• Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marches in the gay pride parade in Toronto (Getty Images, Toronto Star)Source: Getty Images, Toronto Star
He is the first Canadian prime minister to participate in the annual LGBTQIA+ event.
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

5 Jul 2016 - 12:05 PM  UPDATED 5 Jul 2016 - 12:05 PM

As Australian politicians argue about the merits of a same-sex marriage plebiscite, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was dancing, waving flags and taking selfies out the front of Toronto's Pride Parade.

Trudeau is the first sitting prime minister to participate in the annual event, reaffirming his support for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in Canada.

"I've been coming to this for years and it's sort of frustrating that it has to be a big thing," Trudeau told Canada's CP24.

"It shouldn't be a big thing that the prime minister is walking in the Pride Parade, and from now on, it won't."

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Trudeau spent nearly two hours walking in the parade on July 3, broken up with some dancing and a couple of direct hits from toy water guns.

Walking alongside the Prime Minster during the march was Bassel Mcleash, a 29 year old Syrian refugee who had hoped to catch a glimpse of Trudeau as he took part in the parade.

Mcleash was stunned to find himself walking next to the leader of his newly-adopted country.

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"Just the idea of attending a pride parade was a dream," he told The Guardian.

"To march in it was like an extreme dream. But to march in the parade next to the prime minister - not in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought about having a day like this."

Three hard years after leaving Damascus, Mcleash arrived in Toronto in May through a program for LGBT+ Syrians launched by Toronto organisation Rainbow Railroad, which helps LGBT+ people escape persecution and violence.

Halfway through the march Mcleash turned to Trudeau and thanked him for his government's commitment to bringing in tens of thousands of refugees to the country. 

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"He told me that Canadians were the ones who asked him to take in refugees," he said.

"I literally wanted to cry. I was barely able to contain myself."

Later that day, Trudeau used the occasion to discuss introducing a gender-neutral selection on identity cards.

He hasn't given details, but said the government was exploring the "best way" and studying other jurisdictions. 

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"That's part of the great arc of history sweeping towards justice," he said.

Ten years ago this week, the Canadian parliament passed the Civil Marriage Act, making Canada the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.