Cheri DiNovo

Cheri DiNovo CM (born c. 1951[1][2]) is a United Church of Canada minister and former politician in Ontario, Canada. She served at the Emmanuel-Howard Park congregation in Toronto before entering politics and, since January 2018, is the minister for the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts.

Cheri DiNovo
Cheri DiNovo 2015 Photoshoot.jpg
Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament
for Parkdale—High Park
In office
September 14, 2006 – December 31, 2017
Preceded byGerard Kennedy
Succeeded byBhutila Karpoche
Personal details
Born1951 (age 70–71)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyNew Democratic
Gil Gaspar
(m. 1999⁠–⁠2019)
Residence(s)Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Alma materYork University
University of Toronto
ProfessionProtestant minister

DiNovo was a New Democratic member representing Parkdale—High Park in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario from 2006 to 2017. She was first elected in a by-election on 14 September 2006 and retired from politics on 31 December 2017.


DiNovo grew up in a rooming house owned by her parents. After her father's death from emphysema and witnessing her stepfather's suicide, she dropped out of school at Grade 10 to live on the streets[3] for four years.[1][4] During her time on the streets, she helped smuggle LSD into Canada from California inside hollowed-out bibles.[5] Her time spent at the Fred Victor Mission convinced her to earn her high school equivalency and enrol at Centennial College, though she soon transferred from Centennial to York University.[3] It was during her time at York that she became involved with the student protest movement of the 1960s and joined the Young Socialists of Canada. An openly bisexual woman, DiNovo was the only woman to sign Canada's first gay liberation manifesto "We Demand" in 1971.[6][7]

DiNovo left university shy of her degree and began working for a corporate headhunting firm, then in the early 1980s ran her own firm - the Abbott Group, a recruitment firm that specialized in placing women in high-profile jobs - for five years.[1][3] In 1988, after some church-shopping with her then-husband Don Zielinski she joined a United Church of Canada congregation in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Soon after she finished up her York University degree and enrolled at Emmanuel College at the University of Toronto. In 1992, Zielinski was killed in a motorcycle accident. She earned her masters of divinity in 1995 and served a rural charge in Brucefield, Ontario for two years before beginning her ministry at Emmanuel-Howard Park United.[3] In 1999, she married college professor Gil Gaspar.[8] In 2002 she earned a doctorate in ministry from the University of Toronto.[2][9]

DiNovo began hosting a weekly radio show, The Radical Reverend, on Toronto's CIUT-FM in 2000 which ran until 2006, before resuming in 2017.[3] She performed the first legal same-sex marriage registered in Canada in 2001.[10] Her book Qu(e)erying Evangelism: Growing a Community from the Outside In won the Lambda Literary Award in the Spirituality category for 2006.[11]

She has two children, Francesca and Damien Zielinski.[12]

As of 2013, she continued to appear on CIUT as host of 3 Women, a weekly show in which she moderates a political discussion with two guests, other women in politics, or leaders of social initiatives.[13]

DiNovo is known as the "Queen of tri-party bills"[by whom?] for tabling the most bills in the Legislature that have received support from all of Ontario's three major parties. According to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, DiNovo "passed more private member's bills than anyone else. She pulled together more three-party agreement bills than anyone else."[14] MPP DiNovo passed more LGBTQ bills than anyone in Canadian history, including Toby's Act which added trans rights to the Ontario Human Rights Code in 2012,[15] the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act which banned conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth in 2015,[16] Cy and Ruby's Act which established parent equality for LGBTQ parents in 2015,[17] and the Trans Day of Remembrance Act in 2017.[18]


NDP nomination and 2006 Parkdale–High Park by-electionEdit

When Gerard Kennedy stepped down as the Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Parkdale–High Park, the NDP was not expected to win the seat.[19] Two candidates came forward to contest the NDP nomination: DiNovo and former journalist, and at the time of the nomination, the executive director of the Canadian Arab Federation, Mohamed Boudjenane.[19] The spirited campaign that followed lasted about a month, with both sides signing up large numbers of new members.[19] Boudjenane was endorsed by United Steelworkers of America president Leo W. Gerard and the former president of the Ontario NDP, Andre Foucault. DiNovo had the support of NDP stalwart Michael Lewis[20] and many members of the riding's executive. The nomination meeting took place in the middle of a heat wave on the evening of 17 July 2006, in the Parkdale Collegiate Institute auditorium.[21] The sweltering auditorium was filled with over 300 people, most of them delegates. DiNovo defeated Boudjenane with a comfortable margin.[21][22]

DiNovo defeated Liberal Sylvia Watson in the 14 September 2006 by-election to replace Gerard Kennedy in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. She officially took her seat in the Assembly on 25 September.

During the campaign, DiNovo acknowledged having been both a "street kid" and a user of recreational drugs in her youth. She was criticized for this by Watson's campaign.

The Liberals alleged that DiNovo endorsed the church ordination of pedophiles and axe murderers in Qu(e)erying Evangelism, when in fact she did not, and took DiNovo's past comments about Canadian murderer Karla Homolka out of context, saying the comments compared Homolka to a Christ-like figure, where instead they were used in reference to the dangers of scapegoating. The Liberals also did not mention DiNovo's expression of sympathy for Homolka's victims' families and the undue suffering she believed the media circus surrounding Karla was causing them. Many accused the Liberals of conducting a smear campaign.[23]

Poverty and the $10 minimum wage campaignEdit

On 23 October 2006, a Toronto Star column by Carol Goar said DiNovo had brought a new clarity and assertiveness to the NDP caucus' voice in the Ontario Legislative Assembly.[24] Since entering the Assembly, DiNovo has approached a variety of poverty-related issues, including raising minimum wage and welfare rates in the province, creating more affordable housing and ending the government's tax clawback of the federal child benefit supplement.[24]

Earlier in the year DiNovo had shared her experiences of drugs and poverty as a 15-year-old, in a TV interview first shown on VisionTV on 9 March 2006. She said "I know what its like to live on the streets ... street kids are not bogey men, they are just poor".[25]

39th Parliament election and sessionsEdit

DiNovo retained her seat in the 2007 Ontario general election and began serving her term in the Ontario Legislature's 39th Parliament sessions. The Parkdale–High Park campaign featured the same three major candidates as the 2006 by-election, with Watson and David Hutcheon representing the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives respectively. She increased the margin of victory from the 2006 by-election.[26]

When Howard Hampton announced he was stepping down as leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party in June 2008, DiNovo was one of four MPPs, along with Michael Prue, Peter Tabuns and Andrea Horwath, whose names were suggested by party insiders as potential candidates in the 2009 Ontario NDP leadership convention.[27] However, she was quoted in the Toronto Star a few days later as saying that she was unlikely to be a candidate,[28] and she subsequently endorsed Tabuns for the leadership.

She became the Third Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole House, also known as the "Deputy Speaker", on 26 March 2009.[29] On 16 September 2009, she was promoted to Second Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole House.[29]

In 2012, DiNovo succeeded in getting Toby's Act passed, an amendment to the Ontario Humans Rights Code to include gender identity and gender expression–the first of its kind in North America.[30]

During the 39th Parliament, DiNovo introduced many other bills covering such concerns as repealing dog-breed specific legislation,[31] inclusionary housing,[32] and safe bicycle passing guidelines.[33] She also co-sponsored an all-party bill, that became law, calling for the commemoration of the Ukrainian genocide known as the Holodomor on the 15th of November each year in Ontario.[34]

40th Parliament election and sessionsEdit

DiNovo ran for re-election in the 2011 Ontario general election. Her main opponent was the Liberal Party candidate Courtney Pasternak. Indications from polling in the summer suggested that Pasternak might win; but on election day, DiNovo easily won re-election.[35] Like other districts bordering on the rail link to Pearson Airport from Union Station, she successfully made the project's potential environmental impact on the community as the main issue in the campaign, by coming out against the Liberal's proposal to first use diesel trains and then eventually electrify the line at some future date.[35]

41st Parliament election and sessionsEdit

DiNovo was narrowly re-elected in the June 2014 election. She defeated Liberal candidate Nancy Leblanc by 525 votes.[36] She avoided the Liberal success in Toronto that saw three out of four other NDP incumbents go down to defeat.[37]

As of July 2014, she was the party's caucus chair and the critic for urban transportation, LGBTQ, and Greater Toronto Area issues.[38] She became the first ever LGBTQ critic in Ontario; former Xtra! journalist Andrea Houston was a staffer.

DiNovo has been an outspoken advocate for cyclist and cyclist safety, including her "one-meter rule", which the government finally passed as part of their larger transport bill in 2015.

In 2015 DiNovo's Bill 77, which prohibits conversion therapy for youth (therapy intended to prevent young people from identifying as LGBTQ) passed and became law. The legislation also delisted conversion therapy from OHIP. Following the introduction of the bill, President Barack Obama called for a ban of the practice in the United States. Manitoba has tabled legislation to ban the practice as well.

DiNovo also tabled Bill 137, Cy and Ruby's Act (Parental Recognition), 2015 which seeks to amend the Children's Law Reform Act and the Vital Statistics Act to be more LGBTQ inclusive so that LGBTQ parents are also recognized as parents under the law. In December 2015, Bill 137 passed Second Reading with all party support and is currently waiting to be reviewed by the standing committee on regulations and private bills.

DiNovo successfully proposed a bill to recognize Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a work place injury for first responders fast-tracking their Workplace Safety and Insurance Board benefits. After seven years, four bills and one second reading, the government introduced legislation in February 2016.

Similarly, DiNovo tabled her bill on inclusionary zoning (for affordable housing) five times over eight years, passing second reading twice. In May 2016, the government introduced housing legislation that included inclusionary zoning.

In a 2017 episode of the television series Political Blind Date, DiNovo and Marie-France Lalonde discussed their differing perspectives on the issue of criminal justice and corrections.[39]

Federal party leadership bidEdit

In the wake of the October 2015 federal election, in which the federal NDP fell from second to third place, DiNovo was critical of Tom Mulcair's leadership of the federal NDP and of what she viewed as the party's centrist course under his leadership.[40] DiNovo openly supported a leadership review of Mulcair's stewardship of the federal party at the party's April 2016 convention and called for the NDP to reaffirm its socialist principles. After Mulcair was defeated in the leadership review, DiNovo announced she would run as an "unofficial candidate" in the 2017 federal NDP leadership election on June 7, 2016 rather than pay the required fee of $30,000. She also announced that she will not be running for re-election to the Ontario legislature in the 2018 provincial election.[41][42] However, on June 13, 2016, she announced that her candidacy will be moving from unofficial status to official status, stating that her campaign will begin fundraising when the leadership election rules are finalized in July 2016.[43] DiNovo announced on August 2, 2016 that she was withdrawing from the race due to health reasons after having recently suffered two small strokes.[44] She later endorsed Manitoba MP Niki Ashton's campaign.[45]

Post-political careerEdit

DiNovo announced that she will not be standing for re-election in the 2018 provincial election and resigned her seat in the legislature at the end of 2017. She became the minister of the Trinity-St. Paul's Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts effective January 1, 2018 and continues to present the Radical Reverend program on CIUT radio.[46]

In 2021 she published the memoir The Queer Evangelist.[47]


  • Best MPP 2017 & 2015 - NOW Magazine (2014 Best MPP Runner-Up)
  • The Lambda Literary Award in 2005 in the Spirituality category for her book Qu(e)erying Evangelism[48]
  • The Award of Merit by the government of Ukraine for her work on Canada's first tri-party bill recognizing the Holodomor as genocide
  • the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 Inspire Awards for her lifelong work as an activist for equal rights
  • The Bicycling Leadership Award from the Share the Road Cycling Coalition
  • The Community Hero Award from Jer's Vision
  • The Rainbow Health Advocate Award from Rainbow Health Ontario
  • The History Maker Award from Brockville Pride
  • The PFLAG Ally Award, presented by Rosie O'Donnell
  • Appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 2019 for her contributions to provincial politics and for her lifelong advocacy of social justice[49]

Electoral recordEdit

2014 Ontario general election: Parkdale—High Park
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
New Democratic Cheri DiNovo 18,385 40.77 -5.43
Liberal Nancy Leblanc 17,841 39.56 +2.14
Progressive Conservative Jamie Ellerton 5,787 12.83 +1.09
Green Tim Rudkins 2,479 5.50 +2.17
None of the Above Matthew Vezina 305 0.68
Libertarian Redmond Weissenberger 191 0.42 -0.01
Freedom Melanie Motz 105 0.23
Total valid votes 45,093 100.0  
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 262 1.06
Turnout 45,576 56.88
Eligible voters 80,122
New Democratic hold Swing -3.79
Elections Ontario (2014). "Official Past Election Results". Retrieved 26 March 2016.
2011 Ontario general election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
New Democratic Cheri DiNovo 18,365 46.20 +1.57
Liberal Cortney Pasternak 14,877 37.42 +8.13
Progressive Conservative Joe Ganetakos 4,668 11.74 -3.06
Green Justin Trottier 1,325 3.33 -6.36
Libertarian Rod Rojas 172 0.43 -0.37
Independent Bohdan Ewhen Radejewsky 88 0.22  
Independent George Babula 84 0.21  
Independent Cecilia Luu 78 0.20  
People's Political Party Thomas Zaugg 56 0.14  
Independent Istvan Tar 39 0.10  
Total valid votes 39,752 100.00
Total rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 81 0.20
Turnout 39,959 51.79
Eligible voters 77,163
New Democratic hold Swing -3.28
Source: Elections Ontario[50]
2007 Ontario general election
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
New Democratic Cheri DiNovo 18,136 44.63 +3.59
Liberal Sylvia Watson 11,900 29.29 -3.7
Progressive Conservative David Hutcheon 6,013 14.80 -2.49
Green Bruce Hearns 3,937 9.69 +3.53
Libertarian Zork Hun 327 0.80 +0.23
Family Coalition Marilee Kidd 322 0.79 -0.5
Total valid votes 40,635 100.0

Ontario provincial by-election, September 14, 2006
Resignation of Gerard Kennedy
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
New Democratic Cheri DiNovo 11,677 41.04 +25.27
Liberal Sylvia Watson 9,387 32.99 -24.84
Progressive Conservative David Hutcheon 4,921 17.29 +1.11
Green Frank De Jong 1,753 6.16 -0.77
Family Coalition Stan Grzywna 367 1.29 -0.2
Libertarian Jim McIntosh 162 0.57  
Freedom Silvio Ursomarzo 111 0.39 -0.02
Independent John Turmel 78 0.27  
Total valid votes 28,456 100.0
Source: Elections Ontario[51]

References and notesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Gillespie, Kerry (1 February 2007). "Street kid to crusader". Retrieved 13 February 2015. said DiNovo, 56.
  2. ^ a b "Cheri DiNovo (incumbent)". 15 August 2007. Retrieved 13 February 2015. Age: 57
  3. ^ a b c d e Braganza, Chantal (February 2014). "The agitator". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  4. ^ Archer, Bert (13 September 2006). "Preaching a different sermon: Roncesvalles' Radical Reverend smoothes herself out for this Thursday's by-election". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  5. ^ "N.D.P. Candidate Furious Over L.S.D." 13 September 2006. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  6. ^ McCann, Marcus (25 August 2011). "The many revolutions of Cheri DiNovo". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  7. ^ "...I was the only woman in Canada to sign on to We Demand in 1971."; "I don't need a note to say I'm a bisexual woman.""Official Report of Debates (Hansard) - 24 September 2015" (PDF). Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  8. ^ DiNovo, Cheri (12 August 2011). "Cheri DiNovo on Twitter: 'Shout out to my husband,Gil Gaspar,married at EHP Church in 1999 living then at Triller Ave before moving into the Church manse in High Park'". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  9. ^ "Program for Many Calls... Many Paths" (PDF). pdf.js. Retrieved 13 February 2015. Cheri Di Novo , MDiv, 1995, DMin, 2002
  10. ^ Mackenzie, Ian (10 July 2003). "Who's on first?". Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  11. ^ Gerna, Antonio Gonzalez. "Lambda Literary". Archived from the original on 11 December 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  12. ^ "About Cheri DiNovo". Cheri DiNovo website. Ontario New Democratic Party. 22 April 2007. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007.
  13. ^ 3 Women Archived March 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. CIUT-FM.
  14. ^ Rushowy, Kristin (4 February 2018). "Former MPP Cheri DiNovo leaves legislature to lead Trinity-St. Paul's parish". Toronto Star. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  15. ^ "Toby's Act (Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment Because of Gender Identity or Gender Expression), 2012". Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  16. ^ "Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act, 2015". Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  17. ^ "Cy and Ruby's Act (Parental Recognition), 2015". Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  18. ^ "Trans Day of Remembrance Act, 2017". Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  19. ^ a b c Milne, Vanessa (13 July 2006). "Radical reverend star in NDP race". Now Magazine. 25 (47). Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  20. ^ brother of former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis, and son of Canadian former NDP leader David Lewis
  21. ^ a b Milne, Vanessa (20 July 2006). "Cheri picking in Parkdale". Now Magazine. 25 (47). Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  22. ^ although the NDP follows Roberts Rules of Order to run their meetings, which means the vote count is made public, the exact numbers were not released by the NDP as per an agreement between the two candidates
  23. ^ Canadian Press (25 September 2006). "Fall session begins, Cheri DiNovo sworn in". CTV News Toronto. CTV News. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2007.
  24. ^ a b Goar, Carol (23 October 2006). "Ontario NDP gets a sparkplug". Toronto Star. Toronto. p. A22. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  25. ^ "Interview with Cheri DiNovo". 360° Vision. VisionTV. 9 March 2006. Archived from the original on 13 December 2021. Retrieved 30 April 2007.DiNovo talking with interviewer about her youth.
  26. ^ "Parkdale-High Park: Election 2007". Results. CTV. 11 May 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2007.
  27. ^ Ferguson, Rob; Benzie, Robert (14 June 2008). "Hampton steps aside as Ontario NDP leader". Toronto Star. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  28. ^ "Hampton's Departure". Toronto Star. Toronto. 17 June 2008. p. A6. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  29. ^ a b "Cheri DiNovo - Parliamentary History". Cheri DiNovo, MPP (Parkdale--High Park). Ontario Legislative Assembly Information and Technology Services Division. 16 February 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  30. ^ "Bill 70, Toby's Act (Right to be Free from Discrimination and Harassment Because of Gender Identity, 2010" (PDF). Bills and Lawmaking Current Session. Legislative Assembly of Ontario. 17 May 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 June 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  31. ^ "Bill 60, Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2010". Bills and Lawmaking Current Session. Legislative Assembly of Ontario. 10 May 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  32. ^ "Bill 58, Planning Amendment Act (Enabling Municipalities to Require Inclusionary Housing), 2010". Bills and Lawmaking Current Session. Legislative Assembly of Ontario. 18 May 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  33. ^ "Bill 74, Highway Traffic Amendment Act (Safe Bicycle Passing), 2010". Bills and Lawmaking Current Session. Legislative Assembly of Ontario. 6 May 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  34. ^ "39:1 Bill 147, Holodomor Memorial Day Act, 2009". Bills and Lawmaking Past & Present. Legislative Assembly of Ontario. 18 February 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  35. ^ a b Rubin, Josh (7 October 2011). "Parkdale–High Park: DiNovo fights off challenge". Toronto Star. Toronto. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  36. ^ "General Election by District: Parkdale-High Park". Elections Ontario. 12 June 2014. Archived from the original on 23 September 2014.
  37. ^ Benzie, Robert (8 July 2014). "Andrea Horwath admits election result was 'bittersweet'". Toronto Star.
  38. ^ Reevely, David (25 June 2014). "Horwath sticks around, names NDP shadow cabinet". Ottawa Citizen.
  39. ^ "Political Blind Date series hopes opposites attract, or at least get along". Toronto Star, November 4, 2017.
  40. ^ "NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo spells out her party's identity crisis: Cole". Toronto Star. 1 December 2015.
  41. ^ "NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo to seek leadership of federal New Democrats". Toronto Star. 6 June 2016.
  42. ^ "First entrant into the NDP leadership race eschews $30K fee, says she will run as 'unofficial candidate'". National Post. 7 June 2016.
  43. ^ DiNovo, Cheri (13 June 2016). "To those who've asked me to become "official": Today I am!". Twitter. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  44. ^ "Cheri DiNovo drops out of federal NDP leadership race after suffering 2 strokes | CBC News".
  45. ^ Politics (1 March 2017). "Three Ontario NDP MPPs endorse federal leadership contenders". Archived from the original on 11 March 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  46. ^ "‘Radical reverend’ NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo is leaving politics for the church". Toronto Star, September 20, 2017.
  47. ^ Brian Bradley, "Cheri DiNovo’s ‘The Queer Evangelist’ recounts life of church and state". Toronto Star, June 5, 2021.
  48. ^ "18th Annual Lambda Literary Awards | Lambda Literary". Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  49. ^ General, Office of the Secretary to the Governor (20 December 2019). "Governor General Announces 120 New Appointments to the Order of Canada". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 1 January 2020.
  50. ^ Essensa, Greg (2011). "068, Parkdale–High Park". 2011 General Election Results by District. Toronto: Elections Ontario. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  51. ^ Chief Returning Officer. "Parkdale–High Park By-election 2006". Summary of Valid Ballots Cast for each Candidate. Toronto: Elections Ontario. Archived from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2012.

External linksEdit