Libby Davies

(1953 – )

Libby Davies is the well-known Canadian Member of Parliament for Vancouver East, where she was first elected in 1997. In 2001 she became the first publicly identified lesbian M.P.. In 2011 she became deputy leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. Prior to entering Parliament she was a long-time community activist and in 1982 was elected to the Vancouver City Council. From 1994-7 she worked for the Hospital Employees’ Union. She is especially active in support of housing and drug reform.



Bashevkin, Sylvia. ed. 2009. Opening Doors Wider: Women’s Political Engagement in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Everitt, Johanna M. 2009. “Changing the Game Changes the Frame: the Media’s use of Lesbian Stereotypes in Leadership versus Election Campaigns.” Canadian Political Science Review 3:3 (Sept): 24-39.

Everitt, Joanna. 2003. “Media in the Maritimes: Do Female Candidates Face a Bias? Atlantis. 27:2 (Spring/Summer): 90-98.

“Libby Davies, Member of Parliament for Vancouver East,”

Svend Robinson

(1952 – )

Svend Robinson, who served in the Canadian House of Commons from 1979 to 2004, became the nation’s first openly gay M.P. in 1988. In 1995 he was a candidate for the leadership of the New Democratic Party, coming second to the winner, Alexa McDonough. He was a parliamentary leader in human rights campaigns, including the ‘right to die’. His Canadian political career came to an ignominious end in 2004 when he stole a ring. He later attributed the act to mental illness. David Rayside has presented a compelling portrait of Robinson, which notes that the fact that he was “youthful, good-looking, well educated, white, and male” (1998:188) did much to make him acceptable to a broad range of Canadians. Despite those politically advantageous qualities, Robinson proved an invaluable champion of gay and lesbian and human rights more generally.



Rayside, David and Clyde Wilcox, eds. 2011. Faith, Politics and Sexual Diversity in Canada and the United States. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Rayside, David. 1998. On the Fringe.Cornell: Cornell University Press.

Rayside, David. 2008. Queer Inclusions. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

“Svend Robinson,”

Alexa Shaw McDonough

(1944 – )

Alexa McDonough is best known as the second woman leader of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada. When she became NDP member of the provincial legislature and party leader in Nova Scotia (1981-94), she discovered that the government of the day was still so ill-prepared for female members that it offered no separate washroom facilities. In 1995 she became federal party leader and was elected to the House of Commons in 1997, serving as leader until 2003 and M.P. Until 2008. She entered politics from a progressive family and helped publicize the plight of the residents of Africville, a long-established Black Canadian community in Halifax that was razed for redevelopment in the 1960s without appropriate compensation for residents. Like her predecessor as federal leader, Audrey McLaughlin, she worked as a social worker, the same occupation indeed as that of James Shaver Woodsworth, the founder of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, the predecessor of the NDP. She had mixed electoral success as leader but became well-known as a leading Canadian opponent of Islamophobia after 9/11 and led campaigns to repatriate Mahar Arar, an Arab Canadian wrongly detained as a terrorist by the U.S. Since retirement, she continues to work in feminist and community causes. In 2012 she supported Peggy Nash, a candidate for the NDP federal leadership.



“Alexa McDonough,” 2012. Parliament of Canada.