Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne says it’s because of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that she and her partner Jane Rounthwaite don’t live in fear of persecution.
Wynne, Canada’s first openly gay premier, was speaking Friday to a group of immigrants about the rights they enjoy as new Canadians.
“The Charter of Rights is a key part of that,” she told the students at Toronto’s Costi Corvetti Education Centre.
Wynne, speaking publicly for the first time this campaign about her sexual orientation, said she knows the importance of the Charter “because in my adult life . . . the rights of gay people were recognized — my partner Jane is here somewhere — and gay marriage was recognized.”
“And Jane and I can live without fear because of the values that we all share and . . . the Charter of Rights and Freedom is expression of that value. So, that’s how it should be in Canada . . . and I think it is a big part of the reason that you are here,” she said.
“I wouldn’t be standing before you as leader of the province if not for the Charter. It has allowed me to be all that I can be and it will do the same for you.”
Later, Wynne told reporters that she did not really come to grips with her sexuality until she was an adult, married and the mother of three children, while Jane “grew up knowing she was different.”
“I didn’t figure that out until I was 37, so I had lived with all the privilege of being a heterosexual and in being in a heterosexual marriage until I was 37 . . . but Jane spent many, many years not talking about her social life, not being open in her place of work and having to pretend she was something other than who she was. That’s a very common story among gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered kids,” she said.
Wynne said she is convinced of Canadian values “we can have as society that allows everyone to be who they are so kids like Jane and kids who are growing up questioning who they are will have the supports in all of our schools to be exactly who they are.”
She was at the centre to underscore the value of funding English as a second language classes.
“The foundation of what we are as a country and a province is that we work together . . . and share a value system. So the perfect starting point for me is in a class where people are learning to learn and speak a shared language,” said Wynne, who once taught ESL classes and worked in adult education.
In a swipe at Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, her main rival in the June 12 election, she recalled that one of the first things the former Mike Harris PC government did in the 1990s was “cut adult education programs across government and our government has been working to restore those programs and to find way to support adult education.”