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Queers squeezed from justice committee schedule

Sex Laws and CLGRO dumped; Egale and The Age Of Consent Committee a go

TOKENISM. Andrew Brett will address MPs, but mostly it was the bill's fans that got the time slots. Credit: Tony Fong photo

As the invite list for Parliament’s justice committee hearings crystallizes, gay and lesbian groups have been largely dropped from the agenda.

So far, the committee has heard from five police and religious groups in favour of raising the age of consent from 14 to 16. The committee will receive presentations from another fifteen groups on C-22, of which only two — Egale and the Age Of Consent Committee — are queer.

“The Justice Committee has indicated that Egale is making a presentation and they would only invite one of our committees (Sex Laws, Age Of Consent [Committee] or CLGRO) to present if someone else they have invited declines. We are pressuring them to hear the Age of Consent Committee because it is a youth-led committee,” Richard Hudler of the Sex Laws Committee told Capital Xtra over e-mail.

The Liberals have been itching to fast track the bill since the beginning of March, even going so far as to ask the House Of Commons to skip justice committee hearings entirely. The Conservatives meanwhile appear to be dragging their feet, probably because they want the bill’s passage to line up more closely with an election, according to Andrew Brett of the Age Of Consent Committee.

Even though NDP justice critic Joe Comartin asked to hear CLGRO’s presentation, it is up to the full committee to decide how much time to devote to a bill and who will be invited to speak on it.

Even the Age Of Consent Committee was not on the first round of presenters. Only after another group cancelled was Brett invited to present.

“Their presentation is excellent and, in my view, the only one truly relevant because it is from the people directly touched by this,” wrote Age Of Consent Committee member Peter Bochove to Capital Xtra Mar 26.

Egale will present on Mar 27 alongside public health organizations that support the bill. Brett is scheduled to present Mar 29 on a panel with the BC Civil Liberties Association, Elizabeth Fry Societies and the Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers, although the lineup is subject to change. A second panel — bookending the hearings — will include former Toronto police bulldog Paul Gillespie and the Canadian Centre For Victims Of Crimes.

“There’s definitely a lack of presentations not just from queer groups, but from people who oppose this bill in general. Those who support the bill had a whole day of presentations [Mar 22]. They’re still having people who support the bill on Egale’s day; they have people who support the bill presenting on our day,” says Brett.

After the public hearings, the House Of Commons will take a two-week recess. When it resumes mid-April, the justice committee will commence clause-by-clause analysis of the bill, where members can try to amend it.