3 min

Left eyes Vancouver-Centre

NDP hopefuls have boned up on gay issue

MARRIAGE IS THE PRIME ISSUE FOR RIDING. Gay man Brian Revel thinks Vancouver-Centre should send a gay man to Ottawa. Credit: Xtra West files

For the first time in years, the NDP sees Vancouver Centre riding as winnable. With the new Conservative party leaderless and the federal Liberals mired in scandal, the three people seeking the NDP candidacy for the riding now held by Hedy Fry see an opportunity.

Monica Malcolm, Brian Revel and Kennedy Stewart can all boast political experience. All three agree that the issues that are now deemed important by gays and lesbians also affect all Canadians.

Topping the list for all three is same-sex marriage. They are critical of the Liberals sending the issue back to the Supreme Court for a constitutional decision.

Stewart, who some local commentators have deemed the frontrunner in the nomination race sees no problem with gay marriage.

“If two people are in love, then that should be supported as much as possible by the state,” says the straight man. “They’ve been doing that with heterosexual couples forever. Parliament could have acted without going to the Supreme Court.”

Malcolm, a married new mother, questions who is driving the marriage policy.

“Is it the United States and George Bush?” she asks. There should be “full extension of all benefits to all couples. It should be exactly the same as heterosexual couples.”

Revel says the marriage is the prime issue for the riding and that it needs a gay man such as himself to make those views known in Ottawa.

“We should be able to make that choice as first-class citizens of a country,” he says. “I don’t see anything wrong with allowing two people who love themselves to be in a relationship where they get all of the benefits everyone else in society does.”

And he stresses, anyone in the gay community who believes they can vote for a conservative party and see their views represented should look at George Bush’s threats to ban same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment.

The ongoing fight being waged by Little Sister’s against Canada Customs also drew support from the three.

Malcom says Canadians should be outraged by the systemic targeting of the store. “The targeting is just so invasive to all of us,” she says. Customs “need better training, clearer guidelines. It shouldn’t be so haphazard.”

Revel says the riding’s MP should “be making it clear Canada Customs is not allowed in people’s bedrooms.”

He extends the issue to the entire security clampdown and erosion of civil liberties.

“The government only with reason has a right to get into our personal lives,” Revel says. “Bureaucrats don’t have the right to control our intellects.”

Stewart says the gay bookstore continues to be targeted by a Customs embarrassed by the store’s success at the Supreme Court of Canada. He says an MP should act as an advocate is such situations.

“Why is there this continual pressure?” he asks. “It’s quite ridiculous.”

The three are also of like mind on the bawdyhouse section of the Criminal Code. Seen in the queer community as antiquated, it’s the law used to justify the December 2002 raid on Calgary’s bathhouse.

Revel says the issue is about educating police officers in addition to seeing that people are free from unnecessary police intervention in their lives.

“The values that Canadians in general hold are a little bit more liberal . . . than that you find in a police station,” he says. If education attempts fail, then the legislation should be changed, Revel adds.

Stewart says lawmakers should be studying the bathhouses and creating laws which apply to the unique situation.

“Why not try a relaxation of the law in a specific area and see what the effect is?” he says. “There’s an inconsistency in its prosecution. It’s at the whim of the police. That’s unacceptable.

“If there doesn’t seem to be any huge effects to the rest of the community, go ahead and change the law.”

The laws cannot be justified, Malcom sighs: “Hundred year old laws. . . . “These are people that are privately doing their own thing. Why would the police react to that?”

She says the law was blatantly used to target a specific community and must be changed.

John Robin Sharpe has returned to the news but before the Supreme Court he made history when his allegedly pornographic works were deemed to have artistic merit.

Stewart believes some art challenges our views of how we see ourselves: “If art is in that spirit, great, but if it’s exploitative for the purpose of being exploitative, I don’t think it can be considered art.

“If it’s consenting adults, fine.”

Malcolm believes in total freedom of expression.

“A consensus needs to be achieved around what is harmful as opposed to what is merely offensive,” she says.

Revel says the issue is best dealt with through the courts on a case-by-case basis in deciding what is truly offensive to the community. He says the Sharpe case is the exception rather than the rule.