Bill Siksay
5 min

Gayest. Parliamentary. Day. Ever.

The last sitting day before May 17th – that being International Day Against Homophobia – saw probably the gayest day on the Hill of the current session. Of course, it was also a Friday, which meant it was sparsely attended.

It was kicked off when the NDP’s Bill Siksay made his Members’ Statement regarding IDAH:

Mr. Speaker, Sunday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This day is a worldwide call to action to end violence and discrimination against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited and queer communities.
In Canada, 2009 is the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality. However, around the world 86 countries still criminalize consensual gay and lesbian sex, including seven where the punishment can be death. Sadly, homophobic violence continues here in Canada as well.
Earlier this month, Gender Euphoria Day was celebrated by the trans community in Vancouver. New appreciations of gender identity and its expression can enrich our communities and us as individuals. Transphobic violence, prejudice and discrimination continue to silence our full understanding of gender identity and restrict the lives of those who come to new understandings.
We must act against homophobia and transphobia and stand in solidarity with the GLBTT community in this important struggle.

Curiously enough, he was followed up by Mark Warawa talking about the Langley Christian High School band, and shortly thereafter, another Conservative rose to speak about Pope John Paul II.

For the Liberals, Rob Oliphant also made a Members’ Statement about IDAH. I was also pleased to note that Oliphant made mention of the May 14th anniversary of Bill C-150, though no one made mention of it’s importance to the queer communities on the day of:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize that May 17 is the International Day Against Homophobia. This day causes us to celebrate the human rights Canadians enjoy and to reflect on the tremendous challenges facing gay and lesbian people around the world.
The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. In Canada, this is lived out through our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Few of the world's citizens enjoy the privileges Canadians enjoy living with: equality, dignity and the guarantee of inalienable human rights. In many countries of the world, same sex relationships are forbidden and punishable under law. In Canada, gay and lesbian people still suffer from misunderstanding and discrimination, but human rights have been won incrementally.
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, thanks to the tremendous courage, passion and strength of then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Let us today commit ourselves to promoting the same human rights throughout the world by continuing to lead by example.

Another noteworthy statement was Martha Hall Findlay talking about her day in a wheelchair as part of the national day of awareness for the Canadian Paraplegic Association a couple of weeks ago.

Siksay also rose during Question Period to ask a couple of questions on queer issues, and the exchanges were as follows:

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):  
Mr. Speaker, many gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual refugees have had to flee their home countries due to direct threats against their lives, sometimes due to political unrest and sometimes due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in a growing number of troubling instances, the situation in the country of refuge is no better, since they face legal sanctions, violence and death.
Will the government work with international NGOs, human rights organizations and refugee agencies to urgently settle GLBTT refugees in safe countries, including Canada?

Mr. Rick Dykstra (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, CPC):  
Mr. Speaker, the ministry is always focused on ensuring that we deal as quickly as possible with any refugee claim that is put in this country. The member is also aware, as the House is aware, that the minister and the ministry are currently working on trying to do exactly what the member is speaking to in terms of our refugee reforms.
I appreciate the question. In fact, we are working on it.

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):  
Mr. Speaker, health activists from GLBTT communities note that the government has failed to deal with issues of life expectancy, suicide, smoking, alcohol and drug use, depression, access, HIV-AIDS, specific cancers, violence, bullying, blood and organ donations, and seniors' health as they affect GLBTT Canadians. Others note that medically necessary sex reassignment surgery is denied to many trans Canadians.
Will the government, working with the GLBTT community, immediately institute comprehensive and specific GLBTT health policies and programs?

Mr. Colin Carrie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, CPC):  
Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the delivery of health services is a provincial jurisdiction. This government is very proud to be working with the provinces. We have given the provinces more money than any other government has before. We are very supportive of their decisions.

And finally, to wrap of this being the Gayest. Day. In. Parliament. Ever. Siksay introduced not one, but two Private Members’ Bills for first reading. The first, being his bill for trans rights, will be the one he focuses on when his turn comes up in the Order of Precedence for Private Members’ Business. The other, I trust, was for more symbolic reasons.

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):  
Moved for leave to introduce Bill C-389, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (gender identity and gender expression).
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh for seconding the bill.
The bill will add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act and to the Criminal Code sections regarding hate crimes and sentencing provisions, providing explicit protection for transgender and transsexual Canadians from discrimination in all areas of federal jurisdiction.
Transsexual and transgender Canadians face significant prejudice in their daily lives. Whether it is job discrimination, access to housing and public services, especially health care, problems with identity documents, difficulties with law enforcement officials, a high suicide rate, or the increased likelihood that they will be victims of violence, the situation of transsexual and transgender people demands our attention.
The bill would give transsexual and transgender Canadians direct access to the protections provided for in the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code of Canada that they so urgently need.
I look forward to seeing the bill debated this fall in the next round of private members' business. Given that transgender and transsexual folks are members of our families, our friends, our co-workers, and our neighbours, I hope this measure will find support in all corners of the House.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

The second bill was on taxation for conscientious objectors.

Mr. Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas, NDP):  
Moved for leave to introduce Bill C-390, An Act respecting conscientious objection to the use of taxes for military purposes.
He said: Mr. Speaker, today is International Conscientious Objectors' Day. It is a very appropriate day to reintroduce a private member's bill, seconded by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh, that would allow Canadians who object on conscientious or religious grounds to paying taxes for military purposes to divert their income tax to a special conscientious objector or peace tax account. That account could only be used for purposes other than military expenditures.
The bill would recognize the deeply held views, often related to deeply held religious convictions of some Canadians, that participating in any way in the activities of war and the accumulation of weapons sanctions and perpetuates killing and violence.
The bill would provide an important option for conscientious objection and ensure that the tax dollars of those Canadians who hold these beliefs are spent for peaceful purposes.
A particular feature of the bill is that regulations should be developed in consultation with the Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Conference of Mennonites in Canada, Conscience Canada, the Mennonite Central Committee Canada, and Nos impôts pour la paix.
It has been an honour to work with Conscience Canada on this project.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

It doesn’t really get much gayer than that. Well, not inside the House of Commons, anyway.