Ottawa Centre Liberal candidate Scott Bradley has been waiting in the wings for the past 18 months for an election. With all that time, one would think that Bradley would have done his homework on issues pertinent to the queer community.
Bradley supports both C-389 (trans rights) and C-393 (access to inexpensive AIDS drugs for the developing world), although he stresses that they were NDP bills and if elected he could not bring them to the table. He is enthusiastic about the gay village and confused as to why the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA) insists on stalling the inevitable.
When Xtra asked about the criminalization of HIV, Bradley was stumped. He says that he knows the issue and what is at stake, yet he took a circuitous route to say that he needed to do more research before taking a stand.
Bradley is a community man, and, I fear, a neighbourhood-association man. He supports community policing and the regular hooker sweeps. He has a general view that all sex workers are drug addicts and the prostitution laws should remain intact.
Contrast that with the NDP’s Paul Dewar. He is a visible figure in the community and is always present at various events — from AIDS fundraisers to the Jer’s Vision gala.
Dewar understands the issues relevant to the community. He helped Bill Siksay push Bill C-389 through, and he is ready to pick up C-393 when he gets reelected. He understands the issues around HIV criminalization — that it should be a public health matter rather than a police one.
He supports the legalization of prostitution, saying that sex workers’ rights should be protected and that sex workers should be treated like other citizens. Although Dewar does not support the current polygamy laws — he is unsure of how polygamy fits into the current social norms — he is not opposed to letting the courts deal with it.
As for the Conservative and Green Party candidates, they both leave something to be desired.
The Conservatives’ Damian Konstantinakos is, perhaps not surprisingly, the weakest of the lot when it comes to sexuality and gender issues. He doesn’t think Canada needs to explicitly protect trans people from discrimination. He doesn’t think that HIV criminalization exists. He supports the contested laws around sex work and polygamy.
The Green Party’s Jen Hunter supports the trans bill and is honest enough to say she doesn’t know all the details of Bill C-393. She loves the diversity of the gay village but doesn’t understand the issues surrounding the criminalization of HIV. She sees police targeting of sex workers as “persecuting people who have already been isolated,” but she did not say “yay” or “nay” to whether she supported the legalization of prostitution. She did acknowledge that it is an important issue to discuss, which is what she said about polygamy — another issue for future discussion.
Ottawa Centre needs a candidate who’s committed to the well-being of the whole community, someone who’s an ally to the gay, bisexual and trans community. It doesn’t mean that he or she has to be supportive of all our issues, but it does mean that the candidate should have an understanding of and knowledge about issues that affect the various individuals in our community — from sex workers to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Paul Dewar is the candidate who fits the role.