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Good news, bad news; Bills C-38 and C-2

Senate about to take one step forward, two steps back

It is perhaps ironic that Canada’s Senate is scheduled give Third Reading to bills C-38 and C-2 side by side on Jul 19.

Bill C-38 is the same-sex civic marriage bill that has made headlines for months as it wound its way through Parliament over the opposition of religious activists, the Harper Conservatives and a big rump of Liberal MPs. Bill C-2, in contrast, was the first bill introduced by Paul Martin’s government after Harper suggested in the last federal election that Martin was soft on child pornography.

Bill C-2 has been largely ignored by the press until recent days, and received little opposition in Parliament even though civil libertarians, arts groups, journalists and leading gay organizations vigorously opposed sections of the bill.

The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario denounced the bill for dangerously over-reaching in its attempt to protect children from sexual exploitation. The result, they said, is that artists and writers could be charged for doing work about their teenage coming out, and teenagers would be robbed of their right to make their own sexual choices.

In recent days, the Globe and Mail editorialized against the bill, suggesting the Senate send it back to Parliament for reworking. And arts groups continued their arguments to the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee.

They appeared to convince Liberal Senator Serge Joyal. On his insistence, the Senate has taken the rare step of attaching “observations” expressing concern that the bill tramples artistic freedom and constitutional rights.

But C-2, along with C-38, is expected to get approval from Third Reading Jul 19 or Jul 20 and get royal assent immediately after.

Same-sex marriage will be legal throughout all of Canada. But teens will have fewer sexual rights than they did last week. And Canada’s artists, particularly gay and lesbian artists, will be vulnerable to charges for doing what artists are supposed to do.