A Conservative MP says gays and lesbians deserve federal government support against discrimination and hatred, a concession some members of Vancouver’s gay community applaud.
Richmond MP Alice Wong was at Vancouver City Hall on Jan 10 to help announce the citizenU youth multiculturalism leadership project, which the federal government is supporting with $905,000.
The initiative is aimed at creating anti-discrimination and intercultural leadership programs for schools, community programs and YouthPolitik, the city’s civic education and leadership development program.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, I’m happy to join Mayor Robertson in supporting citizenU and its commitment to teaching young people skills to combat racism,” Wong says.
She says the program will help youth foster Canadian values of multiculturalism with pride and respect.
Wong, a self-described evangelical Christian, has previously admitted attending functions sponsored by the Canadian Alliance for Social Justice and Family Values Association, an advocacy group that has lobbied against gay marriage, protested the Corren Agreement and fought the implementation of gay-friendly curriculum.
“It is abundantly clear now that Alice Wong has supported and even donated and fundraised for an organization which all reasonable Canadians would deem to be extreme and objectionable,” Wong’s Liberal opponent publicly declared during the last federal election campaign in October 2008.
Wong denies raising any funds for the alliance.
She also told The Province in 2008 that she hadn’t had contact with the group for years prior to the election. She then conceded it was one of many groups she had spoken to recently.
Xtra quizzed Wong about those connections and asked if the citizenU commitment means the Conservative government recognizes that gays and lesbians deserve government support in the fight against hate and discrimination.
“The government should support hate crime against everything,” Wong replied.
“Does that include gays and lesbians?” Xtra asked.
“That’s right,” Wong said. “Yes.”
“Equality is very important,” she added later in response to other general questions. “That is the whole purpose of this multicultural funding.”
Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who attended the event, welcomed Wong’s comments, adding there needs to be a stronger approach to combating hatred against queers.
“It looks like they’re delivering,” he says.
“We’re getting recruits to the vision of a Canada that supports gay, lesbian, bi and trans folks all the time,” he adds.
“It is about time that the federal government is clear and firm that they stand against hate crimes,” Vancouver Councillor Ellen Woodsworth says.
“That’s what the queer community has fought so hard for, and that’s what we need to have all our elected officials at every level saying together: ‘No to hate, yes to diversity.'”
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told a media conference that the citizenU program “exemplifies our efforts to build a strong, multicultural city free of racism and discrimination.”
The mayor noted the city has endured a number of hate-related incidents recently. Two Vancouver gaybashings were declared hate crimes by the courts in 2010.
Vancouver queer activist Romi Chandra Herbert, who emceed the event, says queer youth will be a part of citizenU.