University of Toronto
10 min

Doubly disadvantaged

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how Canadians are losing touch with our history. The Dominion Institute has recently put out their report card on how students are faring in Canadian history, and four of the provinces recently got an F. Little surprise there.

At the same time, our immigration minister wants to beef up the portions on Confederation, military history and so on for incoming immigrants, when they pass their citizenship tests. The problem there? It’s not the immigrants who are the problem – it’s the people who were born, raised, and went to school here.

But it’s even more than that in the queer communities across this country, because whereas some of us could eventually get a proper education in Canadian History in a university course (for example), we’re not getting any queer history offered to us unless we intentionally seek it out, and even then there isn’t always a lot of information to be had. If anything, queer Canadians are at a double disadvantage because we’re not only getting our national historical and political knowledge, we’re also not getting our cultural knowledge.

Many of the up-and-coming generation have no idea what kinds of indignities queers in this country went through. We’ve recently heard about the 40th anniversary of the passage of Trudeau’s bill decriminalising homosexuality in this country (and a big shout out to India, who finally followed suit this week), but for as many of us who hear the famous phrase about the state having no business in the bedrooms of the nation, how many of us know that one of the incidents that brought us to that point was when a gay man was sent to prison as “preventative arrest” simply for being gay? Or that there were witch hunts in the civil service for gay men who were thought to be security risks, because their sexuality would be a tool for blackmail by Russian spies? Of that the abuses the RCMP perpetrated during this period would eventually lead to the formation of CSIS, since the Macdonald Commission felt that the RCMP could no longer be trusted with domestic intelligence duties? I’ll bet that it isn’t many.

Perhaps it’s time that we started stepping up and ensuring that our younger generation is getting this kind of an education, so they know where they came from, which will hopefully help them to know where they’re going.

Elsewhere, the Liberals are decrying the latest Conservative attack ads, which have been taking “out of context” phrases about Ukrainian nationalism that Michael Ignatieff made in his book Blood and Belonging back in 1993. Ignatieff says it says more about the Conservatives than it does about him, but it’s not stopping the Conservatives from trying to use this as a bludgeon to keep the Liberals from gaining any future toeholds in the Prairies.

Also, the Senate has been getting a bit of unwanted attention after some “raucous” committee hearing footage found its way onto YouTube. Yeah, I know it doesn’t seem all that bad, and I’m surprised that Senator Kenney kept his cool throughout (considering his reputation for hurling abuse). Kenney, meanwhile, blames Senators Tkachuk and Wallin for trying to make the committee non-functional at the behest of Harper. That this is happening in the chamber of Sober Second Thought is unfortunate, but Tkachuk has been one of the most visibly partisan senators out there, while Kenney has frequently raked his own party over the coals over security and national defence issues. I suppose this should serve as a reminder that yes, the Senate still is a partisan chamber.

And finally, today will be the state funeral for Romeo LeBlanc, after which flags will return to full-mast across the country. And a sad little anecdote about these flags at half-mast? That people here in town asked if they were lowered for Michael Jackson (and no, they weren’t tourists). Seriously. If that isn’t the sign of a crisis in civic awareness, I’m not sure what is.

Up this weekend: politicians will be heading to the Calgary Stampede. Can we hope for another photo of Stephen Harper in a two-sizes-too-small Buffalo Bill Cody leatherette vest? Or one of Elizabeth May’s rodeo-clownish overly green outfits like last year? One can hope. Also, the Emperor and Empress of Japan begin their state visit to Canada.