By Dianne Skoll
LGBT Perspectives columnist
OTTAWA — Well, it’s official: Canadians will be going to the polls on Oct. 19. This election was called 78 days before the election date, resulting in a historically-long campaign period.
This election is an opportunity for the LGBT community and our supporters to make a difference.
Let’s review the Conservative party’s stance on LGBT rights: In 2006, the Conservative minority government tabled a motion to reopen the same-sex marriage debate. The motion was defeated, but most Conservative MPs voted for it, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Among the high-profile Conservatives who voted against the motion were Peter MacKay, David Emerson, John Baird, Jim Prentice, Lawrence Cannon and Josee Verner. MacKay is not running in the fall election; Emerson retired in 2008; Baird resigned earlier this year; Prentice left federal politics in 2010; Lawrence Cannon lost his seat in 2011, as did Josee Verner.
What we see is the increasing influence of the right-wing Reform base and the waning of the former Progressive Conservatives. This is a worrying direction for LGBT people because socially-conservative people tend not to support LGBT rights.
We only need look at Bill C-279, the bill to add gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination to the Human Rights Act. This was passed on third reading in the House of Commons, but essentially killed in the Senate by an amendment proposed by Conservative senator Don Plett.
Anyone who follows Canadian politics knows that Stephen Harper is a highly disciplined politician who keeps all his caucus members strictly on message. To imagine that Senator Plett’s actions were not orchestrated (or at least approved) by Stephen Harper is to show incredible naivete.
Harper is also a clever politician and realizes that being on the wrong side of history by opposing expanded civil rights is never a good idea, so he mostly stood by on the sidelines as his MPs served up ridiculous statements about the bill, such as Ron Anders’ howler in 2013 that the bill “would give transgendered men [sic] access to women’s public washroom facilities.” Naturally, Anders played the think-of-the-children card: “… it is the duty of the House of Commons to protect and safeguard our children from any exposure and harm that would come from giving a man access to women’s public washroom facilities.”
Right. Because right now, if a man tried to enter the women’s washroom, the DNA detector would fire and the portcullis would slam down, keeping that man (eeew…) away from our wives and daughters! (Note the possessive; social conservatives often like to talk of “our women” as if they’re property.)
Of course, there are jurisdictions that do protect gender identity and gender expression; Ontario is one of them. And there have been how many complaints of men sneaking into the women’s washroom dressed as women for nefarious purposes? Umm… let me count them … got it. Zero.
So quite apart from any other policy positions, I urge you to vote against the Conservatives if you support equal rights for all. A party that carpet-bombs us with negative ads paid for from a huge war chest does not deserve to put its stamp on history. A party that pummels its opponents into the ground by slinging mud and hammering home negative emotion rather than debating policy does not deserve to lead.
We need a change.
“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey