Openly gay Novia Scotia MP Scott Brison has been given the support of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff after a Christmas card featuring his partner stirred controversy.

The Canadian MP, who married his partner in 2007, told the Canadian press:

“I’ve had so many positive e-mails, calls over the last few days from across Canada and around the world,”

“Everybody is saying the same thing: It’s just a Christmas card. It should not create controversy.’”

The card shows Brison with his partner Maxime St. Pierre standing in an orange-coloured autumn field next to the ocean near their Nova Scotia home with their golden retriever, Simba.

Although personalised family Christmas cards are commonplace for politicians, a number of angry commentators attacked the card.

The Globe and Mail newspaper website had to shut its comment section due to “hateful” messages, while other websites opted to disable comment features.

Brison, 42, stepped aside in 2000 to allow then-Tory leader Joe Clark to run in a by-election. He came out publicly in 2002.

Brison sought the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party in 2003, then crossed the floor to the Liberals just days after the Progressive Conservatives merged with the Canadian Alliance. He ran for the Liberal leadership in 2006.

He became the first openly gay federal cabinet minister in 2004, the same year a Nova Scotia judge ruled that not allowing gays in that province to marry was unconstitutional.

He has been quoted as saying he is “not a gay politician, but a politician who happens to be gay.”

Gay marriage was legally recognised in Canada two years ago, with the passing of a bill in June 2005.