Panel and audience members at an Xtra election strategy forum were angry and scared, but unsure of how to stop Stephen Harper.
The forum — organized by Xtra — took place at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre on Sep 28.
“I think the whole framework of everything we do is in danger,” said bathhouse owner and sex law activist Peter Bochove. “I’ve never been so scared of a government as I am now, and I’ve seen some nasty people in government in my time.”
Panelists included Bochove, Stop Murder Music founder Akim Larcher, Supporting Our Youth program coordinator Clare Nobbs, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children legal director Zahra Dhanani and Franco Boni, the director of The Theatre Centre and cofounder of Departmentofculture.ca, a group campaigning against Harper’s cuts to arts funding.
Also on the panel was Chris Reid, who was recently turfed as the Conservative candidate in Toronto Centre.
“We’re here as people who have seen the absolute atrocious impact of what Harper has done,” said Dhanani. “I am absolutely terrified to see a Harper majority. All of the gains we’ve made around same-sex marriage, around gender advancement, I’m convinced we’ll see a gazillion steps backward.”
Nobbs said that the Conservative’s success in raising the age of consent was just the first step.
“It’s a slippery slope,” she said. “It’s a way to get into the bedrooms of the nation. They want to raise the age of consent and lower the age of imprisonment, which is a double standard.”
Reid said his recent experience has left him confused about the Conservatives.
“I seemed to get turfed for holding Conservative values,” he said. “I’m a little conflicted about where the party stands.”
But Reid said he doesn’t understand why queer activists don’t support the Conservative call for less government.
“I strongly believe in limiting government,” he said. “It’s governments that have committed atrocities against populations. We fought for freedom for government, then all of a sudden in the queer community we seem to call for more government. You’re demanding that the state forcibly take money out of people’s pockets.”
Other panelists disagreed. Larcher said he was worried that the queer community didn’t seem worried about the election.
“Our community needs to be more vigilant, more vocal,” he said. “If the community isn’t focusing during an election, there’s difficult times ahead.”
Boni said the Department of Culture has been out canvassing voters in the swing riding of Oakville and in the Whitby-Oshawa riding of finance minister Jim Flaherty.
Nobbs says community activists need to be more open to youth and accept their more diverse attitudes.
“They’re pan, they’re omni, they’re trans, they’re everything,” she said. “They’re all colours, they’re all backgrounds, they speak all different languages. We need to adjust the way we see young people.”
Dhanani said queer activists have not been willing to reach out to other communities.
“You couldn’t get the people who were organizing around same-sex marriage to bring in an immigration analysis, to bring in a race or class analysis,” she said.
Bochove said voters need to support the Liberals in this election, as the most effective means of stopping Harper.
“Wherever possible vote Liberal because it’ll be a bloodbath if you don’t,” he said.
Bochove said he thinks gay people will overcome their current apathy but there will be a lot of pain first.
“I think you’ll see the community start to shake out of the sleep it’s in,” he said. “Ordinary people are going to find their backs to the wall. They’re going to have to do something and I’m damn sure they will.”