Holland defends absence from Pride events

By Kevin Jeffrey
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Thunder Bay–Atikokan MPP Kevin Holland is pushing back against criticism over his absence from recent Pride events in his riding, specifically rejecting a claim that he ignored requests to meet with a local LGBTQ+ organization.

“I support all people in my riding, regardless of life choices, race, religion,” he said in an interview. “I represent all people equally and I don’t differentiate between any groups.”

Scotia Kauppi, chair of the Thunder Pride Association, raised concerns last week over Holland’s engagement during a virtual presser featuring LGBTQ+ organizations across the province hosted by the Ontario NDP.

Kauppi said the Progressive Conservative MPP has “ghosted” requests for meetings, while noting his absence from flag raisings and other Pride events in June.

The MPP pushed back, saying “I have never been contacted by [anyone with] Thunder Pride by email, phone or text to attend a single event. I had four other commitments that day.”

The Rainbow Collective of Thunder Bay, another local LGBTQ+ advocacy group that co-organized June’s Pride events, has also questioned Holland’s lack of participation.

The group put out a statement in June saying the MPP had been “noticeably absent” from Pride month events at a time of escalating hate against the LGBTQ+ community.

Holland said he had missed the Pride street festival, one of the month’s central events, on June 17 only because he was attending the eighth annual Thunder Bay Mining Days at the marina, and noted he had sent a representative to the Pride event on his behalf.

“Mining days is very important to the [Thunder Bay–Atikokan] riding and all people in our riding,” he said, adding he had attended Pride events in 2022.

Holland was elected in June 2022 in a riding that was held by the Liberals from its creation in 1999 until 2018.

He said he feels he’s been unfairly grilled on his lack of attendance at community events, suggesting other elected officials in the region don’t face the same type of scrutiny.

Holland said his record in office thus far speaks for itself.

“I have been out in the community and I’ve met with all organizations, because I’ve never turned down a request to meet,” he said. “I am more than happy to meet with the Pride group here in Thunder Bay. All they have to do is reach out to me.”