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Bills C-38 and C-2: One step forward, two steps back

It is perhaps ironic that Canada’s Senate is scheduled to give third reading to Bills C-38 and C-2 side by side on Jul 19.

Bill C-38 is the same-sex civic marriage bill that made headlines for months as it wound its way through Parliament over the opposition of religious activists, the Harper Conservatives and a big rump of Liberal MPs.

Bill C-2, in contrast, was the first bill introduced by Paul Martin’s government after Harper suggested in the last federal election that Martin was soft on child pornography.

C-2 has been largely ignored by the press until recently and received little opposition in Parliament, even though civil libertarians, arts groups and leading gay organizations vigorously opposed sections of the bill. The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario denounced the bill for dangerously over-reaching in its attempt to protect children from sexual exploitation. The result, they said, is that artists and writers could be charged for tackling topics such as coming out, and teenagers could see their right to make their own sexual choices seriously curtailed.

The Globe and Mail recently suggested the Senate send Bill C-2 back to Parliament for reworking.

The bill’s opponents may have convinced Liberal Senator Serge Joyal. On his insistence, the Senate has taken the rare step of attaching “observations” expressing concern that the bill tramples artistic freedom and constitutional rights.

But C-2, along with C-38, is expected to get final Senate approval as Xtra West goes to press, and royal assent immediately thereafter.

That would make same-sex marriage legal throughout all of Canada. But teens will have fewer sexual rights than they did last week, and Canada’s artists, particularly gay and lesbian artists, will be vulnerable to charges for sharing stories of teenage sexual awakenings.