The federal Conservatives have appointed a Pentecostal minister as their new candidate for the Mar 17 by-election in the riding of Toronto Centre, which includes to queer village.
Mark Warner, the party’s original candidate in the riding, claims he was ousted in October because he was too supportive of queer issues.
The Rev Don Meredith — who will be running against Liberal Bob Rae and queer immigration lawyer El-Farouk Khaki for the NDP — is not likely to have that same problem.
Meredith is best known as the head of the GTA Faith Alliance, a group of various religious representatives trying to stop youth violence in Toronto. The group believes that the decline of the family has led to the increase in youth gun crimes.
Xtra recently spoke with Meredith about issues of concern to queers in the riding.
KRISHNA RAU: How much do you know about queer issues?
DON MEREDITH: I have a moderate level of understanding of their issues. During the last election there was a lot of debate about same-sex marriage. Our government put forward a free vote after the previous government had whipped its members. Mr Harper ensured that individuals could vote their conscience on this issue. It is now law. I respect the law. I will champion those rights for those individuals of that orientation. I have no issue with what the law says.
RAU: What’s your personal position on same-sex marriage?
MEREDITH: It’s the right of individuals to choose their orientation. I’m about representing people. I’ve worked with gays and lesbians before in my careers and I find them to be human beings. I find them to be people. I respect just being able to exist together, to live together, as regular human beings.
I don’t see why in good conscience this would be brought back to the table. It’s been debated and deliberated. I truly believe that this thing would not be brought back. And if it is, it is the law and we would vote according to what the law is.
RAU: Do you think being gay is a choice?
MEREDITH: Individuals have chosen. In terms of my sexual orientation I support the gay and lesbian community in what they have in terms of supporting the choices that they have made.
One of the things I’m trying to say is it’s a matter of respecting individual orientation in terms of choices so whether you’re transgender that is something as a representative of the government I would support.
RAU: Would you support NDP MP Bill Siksay’s private member’s bill to add trans people to Canada’s hate crimes legislation?
MEREDITH: Absolutely. It’s about protecting the individual’s basic rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of this country, to not discriminate based on sexual orientation. The law is there to protect each and every one of us and we need to subscribe to that.
RAU: Do you support raising the age of consent to 16 from 14?
MEREDITH: Absolutely. If you look at the cognitive choices a 14-year-old has to make, I think young people, their innocence should be protected for as long as possible. It’s the protection of our children. Our most valuable resource is our young people and our future lies within our young people so it’s incumbent on the government to ensure they’re protected and not exploited.
RAU: Do you think the age of consent for anal sex should be lowered from 18?
MEREDITH: Again it’s a pro-tection of individuals. Obviously there are individuals who are engaging in sexual activities whether it be heterosexual or gay and lesbian community in sexual activities from 14 and up. So who am I to say it should be lowered because it’s based on individual choice. I really want to stress it’s about the protection of our children, the fact that they should be given an opportunity to grow, to mature, to make a mature decision when they do engage in sexual activity. Abstinence would be the crucial thing, would be the utmost, but in society that is not the case.
RAU: The Pentecostal view of homosexuality is that it’s a sin. Do you believe that?
MEREDITH: I think the clear thing in terms of politics is I’m a representative of the people and that needs to be made clear. I’m representing you as a gay and lesbian individual or a transvestite or transsexual. We do the same physiological things — we need to eat, we need to sleep, we need food, we need shelter, we need good healthcare — that’s the crucial thing.
RAU: How would being a minister affect you as an MP?
MEREDITH: I’m a servant of the people currently and that gives me a wider platform to speak from and to put forward positive messaging that encourages people to conduct their lives in a positive way. Clearly my integrity, my honesty are the things that being a man of the cloth exudes, and clearly in government we need more of that.
RAU: How do you feel about the government diverting $1 million from local AIDS organizations to fund vaccine research?
MEREDITH: I’ll be frank with you, I’m not familiar with that particular incident. I think the government’s position on this in Canada and internationally has been of support. [Health] Minister [Tony] Clement was at the World AIDS Conference which shows the government is not sidetracking or abdicating their position on this issue.
RAU: Do you think Harper should have been at the AIDS Conference?
MEREDITH: Clearly the government is committed to looking at these issues. The Prime Minister, he cannot be everywhere. I’m not here to justify whether he should have been there, shouldn’t have been there. The fact is the government was represented at the AIDS conference and that’s the important thing.
RAU: Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?
MEREDITH: I am not God and I will not play God. My Bible tells me, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”