I'm here at the Ottawa-centre candidate debate at the National Art Gallery. A screening of the documentary "The Year We Thought About Love" just finished, depicting the stories of young people a part of the True Colors acting troupe in Boston. The troupe travels around schools performing plays based off of the student's real life experiences with coming out and their encounters with religion.
So far the Liberal, NDP, and Green party leaders are present taking their places on stage. The debate is scheduled to start any minute.
Moderating the debate is professor Dawn Moore from Carleton where she teaches law and legal studies.
Moore commented on the empty chair where the conservative candidate should be sitting, and the audience laughed. "It's our democratic process at work," she said.
Scripted questions from organizations, including One World who is the not-for-profit that is hosting the event, will start off the debate. Audience questions will proceed.
First question: "What steps would your party take for a national action strategy to address the youth homelessness problem in Canada?"
"When you look at the stats . . . it's so glaring that we have a massive problem with homelessness," said Catherine Mckenna, Liberal party candidate.
She also said it requires a multi pronged strategy, saying there's a no "one size fits all strategy." She says the Liberals have committed 20 billion dollars to social infrastructure which includes housing and social housing.
NDP candidate Paul Dewar says they're looking to create a national housing strategy, with injecting the money for building houses right away.
"It's not just about the roof over one's head, it's about the services we provide," he says.
Milroy speaks to the unacceptable nature of the conservative candidate not being there, but saying his choice not to might have saved him severe scrutiny.
Second question is on Bill C-279 that wasn't passed into legislation. All three candidates speak to how the current conservative government has failed on this front.
As it was an NDP lead initiative, Dewar says they will bring it back.
Third: "What will your party do to make sure Canada leaves it's borders open to LGBT refugees?"
"The money required to bring refugee families is is quite expensive," Milroy said. He also said the hold up is in the fed end.
"It took 140 years to build up our reputation around the world, it only took about 10 to destroy it," Milroy said.
McKenna said the Liberals made an announcement about reforms in relation to refugees. They said refugees must be assessed on their merits where your sexual orientation would prevent a refugee from applying for status.
"That's a very Canadian value, that we're letting people in, and we should be letting people in because their rights are being violated," she said.
Fourth question: "How will your parties support the arts and education access to the arts of students with all backgrounds, including those of the LGBTQ community?"
"We just made a very big announcement for funding for the arts," McKenna says.
She reflects on a friend of hers from high school that came out to her after years of friendship, who drew constantly. Her friend later informed her that she drew because it was the only way she felt she could express herself.
"I will be fighting for money for arts program for youth," she said.
"I challenge people to go a day without the arts. Good luck," Dewar said. "But we don't support them."
He also said to make sure the funding goes straight to the grass roots, saying the National Art Gallery hasn't even produced some of the best art in Ottawa.
Milroy says there needs to be more interchange within the education system, like the True Colors acting troupe from the film.
Fifth question: "What will your party do to end the criminalization of HIV in this country?"
Dewar says the courts ignore how vulnerable someone can feel when they have to disclose their HIV status, with the potential to be arrested if they don't disclose this information.
"In 2015, I'm sorry to say, a lot of people still don't know what it means to be HIV positive," he said. "We need to take this out of the courts and put it into the public domain."
Milroy says the Greens are very interested in removing this aspect from the criminal code and should take a leadership position in education regarding HIV.
He says the government hasn't collaborated with anyone in the past 10 years, including aboriginal people.
"It's not going to happen unless we develop better skills in communication and collaboration, and speaking with the communities that are affected by it the most," he said.
McKenna says the way the conservative party approaches the justice system is by looking to create a new crime because there's "nothing else out there."
A man in the audience just called to McKenna saying this wasn't the issue, and asked her to answer the question. Moore asked him to wait until the audience was able to ask questions in order to address her.
Final scripted question: "What will your party do to address trans feminine women?"
Milroy says a lot of progress has been made on this front, however there is still an underlying "redneckness"
The Green party would amend the human rights act to include gender expression under protection, according to Milroy.
McKenna says Trudeau has been extremely supportive of trans rights, and has attended every pride parade.
"What struck me with the mural," she said. "Is that it's a reminder that violence is a very big issue in the community."
"It's not just laws," she said. Educating the community here and abroad is the way to go about it, she says.
Dewar says he participates in a yearly vigil for trans people who have been murdered. "We have to provide access to transition, health services, employment."
All three candidates agree the vandalized mural makes this week a hard week. Dewar also commented on the three murdered women by Basil Borutski earlier this week.