Rights Commission, and I outed him because he reneged on his promise to give $20,000 to Montreal’s cash-strapped anti-gaybashing support group Dire enfin la violence. 

Four of the city’s highest-profile gay activists – the late Douglas Buckley-Couvrette, Roger LeClerc (who would go on to fight AIDS in Burkina Faso), Claudine Metcalfe (who would become a political attaché for the Quebec Liberal Party) and Michael Hendricks (who successfully sued Quebec and Canada in a historic court case for the right to marry his partner of 30 years, the same case which forced Ottawa's hand in 2005 to legalize same-sex civil marriage) – held a dramatic sabre-rattling press conference to denounce Boisclair. 

“The Committee on Violence is calling on all gays and lesbians, out or not, who work in all levels of government and its organizations, to demand recognition of gay and lesbian realities,” their press release stated. 

“Is Boisclair gay?” Buckley-Couvrette asked me afterwards with a gleam in his eye. “I can’t be sure because I’ve never sucked his cock.” 

There was the implicit threat to out Boisclair if he didn’t cough up the money, which he did within hours of the press conference. 

Still, incensed that a closeted politician could make the lives of other gays and lesbians yet more difficult (Greater Montreal, home to an estimated 400,000 gays and lesbians, was at the time averaging two gaybashings per week), I decided to take it a step further. 

So I interviewed Jean-Pierre Paquet, the former secretary-general of L’Association nationale des étudiants et étudiantes du Québec (ANEEQ) who was outed by the now-defunct Federation des associations étudiantes collégiales du Québec (FAECQ) during a nasty political fight in 1986. 

Touted as unofficial breeding grounds for the major political parties, the rival student groups went all-out to enlist new recruits. “FAECQ told a member of the student population at CÉGEP Montmorency not to throw their support behind ANEEQ because I was gay,” Paquet told me in 1997. “FAECQ wasn’t a big organization at the time, with about 10 active [CÉGEP] members. If one member knew, I think the others would too.” 

Boisclair was a member and past president of FAECQ when Paquet was outed in 1986. 

When Boisclair “officially” came out in the pages of Voir in 2000, he actually said, “For me, coming out is a false debate. If coming out of the closet means being at peace with your family, friends and colleagues, I did it a long time ago. Besides, I refuse to wear labels imposed on me by others. Liberty also means the freedom to make one’s own choices. I will not allow anyone to define my identity or group I belong to. I associate with my friends, my family and Quebec. Not with the gay community. I have never chosen to live in the [gay] community. And I’m not about to begin today.”

To his credit, Boisclair changed his tune years later. In April 2005 he told L’actualité magazine, “I wouldn’t say that today.”

And judging by his debut as Quebec’s new glamourous delegate-general to New York attending the  Ballets Jazz de Montreal premiere at NYC’s Joyce Theater, I expect Boisclair will be having a gay old time in the Big Apple.

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