When politicians change their minds on a major issue, especially something of a social nature, it is usually for political or financial reasons. Either they have miscalculated the views held by their electorate, overplayed their hand with budgetary “commitments,” or the winds of change have left them in the dust and they are trying to catch up.
These changes of heart quite often come after elections, when promises made cannot be promises kept. They are referred to as flip-flops, U-turns, what Europeans call volte-face – an about-face.
So it is with some suspicion that many queer Canadians now look on the Conservative party’s belated embrace of our community and its international needs.
It is perhaps most interesting that Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney has taken up the mantle. He who so successfully played the Tory’s preelection point man in Canada’s ethnic minority communities, effectively working to convince many potential voters of his party’s about-face on issues of multiculturalism and immigration.
I suspect the gay community will not be as easy to win over, especially when here in Canada we’ve spent these past six Conservative years trying to hold on to and claw back rights, programs and funding with those same faggot fingernails Tory MP Tom Lukiwski once said are laden with dirt that transmits disease.
It will surely take more than a self-congratulatory email like the one Kenney sent Sept 24.
Of course, the note championing his fight to rescue queer Iranian refugees should not be taken too seriously — the minister is known for congratulating himself. He even recently hosted a petition on his website on which fans could leave personal thank-yous.
And then there’s the curious case of Foreign Minister John Baird. The National Post on Sept 22 told Canadians the Conservative bulldog has an “aggressive agenda” to stand up to countries where homosexuality is still criminal. It’s a shame (considering his position of influence) that Baird has not been able to stand up and take pride in his own sexuality. This speaks volumes.
And while for once it is nice not to feel compelled to turn away in shame when a Conservative minister speaks on the world stage, these types of aggressive agendas take more than words. So far neither Kenney nor Baird has offered much in the way of money or cohesive policy.
In a recent column in Embassy, Canada’s foreign-policy newsweekly, Akim Adé Larcher, the former director of policy and research at Egale, said that in terms of promoting queer rights abroad, “Canada has seated itself at the global table without resources or a clear direction in terms of what it wants to achieve.”
A 2012 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) review also criticized Canada for recent cuts to its foreign aid budget. It said Ottawa lacks transparency, and its work with Canadian organizations promoting human rights abroad has become “ad hoc and selective.”
With this in mind, Baird’s criticism is empty; it seems simply a way of embarrassing other states our government doesn’t like. If Baird is so anxious to promote gay rights abroad, what is he doing about the myriad human rights abuses against our community perpetrated in parts of the United States? By the Vatican? By our new buddies the Chinese?
Similarly, Kenney’s gay refugee fight seems to start and stop with Iran, underscoring the government’s dangerous use of ideology to guide its policy decisions. While Iran is no model for gay rights, the Rainbow Refugee Committee’s Sharalyn Jordan notes that there are more than 78 countries with criminal sanctions against queer people, including several other countries with the death penalty.
Kenney’s government has had no problem deporting gay refugee claimants from these countries, including sending Kulenthiran Amirthalingam back to Malaysia in 2008. The gay man had previously spent time in a prison there. Kenney’s recent email, astonishingly, touts his work with the Rainbow Refugee Committee. Meanwhile, representatives at that group have excoriated most of the minister’s decisions on this file.
These slick politicians have taken the country’s temperature and found most Canadians (including many of the 60 percent who did not vote for them) are okay with the whole gay thing. That does not mean they have any intention of doing anything about it other than congratulating themselves and hanging a bunch of shiny new window-dressing.