3 min

Queer and conservative

Gay man seeks West End Conservative nomination

Vancouver Centre is ready for a fiscal conservative to sweep three-term incumbent Hedy Fry from office, say candidates for the Conservative Party nomination.

So far, two people are seeking the nomination for the party created from the controversial recent merger of the Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative parties: Gary Mitchell and Paul Philcox.

Both candidates see issues confronting the queer community as having widespread importance for the wider community. Among them are: same-sex marriage, the bawdyhouse section of the Criminal Code, and censorship.

“I want to ensure that this party puts forth centrist, progressive views,” explains the gay Mitchell.

Neither see being queer and voting Conservative as contradictory.

“There are many people coming from both sides of the party that are gay and support same-sex marriage and issues that are important to the queer community,” Mitchell says.

Philcox, a former member of the Reform Party, concurs: “There are a lot of conservatives in the gay community. They’re self-employed, entrepreneurs. They do well. They want to protect that.”

Mitchell supports MP Larry Spencer being asked to leave the Alliance caucus after making his comments that homosexuality should be re-criminalized.

“You are always going to have people-in no matter what party-speak out poorly and that we can’t change,” Mitchell says.

A member of the armed forces for 23 years and now city police fleet manager, Philcox re-engaged with politics after becoming disenchanted with former Reform leader Stockwell Day.

“I think a lot of the scary old policies have gone out the window,” he says. “It just didn’t sit well for me.”

In contrast to the Martin government’s vacillation on the same-sex marriage issue, both say it’s an equality issue to be dealt with under law while leaving churches to deal with it as they see fit.

With an election looming, Mitchell says Prime Minister Paul Martin’s sending the question to the Supreme Court is a way of avoiding the issue at the polls.

“It’s an equal right,” he says. “It doesn’t take away from the rights of those people who, for religious reasons, disagree with it.”

Philcox, who is straight, supports same-sex unions. He says the law is rightly involved at the start and the end of any marriage-straight or gay.

“Churches perform a ceremony. Churches should do what they think they should do. If they want to marry same-sex people, they should marry them. If not, that’s their freedom of religion,” Philcox says. “Two 80-year-old ladies just got married in San Francisco. Who’s it going to hurt?”

Many in the queer community across Canada want to see the bawdyhouse section of the Criminal Code gone. It’s the law used to justify the 2002 raid on Calgary’s bathhouse.

Philcox compares the raid to one at a Montreal swinger’s club. He calls it hypocritical.

“We’re arresting or detaining street prostitutes-male and female-and yet the West End is a business centre for call-girls,” he illustrates. “How come that’s legal and the other stuff isn’t? There’s a certain amount of activity that’s going to go on, so why not enumerate it, use the tax money to help people [rather] than wasting time prosecuting it?”

Mitchell says the bawdyhouse law is archaic.

“It should be modernized to reflect our community and in no way should it be tied into prostitution or massage parlours,” he says.

And Mitchell wants to see an end to the two-decade-long fight between Little Sister’s and Canada Customs over book seizures.

“Freedom of speech is an inherent right of all Canadians,” he says. “That allows people to choose what they read, choose what they buy in the form of art or choose what they watch on television.”

Philcox flatly says bureaucrats need to be told who the boss is.

“It’s not just Little Sister’s. Customs seems to run roughshod over a lot of people,” he says. “They act like a law unto themselves. I think they should be brought to heel.”

Both men are alarmed by the perception of growing crime in the West End.

“This is a national issue,” Mitchell says. “We’re dealing with people coming from all over Canada to Vancouver. It’s affecting the West End, it’s affecting our businesses, it’s affecting our sense of security.”

Philcox says it’s up to Ottawa to deal with the poverty issues which have created the situation.

“I always felt safe in the West End. You’ve got these guys pushing their shopping carts up and down the laneways. They using the laneways as public toilets. If you think about SARS, avian flu, this is something just waiting to happen.

“How can we as a society allow people live to live in our streets, under the viaducts. That’s just wrong.”