Taoiseach to march in Montreal Pride Parade today

Abortion campaigners have criticized the Taoiseach for championing gay rights while abortion remains illegal

The Taoiseach will march in the Montreal Pride Parade today alongside the Canadian Prime Minister.

The event is scheduled as part of Leo Varadkar’s three-day Canadian tour which begins today.

The visit kicks off with a bilateral meeting with Mr Varadkar’s opposite number Justin Trudeau – before both men join the parade.

The effects of Brexit and the CETA trade agreement between Canada and the EU are expected to be among the topics up for discussion.

Over the weekend, pro-choice campaigners have accused Mr Varadkar of hypocrisy over his championing of gay rights while abortion remains illegal in Ireland.

Ailbhe Smyth from the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment said human rights and equality are not 'pick and mix menus':

“I would really like to see that someone like Leo Varadkar would have an understanding that it is not enough to come out in favour of one aspect of human rights while completely ignoring another,” she said.

On social media, Twitter users have been pushing the viral hashtag #justinformleo - calling on Mr Trudeau to raise Ireland's abortion legislation during the bilateral meeting.

Ms Smyth said Ireland could take inspiration from Canada’s approach to the issue:

“The principle I think is a very interesting one which is to say that abortion is a medical procedure that falls within the general provision of reproductive and maternal health services rather than singling it out for special treatment as is the case here in Ireland.”

Tomorrow the Taoiseach will move on to Toronto where he is due to attend a number of engagements aimed at growing trade, tourism and investment opportunities between Ireland and Canada.

A government spokesperson said bilateral trade between the two countries is worth more than €2.75 billion per year.

“The CETA trade deal between Canada and the EU comes into effect on a provisional basis in September and so it is timely for me to visit Canada to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau and deepen the important bilateral relationship between our two countries,” said Mr Varadkar. 

“The Government is determined to expand our markets overseas, so we can increase job opportunities and create a Republic of Opportunity at home. 

“Over 4.5 million Canadians claim Irish ancestry, so as well as meeting with business leaders to I also look forward to meeting with members of the Irish community in both Montreal and Toronto and representatives of the emigrant support services who work on their behalf."

The European Parliament voted in favour of the controversial CETA trade deal in February as crowds of protestors demonstrated outside.

While proponents of the deal insist it will be beneficial to economies on both side of the Atlantic, campaigners have highlighted fears it will allow multi-national companies to challenge Irish laws and regulations in court.

They are also concerned about the impact it will have on food standards, public services and financial regulation.