Degas Sikorski works, or used to wark, at a Party City store in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He hasn’t been scheduled for a while, but decided to show up to work this past Valentine’s Day when the store employees were having a party. When he got there, a supervisor had made gifts for all the staff, and he gave a special one to Degas that read:
"Faggot! You are not getting shifts for a reason!”
Sikorski, who has been openly gay since he was fourteen was stunned at the “gift.”
His mother, Shelley Bramhoff Sikorski, however was livid, and took her anger to Facebook and asked that the story of what happened to her son be spread; it went viral.
And it caught the eye of openly gay Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault who tried to find a way to show his support:
“I said, ‘Well Degas has allies. I’m an ally. These colleagues are allies. The prime minister is an ally.’ I texted my team ‘Please find a very nice Valentine’s card and bring it to the House.’”
Boissonnault signed the card before getting others to do the same. Newfoundland MP Seamus O’Regan and Treasury Board President Scott Brison, who are also both gay, wrote messages; as did Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef and Minister of Status of Women Patty Hajdu. And then Randy Boissonnault asked one more person to sign the card
“Dear Degas, Know that your friends outnumber the haters by the millions and I’m one of those friends. Justin Trudeau”
Degas was shocked that the Prime Minister had taken the time to sign his card:
“I want to give him a hug. I’m just shell-shocked about Justin Trudeau signing it. Living in Edmonton, so far away from Ontario, you never picture hearing anything personal from the prime minister. To know that he has my back is beautiful.”
Randy Boissonnault personally delivered the Valentine’s Day card to Degas during a brunch meeting, and brought along a photograph of Trudeau writing the note:
“I told him the story. [Trudeau] said, ‘That’s not right. Let’s write that young man a message.’ We went into his office. He sat down and signed this card. As soon as I explained the story, people were like, ‘Where’s that paper? Where’s the card? How do I sign?’ Ministers and parliamentary secretaries and MP colleagues were thoughtful. People have seen this happen in their own lives. Nobody should be experiencing that kind of behaviour at work.”
Degas Sikorski no longer works at Party City, and the company has no response to the story. Degas initially filed a police complaint, but said he dropped it because he does not want the person or persons responsible to get a criminal record. However, he said he will be filing a human rights complaint.
Boissonnault, right, who came out in his late 20s, said Sikorski’s experience with the Valentine’s card resonated with him.
“I remember being outed painfully by people. I could empathize with what he might be feeling by receiving an attack like that in the workplace. You’re just you and you’re awesome for being you. Why should anybody attack Degas for who he is in the workplace or anywhere else? It’s just not acceptable.”
As for Sikorski, he is now focusing on his schoolwork and looking ahead to volunteer opportunities within the LGBTQ community. He is also holding on tightly to the messages from the prime minister, cabinet ministers and other politicians in Ottawa.
“I’m speechless. I have so much love for everyone who has been supportive this whole way.”
Oh Canada … we have so much to learn from you. I knew we’ve come a long way with LGBT rights in this country, and I know there are some members of Congress who might reach out the way Boissonnault did, but I am pretty sure the majority of Congress couldn’t be bothered to sign a card like that.
I do know, however, that President Obama would have signed it, and I’m fairly certain a President Hillary Clinton or a President Bernie Sanders would have signed one. I am not sure about President [t]Rump or Cruz, or even Kasich.
All the more reason to vote Blue in November; keep equality moving forward.