I caught up with NDP MP Bill Siksay after Question Period today to ask him about his plans for the fall sitting of Parliament.
Q: How was the rest of your summer?
A: It was great. It ended with a visit to Pride in Ganges on Salt Spring Island. So, a small community on one of the Gulf Islands in British Columbia had a fabulous pride parade. A long parade which wandered and backtracked on itself around the downtown of the community, and then a great afternoon-long series of events in the local park. There were huge numbers of people watching too, so it was lots of fun.
Q: Your statement earlier today – tell me a little more about that.
A: Well Svend [Robinson]’s being honoured by the Conseil québécois des gaies et lesbiennes for his many years of service to he gay and lesbian community, and it’s a very prestigious award – he’s receiving it on October 19th at their annual gala. Last year it was Louise Arbour who received it, so this is a big deal, and I think it’s great that Svend’s being recognised in that way, because of the years of hard work. He was blazing that trail when other politicians were afraid to go there, and it’s good that folks are recognising his achievement there.
The other part of it was recognising the founding of the Queer Hall of Fame in Vancouver, which was at a fundraiser for the Qmunity Centre, and they inducted their first five folks – Pierre Trudeau for the decriminalisation of homosexuality; Ted Northe who is one of the founders of the Dogwood Monarchist society – the Imperial Court System in Vancouver; Robert Kaiser who’s known as Joan-E, a great fundraiser [and drag queen] in Vancouver; Mark Tewkesbury; and Janine Fuller from Little Sisters bookstore, who’s an activist on freedom of speech issues. So that was a great evening. Paul Therien was the guy who’s taken the main initiative around this, supported by a great committee, and it’s a great new project to recognise leadership in the community and started off with five appropriate inductees.
Q: Tomorrow morning you’ve got a press conference with Mr. Charkaoui. Tell me a little more about that.
A: I’ve been a long-time critic of the security certificate regime in Canada. Security certificates are a piece of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which was originally intended to be an expedited deportation mechanism, but sadly over the past eight or nine years in Canada, they’ve been used to incarcerate people without charge, without trial and without conviction. They were never intended to be used in that way, and I think that’s one of the most important violations of civil liberties that are ongoing in Canada. I think it’s time we got rid of those. I’m glad that the courts are finally losing patience with the security certificate programme. They’ve increasingly in recent weeks been removing some of the conditions that are on the detainees, and I think that’s very appropriate, but I’d like to see us get rid of the whole regime. It’s been NDP policy for a while. Mr. Charkaoui and others took it to court a few years ago, the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional but suggested that it could be fixed with the addition of special advocates. The government did that, but special advocates only add a façade of respectability to a very problematic piece of legislation. The sooner we get rid of it, the better. Tomorrow I will also tabling a private members’ bill to repeal the security certificate provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as well.
Q: Assuming we don’t still go to an election, what are your plans for the fall?
A: This week I’ve got another Private Member’s Bill, which is on establishing a Department of Peace for Canada. There’s been an initiative here in Canada and around the world to establish departments of peace as a way of putting peace making, restorative justice, mediation, peaceful dispute resolution at the heart of government rather than at the fringes of government. I’ve been working with the Department Peace Initiative people to take their suggested bill and turn it into a piece of legislation, so that’ll be tabled on Wednesday. I’m looking forward to working on that, along with some other peace initiatives that I’ve been working on.
Q: But being as you can only really do one piece of Private Members’ Business, have you chosen what that’s going to be?
A: The long-standing commitment is on changing the Canadian Human Rights Act to include prohibitions against discrimination of transgendered and transsexual folks by including gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds. I should be up this fall if the House lasts, so we should be able to hopefully at least start debate on that. Given the instability of the Parliament, it may not get all the way through the process, but I’m hoping that we at least can start that, and of all the Private Members’ Bills and motions that I have, that’s the priority. It’s the commitment I made five years ago.