GARDEN OF THE PROVINCES
Teach kids about gay sex!
Education about gay and lesbian sex is paltry in Canada. Educators say that it is up to the teacher’s discretion and level of comfort to talk about these issues. There are gay sex modules, but they’re not provincially mandated. Queer youth have the right to be taught sex ed just as much as straight kids, and schools must recognize that they need to provide resources for them. It is irresponsible not to teach teens how to do it safely.
Dismantle the Catholic school system!
During last year’s Ontario election, only Frank De Jong’s Green Party called for a single, secular public system that would merge Catholic school boards with their public counterparts.
Historically, Catholic schools have represented a significant barrier to teaching sex ed of any kind — other than abstinence — as well as promoting safer schools, supporting gay-straight alliances, or giving gay teens equal access to resources, including uncensored library material and keeping gay teachers from being chased out of the profession.
Why not leave religion outside of the classroom?
Make sex reassignment accessible!
While progress has been made with Ontario’s health plan now set to cover sex-reassignment surgery, the reality is that it will only cover about 8 to 10 people a year who qualify for the operation after very sustained psychological evaluations. It’s progress for sure, but it’s still not equality if a handful of doctors are picking and choosing candidates. And the situation is just as mangled in most other provinces.
Queer parents on birth certificates
Lesbian moms and gay dads shouldn’t have to cross out lines on birth certificates or apply to human rights commissions to get legally recognized as their kid’s parent. Queer parents can get onto birth certificates without having to put the name of a biological father or mother, but the government doesn’t make it easy. Ontario birth certificates still just have one line for the mother’s name and one for the father’s. A good alternative would be to simply have lines for ‘parent one’, ‘parent two’, or even ‘parent three’ on the forms.
Hassle free HIV testing now!
Canadians deserve anonymous HIV testing. Some provinces only have nominal/name-based HIV testing or non-nominal/non-identifying HIV testing, which often scares people away. In Ontario, anonymous testing isn’t available everywhere that HIV tests are done. Ottawa will be expanding is 60-second testing ability this fall, but rapid HIV tests should be available everywhere. Ideally, the locations where you can get tested should be in places where gay folks live, work and play.
SUPREME COURT OF CANADA
Up with big love!
Polygamy is illegal in Canada. But what about people who just want to have numerous partners or live in closed three-person or four-person relationships? We’re not asking for marriage certificates with lines for wife one, two and three — but we demand to be able to love who and how we choose. Constitutional experts say Canada’s seldom-used polygamy laws are vulnerable to a constitutional challenge — it’s about time we tested their theory.
Out of our bedrooms!
The Supreme Court of Canada just doesn’t get spanking. In cases of consensual BDSM as well as those that involve BDSM porn, the Court has consistently held that bondage and slave-master sex is not protected. We say: our bedrooms (or dungeons), our choices.
End censorship at the border!
The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) has made a habit of prohibiting ‘obscene’ materials from coming into Canada from elsewhere. Porn that would be perfectly legal to make, sell and possess in Canada is often stopped at the border for unjust reasons. Depictions of vaginal and anal fisting have been deemed obscene, along with the sexualization of objects and BDSM. If the CBSA finds gay porn on your laptop, it could very well be seized for up to a month. In fact, about 70 percent of all CBSA seizures are gay and lesbian materials.
Fix our consent laws!
While the age of consent for vaginal sex is already too high (are teens really going to wait for 16?), it gets even more foolish for gay teens. Section 159 of Canada’s Criminal Code sets the age of consent for anal sex at 18, with an exception only if the two partners are married. On top of that, the exception refers only to an act between a husband and a wife. And the punishment? Up to 10 years in jail. The law’s been struck down already in Ontario and several other provinces — why won’t our politicians take it off the books?
Get with harm reduction!
The Conservatives haven’t been too keen on harm reduction since they took the federal reins in 2006. Insite won a short victory in May of this year, when the B.C. Supreme Court struck down sections of the Canadian Criminal Code prohibiting drug and trafficking possession, ruling that they went against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. A few weeks later, Tony Clement announced that he would appeal the Supreme Court decision, like a good little Conservative.
The Conservatives need to recognize that harm reduction initiatives like Insite do not increase drug use among the public — they actually help prevent the spread of HIV and hep C and reduce the amount of fatalities associated with overdoses. Get with it!
Don’t censor us!
Fighting for free speech is an ongoing battle. The latest affront is Bill C-10, an omnibus bill containing hundreds of amendments to the Income Tax Act. It includes a clause which gives the heritage minister the power to deny necessary tax credits to independent Canadian film or television productions if the content is deemed objectionable, or “contrary to public policy.” This denial of financial aid is equivalent to censorship, since the majority of Canadian filmmakers cannot afford to produce their projects without government assistance.
Legalize bawdy houses!
Prostitution is legal in Canada, but laws make it nearly impossible to do it safely. In fact, by making bawdy houses or brothels illegal and only allowing prostitutes to make outcalls, it undermines sex workers’ right to a safe work environment.
Worse, the Criminal Code states that “everyone who keeps a common bawdyhouse is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.” And any space can be defined as a bawdyhouse, provided that people frequent it for the purpose of prostitution.
Police are kicking prostitutes off the streets, and guys cruising in parks, but they aren’t coming up with any alternatives for where else people can go. Raids on bathhouses haven’t stopped since the brutal 1981 police campaign in Toronto; in fact, the latest one on Hamilton’s Warehouse Spa and Bath took place in 2004, where two men were arrested and charged with committing indecent acts.
HUMAN RIGHTS MONUMENT & WAR MEMORIAL
Remember our brothers!
In February 1933, the Nazi Party launched its purge of homosexual clubs in Berlin, outlawed sex publications and banned organized gay groups. An extensive list of names and addresses of gay people were seized from the Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sex Research, and around 20,000 books and journals and 5,000 images were destroyed. Gays and lesbians in Germany were forced into sexual conformity. And many, especially gay men, were sent to concentration camps under the Extermination Through Work campaign.
The German government did not apologize until 2002 for the treatment of the gay community during the Holocaust, and a memorial was not erected in Berlin until May 27, 2008. The memorial is a four metre high monument with a small window through which a film can be seen of two men kissing.
Where are gay victims of the holocaust remembered in Canada?
And discrimination in the military!
This year, during the 2008 Toronto Pride Parade, 10 members of the Canadian Forces came together from across the country to march for the first time and run an information booth at the parade.
While the military overturned its discriminatory policies against homosexuality in 1992, equality for gay soldiers is still very far off. The Canadian Forces needs to institute a specific outlet for gay soldiers to file grievances or organize a formal group where they can fight against discrimination and for equal treatment.
International human rights now!
On May 17, 1990, homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization, and in honour of that, International Day Against Homophobia was established by the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).
Of course, some countries move at a slower pace than others — in 2008, the ILGA published its yearly report on state-sponsored homophobia, with results showing that presently, 86 member states of the United Nations still criminalize consensual same sex acts between adults. Among those, seven countries punish gays sex with the death penalty.
Trans rights are human rights!
In Canada, trans people are not included in the “protection from discrimination” clauses of provincial human rights codes. While protection for trans folk is usually read into the clauses (somewhere between sex, orientation and disability), that’s not good enough. Activists across the country are pursuing the province on this issue, nowhere more vocally than here in Ontario.
Represent us at the Human Rights Museum!
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg is poised to be Canada’s first federal museum dedicated to the topic of Human Rights. Harper’s government has already contributed $100 million to the cause, and online public consultation wrapped up earlier this year. Those surveyed placed the most importance on having sections of the museum dedicated to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Holocaust, the internment of Japanese-Canadians, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed by the United Nations in 1948, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the use of the War Measures Act in 1970. Nowhere in the polls did it show a high priority for an exhibit about the history of homophobia in Canada, or the advancement of gay rights. So, as the human rights movement’s favourite children, will we be represented?
Home to the fourth largest gay community in Canada, Ottawa’s gaybourhood is way overdue. While gays who live in the area do already consider it their village, it deserves official recognition and an increase of facilities — such as a queer community centre and retirement facility. As of now, queer resources are located close together in the downtown core, and the residents of Bank and beyond know how to get to them, but gays living in the west or east end may not have such easy access to the gay community.
Keep police out of cruising areas!
It is one thing for police to be telling cruisers to “move it along,” but another for them to actually be fining people. But if bathhouses are technically illegal and cops are kicking cruisers out of parks, where do they want people to go? Maybe there’s a spare room at the OPS Headquarters?
Back off on harm reduction!
While Larry O’Brien has finally been convinced that one-for-one needle exchange doesn’t work, and the Somerset West Community Health Centre continues to hand out crack kits and needles, there is still a long ways to go — and rightwing city councillors aren’t helping.
End queer homelessness!
It is not uncommon for gay kids to come out to their rightwing parents and find themselves out on the streets. The Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa offers emergency and transitional housing services for young men and women, but they can only accommodate a small number of kids at a time, and do not cater exclusively to gay youth. There is a great need for residential housing for homeless queer youth; a report last year from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in collaboration with the National Coalition for the Homeless, showed that 42 percent of the estimated 1.6 million homeless American youth were queer identified.
With illustrations by John Crossen.