Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made news this weekend by signing a belated Valentine’s Day card, along with several members of Canadian Parliament, for an Alberta man named Degas Sikorski. Why would Justin Trudeau sign a valentine for just one university student? Sikorski’s mother, Shelley Bramhoff Sikorski, took to Facebook on Valentine’s Day weekend to share her anger and sadness after her son received a valentine that had a horrible gay slur scrawled on it in black marker at the Party City in northern Edmonton, where he was employed at the time.
Degas Sikorski received a makeshift valentine that comprised two attached paper plates, which were then filled with candy and covered in hearts. Someone who has yet to be publicly identified wrote a slur that is deeply offensive to the LGBT community on the valentine, and also wrote, “You are not getting shifts for a reason.” One of the reasons Justin Trudeau may have personally responded to Sikorski is because that message implies that the discriminatory hatred that Sikorski faced at his job was coming from some form of management, and that it may actually have resulted in lost wages if he was refused shifts. Pink News reports that Degas Sikorski was openly gay at work.
Degas Sikorski’s mother said that her son was working at Party City in Edmonton to put himself through university, and had been working there for three years. Shortly after her Facebook post went viral, CBC News called the Party City location for comment, and supervisor Liesal Webb said she was completely unaware of staff exchanging valentines. This is somewhat hard to believe, as Pink News reported that a supervisor, not necessarily Webb, decorated the break room with these valentines. They also reported that Degas Sikorski had not received a shift in six weeks. Sikorski has since quit his job with Party City. When pressed for further comment, Party City emailed a statement to CBC News.
“Party City does not condone this behaviour and is committed to creating a fair and inclusive working environment. We are currently looking into this matter and will provide more information as it becomes available.”
Degas Sikorski said that his mother’s viral post was removed by Facebook, which is a strange wrinkle in the story.
Justin Trudeau signed a valentine for Degas Sikorski with the inscription, “Dear Degas, know that your friends outnumber the haters by the millions and I’m one of those friends.” The card was presented to Sikorski by Edmonton-Centre MP Randy Boissonault at brunch on Saturday, and Sikorski said he immediately teared up when he saw the numerous supportive messages and signatures from officials of the Canadian government. Justin Trudeau also posed for a photograph while holding the valentine, which features a photo of a rose and came in a professional green booklet embossed with the stamp of the Canadian House of Commons.
Justin Trudeau’s signature on the valentine rendered Degas Sikorski “speechless,” according to Randy Boissonault, who also said that Sikorski told him he felt “totally loved.” Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade, also signed the card, with the inscription, “You are amazing! We all support you!”
Justin Trudeau’s inscription and signature are thanks to Randy Boissonault, who told CBC News that he wanted to do something for Degas Sikorski as soon as he saw Shelley Bramhoff Sikorski’s viral Facebook post. Trudeau is already very much in the news this week, as he was the first Canadian Prime Minister in 19 years to be welcomed to the White House with a state dinner, which was held on Thursday, March 10.
Degas Sikorski said that he has been interviewed by a human resources team at Party City, now his former place of employment — but as of his last update, he had not received any form of a public apology from the company.
[Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images]