By Medicine Hat News Opinon on December 2, 2017.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized for the persecution of LGBTQ Canadians on Tuesday, a symbolic acknowledgment of wrongdoing that is long overdue.
As part of the apology, the government is offering $140 million in compensation to LGBTQ individuals who’ve suffered discrimination.
Opposition leader Andrew Scheer, who’s never attended a Gay Pride Parade and voted against enshrining transgender rights, said he supports Trudeau’s apology and that it’s time “to move forward.”
That’s a convenient response from someone who’s never shown the mildest interest in LGBTQ issues.
It’s no doubt a positive first step that Trudeau made an apology, but we cannot pretend, as Scheer does, that LGBTQ Canadians no longer face discrimination.
Gay male Canadians are still unable to donate blood if they’ve had sex in the past year, based on the retrograde view that they’re all potentially affected with HIV.
And British Columbia’s Trinity Western law school refuses entry to students who don’t abide by its strict Christian code of conduct, which includes a prohibition on homosexual relations.
Here in Medicine Hat, a clear majority of News readers voted against a rainbow crosswalk in town. How does a crosswalk to honour LGBTQ people inconvenience anyone at all?
In Alberta at large, United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney is making political hay out of the NDP government’s completely anodyne proposal to prohibit teachers from informing students’ parents when they join a gay-straight alliance.
Regardless of what one thinks of Trudeau’s and Notley’s other policies, it’s quite clear that they’re not the ones turning LGBTQ rights into a political football.
Pierre Elliot Trudeau famously declared, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” This was when he took the bold step of decriminalizing homosexuality as Lester B. Pearson’s justice minister in 1967.
It makes perfect sense for his son to be the prime minister to apologize for the persecution the LGBTQ community continued to suffer afterwards.
One particularly well-known example is the Toronto police’s raids on gay bathhouses in 1981, which resulted in the arrest of 300 people and led to the Toronto Pride Festival, the country’s biggest.
Last weekend, the Globe and Mail featured stories of Canadian military officers who were discharged for their sexual orientation.
These people wanted to serve their country, despite the fact that it regarded them as dangerous sexual deviants.
The military continued this policy of searching for homosexuals in their ranks, outing and firing them, until 1992.
In Scheer’s response to Trudeau’s speech, he said Canada can now seize the opportunity to champion LGBTQ rights in other countries, as if an apology makes our house totally clean.
Do LGBTQ peope suffer even more discrimination in others countries? Of course.
Saudi Arabia, the largest importer of Canadian weapons outside of the United States, is murderously intolerant of those whose sexual orientation falls outside the norm.
Yet both Trudeau and his Conservative predecessor support selling them weapons in the name of “Canadian jobs.”
Saudi Arabia is one of many countries that jail and murder LGBTQ people — Honduras, Iran, Nigeria, Uganda and Russia are some of far too many — but Canada has clear leverage over the Saudis.
In other cases, all we can do as Canadians is offer asylum to persecuted LGBTQ people, as we have with those from Chechnya, and provide them with a better life.
But let’s not fall in love with ourselves.
Until all LGBTQ kids can go to school without having to fear harassment, or ‘gay’ being tossed around as a schoolyard insult, there will always be room for improvement.
(Jeremy Appel is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions.)
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