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Tourism BC backtracks on banning gay promotions in China

Feds say ban was never part of their agreement

"He was just wrongly informed about what had happened," a spokesperson in Tourism BC Minister Pat Bell's office says. Credit: leg.bc.ca

BC’s tourism minister has apologized for guidelines prohibiting the promotion of Canada’s gay-friendliness in China, saying he was wrongly informed that it was part of an agreement between the Canadian and Chinese governments.

Among the stipulations listed in Tourism BC’s guide, entitled How To Market Your Business to China, is a requirement that partner operators “prohibit the promotion of casinos, gambling and gay tourism, per the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA).”

Following release of the guide, Bell initially said the gay tourism exclusion was part of the terms the federal government accepted when it negotiated approved-destination status with China last year. Bell has now backtracked, saying the prohibition was not part of the agreement. He has directed staff to correct the guide, which was released to the province’s tourism operators last week.

“Mr Bell’s retraction is welcome, and that is, in fact, the case — that was never part of the agreement that was negotiated between the government of Canada and the government of China,” says a spokesperson in the office of the federal minister of state for small business and tourism, Maxime Bernier.

There was no agreement that gay tourism should not be promoted, says the spokesperson, adding that he won’t speculate on what was negotiated between the two governments at the time.

In the final commitment between Canada and China, “nowhere in that document is that issue addressed,” the spokesperson says. Neither would he “venture a guess” as to how Bell came to the conclusion that gay tourism should not be promoted.

“He was just wrongly informed about what had happened,” a spokesperson in Bell’s office told Xtra on Nov 8. “In this guidebook, it was identified as something that was prohibited as part of this agreement — that is not correct,” she says. Neither was there any federal government demand to include such a prohibition in the guide, she adds.

Bell has asked deputy minister Dana Hayden to look into the matter, the spokesperson says.

The guide was pulled offline Nov 7, and a request was made for the removal of the statement against gay tourism, the spokesperson says. “Once it is, they will repost it.”

Bell is currently on a trade mission to China with Premier Christy Clark.