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3 min

13 queer election issues

What the party platforms say, what they leave out

File photo from Capital Pride, 2009. Credit: Remi Therieault

It’s an election that’s heavy on “family” and light on fags. But each of the party platforms — except the Conservatives’ — make promises on issues affecting gay and trans Canadians. Here are the queer nuggets in the party platforms.

1 Fight for gay rights abroad

If you’re looking for an explicit promise to do more for gay people living in hostile countries, the NDP and Greens have vowed to make it a priority. In 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounced a Ugandan bill to execute convicted gays in a conversation with president Yoweri Museveni, but he has remained silent on anti-gay governments in most of the rest of the world.

2 Repeal Canada’s anal-sex law

Canada’s anal-sex law sets the age of consent for anal sex at 18, compared to 16 for all other kinds of sex. It also forbids bum sex with more than two people and in public and semi-public spaces. The law’s been struck down in several jurisdictions, including Ontario, Quebec and BC. In fact, it’s so flimsy that Nova Scotia struck the law at a simple administrative hearing. But no party — except the Greens — has promised to do away with this piece of Victorian prudery.

3 Help Canadians fighting charter challenges

In 2006, the Conservatives cancelled the Court Challenges Program, which has helped aboriginal and disability rights advocates to challenge discriminatory laws. Gays used Charter Challenges money to fight for partner and survivor benefits, as well as for gay marriage. The program was cancelled once before, by the Progressive Conservative government in 1992, but when the Liberals were returned to power, it was reinstated. The Liberal platform vows to do the same this time around.

4 Green-light cheap AIDS drugs for poor countries

A bill to make it easier for generic drug companies to make and sell inexpensive AIDS drugs abroad passed the House of Commons this winter but died in the Senate when the government fell. Liberal Marc Garneau tried to defang the NDP private member’s bill, but ultimately a largely untouched version passed with the support of most of the Liberal caucus. The NDP vows to bring it back after the election.

5 End the seizure of gay books and movies

The Canada Border Services Agency fought — and lost — a 20-year legal battle with Vancouver’s Little Sister’s bookstore over the seizure of gay books and movies coming into the country. But even 10 years after a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling, the seizures continue, and the Green Party’s Vision Green promises to put a stop to it.

6 Add trans people to hate crimes and human rights law

An NDP bill which would have protected trans people from discrimination died in the Senate when the election was called. Not surprisingly, the NDP have vowed to bring it back, and a number of Liberals are also on side.

…and two issues nobody’s talking about

1 Polygamy law on trial

A case at the BC Supreme Court will soon rule on whether Canada’s polygamy law, which forbids any conjugal union of more than two, regardless of gender configuration or marital status, is constitutional. If the law is ruled to be legitimate, Canada’s polyamorous community could face charges.

The next government will decide whether or not to appeal the BC court’s decision, no matter what is decided. And even if the law is struck, the politicians could introduce an updated anti-poly law in its place.

2 The state of sex work

Two cases that challenge Canada’s sex-work laws are winding their way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Under the microscope are statutes that forbid sex workers from hiring security and working in groups. Also on the table is Canada’s bawdyhouse law, which has been used repeatedly to target bathhouses.

Politicians could, of course, vote to scrap the laws if they were so inclined. But failing that, they will send their lawyers to make the government’s case during the appeal process. How they choose to do this could prove just as important to this file as anything raised in the House of Commons.

— with files from Dale Smith