Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hillary's no 'pansy', says North Carolina Governor

With Hillary Clinton standing at his side, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley yesterday endorsed her run for U.S. president and then described the Democratic candidate as so tough that she "makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy." Ouch!

Read more about it here and here and here.

After the governor uttered what I consider to be a major insult against gay men, the Smoking Gun reported that Clinton, "stepped up to the mic to accept Easley's endorsement, (she) said nothing about his 'pansy' comment."

Later, the Clinton campaign released this statement about the governor's insult: "We certainly wish the governor would have chosen his words better and have expressed our disappointment to his staff."

As far as I can tell, Hillary is no homophobe. But she no doubt will gladly take the support of a homophobe without hesitation if it'll help her campaign.

Will she now disassociate herself from Easley, like Barack Obama did regarding Rev. Wright? Who are we kidding? It's okay in America to insult gays and get away with it. But (allegedly) insult white, working class, religious, gun-owning voters? Political crucifixion is sure to follow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Montreal gay bar can't discriminate against women - will Lorne Gunter complain about this case too?

Somehow I doubt that National Post columnst Lorne Gunter, who loves to disparage human rights rulings that favour LGBT citizens, will now come to the defense of Bar Le Stud in Montreal.

The leather bar has settled with a woman who claimed the bar discriminated against her. Audrey Vachon filed a complaint to Quebec's human rights commission last May after she was asked to leave the establishment because she is a woman. She was sitting at the bar with her father, Gilles Vachon.

In a statement released today, the human rights commission said the two parties had reached a settlement, but refused to provide specific details. Commission spokesperson Robert Sylvestre, however, said the bar must respect the charter of rights, which means it has no right to refuse people entry because of their gender or sexual preference.

Oh, the powerful hand of the secular state strikes again, telling private businesses they must serve all members of the public, not just some members of the public of their choosing! I'll look forward to Gunter's outrage in a future column, like the one he wrote yesterday lamenting the inability of a Christian organization to fire a lesbian simply because she was lesbian. (I won't be holding my breath, however.)

But seriously, I agree with the Quebec commission. This kind of discrimination is wrong no matter who does it.

*****************************************

In other news, one of my favourite musicians, Rufus Wainwright (pictured), has once again been honoured by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards, this time for his work promoting gay rights. Wainwright received the Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which was named after a Los Angeles director known for devoting the last part of his life to fighting AIDS-phobia and homophobia.

Yay for Rufus!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Why should gays and lesbians tolerate discrimination anywhere, Lorne Gunter?

Check out yet another alarmist column by National Post writer Lorne Gunter, now crying foul of the decision last week by Ontario's Human Rights Commission against Christian Horizons for discriminating against Connie Heintz because she's a lesbian.

Hidden between the lines of Lorne Gunter's column (and many others like it) is the assumption somehow that LGBT citizens don't deserve protection from discrimination under the law. Otherwise, why the need to publish such a piece?

Gunter writes: "I have no doubt the OHRC's ruling would have been exactly the same if CH had been running its residential homes completely privately having raised its entire annual budget without any help from taxpayers. After all, in 1999 the OHRC forced Toronto Christian printer Scott Brockie to do print jobs for gay and lesbian customers even though his print business was private and not under any contract with Queen's Park to provide print services. "

So let's see, Lorne - a private company provides services to the public, makes money in our society, yet can decide it won't do business with gays and lesbians, and this is completely okay?

If the same company decided it wouldn't serve Jews, would that be okay too, Lorne?

Of course, Gunter at least admits that because this religious organization was taking public funds, it should be forced to conform its practises to public laws.

As for the commission-ordered sensitivity training that goes along with the employment ruling against Christian Horizons being "very dangerous", as Gunter puts it, it would seem, based on what I've read of Ms. Heintz's case, the people at this organization desperately need this training.

Heintz quit her job at Christian Horizons in September 2000 after employees and supervisors made her final months there "the worst time of [her] life." After revealing she was a lesbian, Heintz said some co-workers made unfounded accusations that she abused residents.

It's sadly typical that people who claim to be loving Christians regularly lie and defame gays and lesbians as being sexual offenders, diseased or otherwise.

It's unfortunate that Gunter and his ilk consider weeding out this kind of systemic and vile hatred within such organizations so "dangerous". I would suggest that such sensitivity training is designed to change behaviour and outward action, not "police thought" as Gunter alleges.

Those at Christian Horizons or similar organizations have every right to maintain any vile bigotries their faith may inspire them to hold. There's nothing any Human Rights Commission or sensitivity training can do to change that.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I support Canada's first Africentric alternative school

News today that the Toronto Public School Board has found a location for its controversial Africentric alternative school. It will be a school within a school – not a free-standing building – and is being proposed for a wing of sprawling Sheppard Public School near the northwest corner of Sheppard Avenue West and Keele Street in Toronto.

There was a lot of knee-jerk opposition to this when it was first proposed. I do admit, I wasn't overly crazy about the idea at first. I chose to wait until plans were more fully fleshed out before commenting on it here.

But comments like this from school trustee James Pasternak, who represents the area where the new school will be located, are reassuring: "There's this misconception of two solitudes running down the halls, but that's incorrect – these kids (in the regular school and the Africentric wing) would be together in the schoolyard, together in the playground, together in the lunchroom," said Pasternak.

The new school won't only be open to black students; students of all races will be welcome. The school will also be open to all qualified staff, although it is "expected to become a magnet for black educators wishing to serve as role models, and those with a background in Africentric curriculum."

According to the Toronto Star Q&A at the bottom of today's article, "Students will follow the Ontario curriculum, but lessons will focus where possible on contributions made by Africans and black Canadians, and issues relevant to the African-Canadians' experience."

I think this is a positive step. Will it have much of an impact on the 40% dropout rate for black students in Toronto? It's too soon to tell, but it certainly won't make that number worse. If it saves even a handful of youth from falling out of the system, then it's a good investment, I say.

In many ways, the new school will be similar to the longstanding Triangle Program, which provides an alternative school setting for queer students in Toronto. The aim of the Triangle program has never been to replace existing mainstream schools, but to provide queer students with a LGBT-positive space, free from bullying and harassment so they can learn in peace. The ultimate goal of the Triangle Program has been to arm their students with stronger self-esteem so that they can eventually return to the mainstream school system.

The purpose of alternative schools like the Africentric school or the Triangle Program is to help marginalized students whose needs aren't being met by the mainstream system. The alternate programs are integrated within the existing public school system, showing that public system's ability to meet the needs of students under one large umbrella.

These programs are entirely different from separate religious schools, where the goal is not to assist students back into the mainstream, but to keep them "safely" separated from that mainstream for their entire educational experience (because, implicitly, there's something inherently wrong or immoral with that mainstream, some believe.)

Instead of having separate religious school boards for various faiths across Ontario (as some, including PC Leader John Tory, have proposed), we could and should set up equivalent religious programs within the existing public system (where numbers warrant) to ensure students of particular faiths see their values reflected in what they learn. I would have no problem with this at all, as long as all such programs were integrated within one public system and all students and staff would be eligible to participate.

TTC Union Chief Bob Kinnear: "The dangers of...angry and irrational members of the public"

TTC Union head honcho Bob Kinnear will never live this one down, I'm predicting: "We will not expose our members to the dangers of assaults from angry and irrational members of the public."

Whether or not TTC employees have a decent case that they need additional protections and the ability not to lose pay if they are injured or assaulted on the job is beside the point.

For a guy leading up the public fight for a better deal, calling Torontonians "angry and irrational" isn't going to go over well in the ongoing PR battle over this surprise strike. Nor is the "irrational" way in which this surprise strike was launched, just before midnight last night, stranding many people downtown with no way of getting home except an overly expensive cab ride.

Kinnear's blunder will make legislating them back to work all the more easy for Dalton McGuinty, unless NDP Leader Howard Hampton gives Toronto yet another slap in the face and backs the union in the legislature tomorrow. If the TTC isn't back in operation by Monday, there'll be hell to pay.

Friday, April 25, 2008

April 25: Day of Silence

Congrats to the organizers of today's Day of Silence, which brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. This year’s event is held in memory of Lawrence King, a California 8th-grader who was shot and killed Feb. 12 this year by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.

My friend and fellow blogger Montreal Simon writes eloquently about the issue today.

Fired lesbian employee wins human rights case against Christian Horizons

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled today in favour of Connie Heintz, a lesbian employee who was forced to leave her job at Christian Horizons. For five years, Heintz was a support worker at a Waterloo residential home for five developmentally delayed adults. She quit her job in September 2000, after employees and supervisors made her final months there "the worst time of my life."

After revealing she was a lesbian, "they said this would be grounds for dismissal," she said. "On a regular basis, I was told to look elsewhere for work...I was harassed. I constantly had to watch my back," Heintz said in an interview with the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

"They made allegations about me." Heintz said some co-workers made unfounded accusations that she abused residents. How truly Christian of them (not)!

This news release from the Tribunal gives more background on the case and the Tribunal's decision:

"Ms. Heintz, an individual of deep Christian faith, and a model employee for five years with Christian Horizons, was providing care and support to individuals with developmental disabilities. Like other employees, when first hired, Ms. Heintz was required to sign a Lifestyle and Morality Statement, which prohibits, among other things, homosexual relationships. After several years, Ms. Heintz came to terms with her sexual orientation as a lesbian. When Christian Horizons discovered this, they advised her that she was not complying with the Statement and required her to leave the organization."

"The Tribunal ruled that Christian Horizons could not require its employees to sign [such a] Statement. It found that Christian Horizons is primarily engaged in serving the disability-related needs of its clients, and the prohibition on homosexual relationships was not a legitimate job requirement for providing quality care and support to disabled residents.

"Christian Horizons describes itself as an Evangelical Christian Ministry that provides care and residential services to 1,400 developmentally disabled individuals of all races, creeds and sexual orientations. With over 180 residential homes across Ontario, and 2,500 employees, Christian Horizons is the largest provider of community living services in the province, funded almost exclusively by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.

"This decision is important," commented Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall, "because it sets out that when faith-based and other organizations move beyond serving the interests of their particular community to serving the general public, the rights of others, including employees, must be respected."


This decision makes perfect sense. Any organization or business, religious or otherwise, that provides services to the public has no right to practise this kind of discrimination.

I'm sure many Christian groups will howl this is yet another example of the state undermining religious freedom, ignoring the impact this kind of discrimination has on its LGBT victims, let alone the clients they purport to serve. Shame on those who do.

Don't like rising gas prices? Stop driving so much...

Raised in Guelph, I chose to live in Toronto because I liked the open-minded culture and way of life. Thirteen years later, I still love it.

Of course, within Toronto, one can choose to live as far away as the suburbs of Mississauga or Markham and still have easy access to the delights of the big city (at least by car). But I've chosen to mostly live and work within the old city of Toronto, first living in the Bloor West Village area, followed by several years (on and off) in Boystown around Church & Wellesley, a brief and unfortunate stint on Finch Avenue near the Yonge subway line, Leslieville, the Annex and now the Junction. Except for my brief stay on Finch Avenue (when I exclusively used transit to get to work downtown), I've always been able to bike to work. In this city, biking is the best way to get around, virtually nothing (except bad weather) gets in the way of my daily bike ride and I love it. I don't make a huge amount of money in my day job, but I do make enough to get buy, pay my bills, save a little and have an enjoyable life.

Long before cutting down on one's carbon footprint became trendy, I chose to live and work within biking distance. I don't own a car, although my partner does (and the car comes in very handy for groceries, trips to see family out of town, etc.) But generally speaking, I've long been able to live quite happily ignoring the ever-changing price of gasoline at the pumps.

With news that the price of gas is about to skyrocket yet again to new heights over the next few months and years, I can only say to those grumpy folks who have chosen to live in some quiet suburb miles and miles from where they work or play, or in some city or town without an adequate transit system, forcing themselves to be dependent on their motor vehicle, get a life! I have little sympathy for you.

If gas prices continue to rise, it'll force people pretty quickly to start making smarter choices about how they live their lives. And that's a good thing.

******UPDATE*******

My apologies if my post seems a little harsh or unsympathetic to those who live outside of the old city of Toronto (or other major urban centres.) I'm well aware that most people don't like public transit, even if it is decent in their communities. Personally, I greatly dislike using transit in Toronto too and avoid it as much as I can. Thus, my choice to live within biking distance of work and play.

Most people in medium-sized and smaller centres choose to drive cars for convenience sake. Transit services in Markham or Guelph or London or Ottawa are good. Many continue to drive despite the growing awareness of climate change and the cumulative damage such activity has on our environment. Sadly for them, it might take astronomical increases in gas prices like those predicted for them to finally choose to drive less. Relying on good will doesn't seem to be working in getting people to change their comfortable habits. We'll have to see if hitting them in the pocketbook does the trick. Of course, I'm not looking forward to the howls from those demanding relief at the pumps so they can continue to live as they have been living.

********UPDATE #2

People should lobby for more dedicated bike lanes in every major urban centre. Transit may be an annoyance, but I can bike 6.6 kms in 30 minutes safely in Toronto thanks to dedicated bike lanes...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

George Smitherman for Toronto mayor in 2010!

Since voting for David Miller in the 2003 Toronto mayoral election, I have been wholly unimpressed by his performance in the mayor's chair. After he stopped the plan to build a bridge to the island airport shortly after winning office, Miller seemed to simply stop delivering on his many promises, which included cleaning up the city's backrooms and old-style politics. Instead, he formed a centre-left coalition with many of council's NDP members, seizing power from the centre-right coalition that governed the city under bumbling former mayor Mel Lastman.

In 2006, Miller won easy re-election over a very weak Tory opponent in Jane Pitfield. I voted in that election for some fringe student candidate whose name now escapes me, mostly as a protest against my choices.

But Miller's recent imposition of a new land transfer tax, gouging homeowners to allegedly balance the city's budget, was the final straw. His insistence on needing more tax revenue was undermined by the clear waste that still permeates the City of Toronto's government.

I'm certainly no reactionary, knee-jerk Tory who demands tax freezes at all costs. But Miller refused to push our city's councillors to give up their daily limo rides about town amid all the cost-cutting discussions last year. Even Members of Provincial Parliament don't get such perks. At the same time, he insisted ordinary people pay thousands more for simply selling their homes or renewing their drivers' licenses.

I bought my first condo late last year, so I was exempt from the new Toronto land transfer tax this time. But knowing what tax gouging awaits me in the future does not make me happy.

So I'm looking for new leadership at Toronto City Hall.

That's why all of the recent talk of a possible George Smitherman mayoral candidacy in 2010 makes me very, very excited. I've known George since 1996, before he stepped out of the backrooms to win the Toronto Centre-Rosedale seat in the Ontario legislature and become Ontario's first openly gay M.P.P.

Who are we kidding? George would make a fabulous and inspiring mayor for this city. For what it's worth, he would have my full support over our lacklustre Dipper-light incumbent.

Please, George, go for it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Great post by James Bowie: "Blogs are a liability"

Check out this beautifully-written ode to blogging by James Bowie.

Indiana will be pivotal now...

Last night's results in Pennsylvania maintain the current deadlock in the Democratic race, at least until early May.

Congrats to Hillary on her win. But the hard truth is the mathematics still make a victory by her unlikely and, I'd say, politically impossible at this point. If Obama talks more like he did last night in his speech, he'll definitely be able to win over more White, Catholic, middle America voters. I think most pundits will now start to spin Indiana's upcoming primary on May 6 as pivotal in this race. Obama has North Carolina in the bag. Indiana is Obama's chance to finally seal the deal and I hope he does it.

I watched last night's speeches by both candidates carefully.

During Hillary's speech, a couple audience members yelled out, "I love you, Hillary!" and she said nothing back. She stuck to her script as touching as it often was.

Somebody also cried out to Obama during his speech: "I love you!" and Obama immediately replied back, "I love you too."

I think this difference speaks volumes about both candidates - I'll let you decide how.

Basically Pennsylvania tells us that Obama has his work cut out for him still among working class, white voters in middle America. But he clearly has it within his power to improve his message and is still the frontrunner to win the Democratic nomination.

Clinton is putting up a great fight, she's proving inspirational with her strength and resilience. When this campaign started, I had little enthusiasm for her candidacy. Now, it seems this competition from Obama has made Hillary the candidate she needed to be. Regardless she can hold her head high.

But I'm still hoping that Obama takes the nomination.

*********UPDATE********

p.s. Another Canadian blogger posted today possibly questioning how appropriate it is for we Canadian bloggers to be discussing the ongoing American election season. All I can say is this race b/n Obama and Clinton is the most interesting political story going on right now, the 'In and out' scandal notwithstanding. The race is historic and whoever wins will have a huge impact on Canadians. So I have every right to discuss it here and elsewhere. David linked to this post as "defending" - not sure what he means by that, but I'll gladly take the link.

By David's apparent standard, Canadian journalists shouldn't be writing about the American election either or speculating about its outcome and impact on Canadians...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Filmmaker Michael Moore endorses Obama

Brilliant filmmaker Michael Moore endorsed Barack Obama for the U.S. Presidency on his blog yesterday (even though he doesn't get a vote being a Michigan Democrat).

I wonder how much of an influence this will have coming so late in the primary season. As Moore is viewed as a leftie nutjob/manipulative propagandist by most on the conservative right in America, it might hurt as much as help Mr. Obama.

Still, I think it's hugely significant considering that portions of Moore's recent documentary Sicko were political love letters to the former first lady, mostly for her failed efforts to bring universal health care to America in the 1990s. (Moore also pointed out in that doc how Clinton went on to accept huge donations from health insurance companies after that policy failure.)

Moore's definitely had a change of heart:

"...Over the past two months, the actions and words of Hillary Clinton have gone from being merely disappointing to downright disgusting. I guess the debate last week was the final straw. I've watched Senator Clinton and her husband play this game of appealing to the worst side of white people, but last Wednesday, when she hurled the name "Farrakhan" out of nowhere, well that's when the silly season came to an early end for me. She said the "F" word to scare white people, pure and simple. Of course, Obama has no connection to Farrakhan. But, according to Senator Clinton, Obama's pastor does -- AND the "church bulletin" once included a Los Angeles Times op-ed from some guy with Hamas! No, not the church bulletin!"

"...There are those who say Obama isn't ready, or he's voted wrong on this or that. But that's looking at the trees and not the forest. What we are witnessing is not just a candidate but a profound, massive public movement for change. My endorsement is more for Obama The Movement than it is for Obama the candidate. That is not to take anything away from this exceptional man. But what's going on is bigger than him at this point, and that's a good thing for the country. Because, when he wins in November, that Obama Movement is going to have to stay alert and active. Corporate America is not going to give up their hold on our government just because we say so. President Obama is going to need a nation of millions to stand behind him."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Don't you love it when the political narrative changes?

This is why we political junkies and Liberal partisans hang in there when the going gets rough: So we can see this kind of scandal explode in our opponents' faces. Gotta love the topsy-turvy world of politics!

One month ago, we had an invincible Tory government with Prime Minister Stephen Harper pummelling Stéphane Dion daily in the leadership stakes, looking poised to form a majority government in a possible election. Today, we've got a morally challenged Conservative government exposed as hypocrites who flout our country's election laws, poor managers of spin and just darn incompetent on foreign affairs.

Suddenly Stéphane Dion's incredible ability to weather a storm, not to mention his well-documented aversion to the sleazy side of politics, is looking better by the day. One month ago, he was dead man walking. Strategic patience is, indeed, a virtue again. We'll see how long this change of narrative lasts. But I do predict the Tories won't be making every House of Commons vote a matter of confidence for the next little while...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cinematic male nudity should be sexy, not just funny...

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS FULL FRONTAL MALE NUDITY.

The French know how to depict male nudity on the big screen; Americans, for the most part, do not (or cannot.)

The 2004 French film 'Grande école,' about a young man who struggles with his sexuality, wasn't one of the greatest films ever made. But it, like many features aimed toward a gay male audience, showed a generous and sexy amount of male nudity (including the above locker room shower scene). Hence, it's North American DVD release (it failed to win even a limited theatrical run over here in 2004, not surprising because the male nudity in it was the only thing I'd describe as exceptional:)

The French aren't the only ones willing to depict frankly and without apology the male nude in an erotic light. Many filmmakers from most Western countries have been willing to show a little skin, both male and female. Take 'Y tu mamá también' by straight Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.

Sadly, the closer we get to mainstream American fare, the less we've seen of the naked male body. There's no denying that every inch of womanhood has been on display in some of the greatest American films over the years. We've gotten a little puritan in recent years due to the rising strength of the evangelical right in America, thus onscreen nudity has slowly become more rare. When it does appear, it's still usually female only. If we're lucky, we get one quick male butt shot surrounded by more generous amounts of female nudity.

All the talk this weekend about the new Judd Apatow film, 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall', and in particular, the graphic male nudity on display by star Jason Segel, got me thinking. It's interesting that a mainstream comedy in America is only willing to depict male nudity through the narrow prism of the heterosexual male point of view. Male nudity is supposed to get us laughing, they figure. It's a way to humiliate the straight guy, it's most definitely not meant to arouse the audience. Jason Segel isn't terrible looking, but from the pics I've seen online, he'd hardly qualify as hunk material, his body is average. No, this is nudity meant to make you giggle, and Segel himself agrees: "I think naked men are hilarious," Segel told reporters earlier this month. "It's so different than female nudity. One of the great things about female nudity is the comfort of knowing that men have all sorts of different preferences; big breasts, small breasts, fat women, skinny women. There's not that many women out there who just love small penises."

Check out this article, written by two women nonetheless, who complain about Segel's nudity and talk about needing to fast-forward through any depiction of male skin on the screen. They don't want to even sit through Viggo Mortensen's infamous nude fight scene in David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises. Man, these girls need to lighten up (or rent some hot French films asap...lol.)

Another memorable example of male-nudity-only-for-laughs on the screen was 'Borat', not exactly the kind of male nudity any gay man or straight woman needed to see. In this film, we couldn't miss Sasha Baron Cohen (pictured on the right) wrestle in the nude with co-star Ken Davitian. While funny, it was anything but erotic.

I've long believed the absence of male nudity in American movies has allowed most straight guys to remain uncomfortably homophobic. By the same token, the abundance of female sensuality on the big screen, in my view, has allowed most straight women to be pretty comfortable with their bodies. Most people today don't flinch when we see a pair of naked breasts during an onscreen love scene. Show a penis during the same love scene, and I can guarantee you you're not watching an American movie.

Still I can't really complain. We used to hear howls of outrage and disgust from straight guys if a male butt or penis made its way into a mainstream flick. Seeing the naked male body as funny is certainly an improvement over seeing it as disgusting. If 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' helps move the ball forward, no pun intended, in terms of what a mainstream audience is willing to accept in North America, then we're better for it.

Heck, maybe we'll even see Daniel Radcliffe (seen below in a publicity shot for his stage performance in Equus) in his birthday suit on the big screen soon. If Uma Thurman can show her tits at age 18 in Dangerous Liaisons, surely Mr. Radcliffe can throw his fans some onscreen frontal soon. If he's willing to appear naked for ten minutes in front of London and New York theatre crowds, surely he'd be willing to do so in front of a film camera (assuming of course he can find a willing film director.)

For a brief history of male nudity on the screen, check out these two articles (also inspired by this weekend's Forgetting Sarah Marshall).

************UPDATE**************

For more perspective on this, check out this 2004 MSNBC article, 'Full-frontal nudity: Taboo for men' or this blog posting today by UbuntuCat entitled, 'Ode to Jason Segel’s Penis.'

Thursday, April 17, 2008

No mistake: Why same-sex marriage is important

Columnist Michael Coren wrote yesterday in the National Post why legalizing same-sex marriage is Canada's biggest policy mistake. For a social conservative to ignore the abortion issue and level this charge against loving same-sex couples is truly revealing. How much venom do you harbour, Mr. Coren?

Let me first deconstruct Coren's re-hashed and flawed arguments. For one, he never fully explains why same-sex marriage (or SSM) is such a mistake. Instead he first trots out the new, "I'm a Christian and I'm a victim" argument, the now oft-heard refrain from the free world's former oppressors.

"Although this is a valid and vital debate about social policy, anyone critiquing the [SSM] status quo is likely to be marginalized as hateful, extreme or simply mad...The discussion, we are told, is over. Which is what triumphalist bullies have said for centuries after they win a battle. In this case, the intention is to marginalize anyone who dares to still speak out. In other words, to silence them."

Sounds like how Christians like Coren treated gays for centuries if you ask me. Yet of course Coren's ability to publish such an article in a national newspaper is proof itself that he and others like him are hardly being "silenced."

He uses very slippery reasoning when he writes, "Indeed, the deconstruction of marriage began not with the gay community asking for the right to marry but with the heterosexual world rejecting it. The term "common-law marriage" said it all. Marriage is many things, but it is never common. Yet with this semantic and legal revolution, desire and convenience replaced commitment and dedication. The qualifications, so to speak, were lowered."

With this, Coren implies that "common law marriage" somehow led to same-sex marriage. But this is false history. In fact, common law marriages paved the way in the 1990s for same sex spousal rights and responsibilities. Judges and even some politicians rightly deduced that to provide spousal benefits to non-married heterosexuals living together in conjugal relationships, or as "common law couples", but not provide such benefits to equivalent same-sex couples, was discriminatory and violated equality guarantees in the Charter of Rights.

Yes, that pesky Charter of Rights that forces lawmakers to treat all citizens, including LGBT citizens, equally.

So yes, straight common law relationships made it possible for same-sex couples to attain some status in Canadian society, but they didn't necessarily lead to same-sex marriage. That came later after lengthy court fights.

Coren later writes, "As for polygamy, it's making something of a comeback -- and here begin the objections. Whenever this is mentioned by critics of same-sex marriage we are accused of using the slippery-slope argument. Sorry, some slopes are slippery. Polygamy is an ancient tradition within Islam -- and was in Sephardic Judaism and some Asian cultures. When the precedent of gay marriage is combined with the freedom of religion defence, the courts will have a difficult time rejecting it."

Coren seems to think that courts will rule on polygamy simply based on theory, that judges will look past the inherent inequality and abuse involved in real-life polygamous relationships and deem them legal marriages under the law. Maybe in theory Coren has a point, but in reality, Charter cases like Coren implies are coming must be led by living, breathing people, individuals who claim their rights are being denied them unfairly. Coren, himself, admits that no one in this country currently is willing to lead this legal fight.

Despite this, he assumes polygamy is inevitable. I assume this is why Coren believes SSM was Canada's biggest policy mistake. But Coren's doomsday scenario is foolhardy: "If love is the only criterion for marriage who are we to judge the love between a man and his wives?" Again, because it's impossible for such relationships to be anything but sexist and abusive. It's like arguing that the pedophile loves his young victims (yet Coren wisely doesn't go there yet.)

This brings me back to the essential issue here: that marriage is a unique commitment between two adults who love each other. Most Canadians embrace this definition and have for quite some time. While most heterosexuals I know believe that children are best raised within a committed and loving marriage, most also believe that marriages without children are just as valid and worthy of equal recognition.

Coren raises the false argument that common law relationships somehow undermined traditional marriages, lowered the standards, as he put it. What he should've written is that the notion that childless straight marriages are equal to other straight marriages has undermined the traditional definition, or at least his traditional definition. Many heterosexuals incapable or unwilling to raise children are still able to marry and meet the standards of traditional marriage.

Coren assumes that marriage is only about the children. Most Canadians disagree with him. Hence the inherent flaw in his argument.

He talks about the dangers of slippery slopes. But he ignores the dangerous slippery slope in his own argument: if marriage is only about the children, this would invalidate all straight marriages without children. Heterosexuals of a certain age, long past their child-rearing years, would also be ineligible for marriage, by Coren's definition. If we're not willing to ban all heterosexuals who can't or won't have children within marriage, how can we ban same-sex couples (who normally don't have their own children either) from marriage?

This contradiction continues to be ignored by Coren and others like him. I do agree that the best place to raise children is within a loving, committed marriage. But I, like most Canadians, don't believe that children are essential to marriage.

In the end, Coren's circular arguments don't amount to much. He still hates gays and resents the gains we have made in this society.

To me, same sex marriage is a sign of Canada's generosity of spirit. It means that LGBT citizens are equally valued. It means we too can and should seek out love and lifetime commitment, should we want it. It means we should be able to live lives as full and happy as any heterosexual.

Gays and lesbians are born that way. We didn't choose to be who and what we are. We've struggled greatly on the fringes for too long. Same-sex marriage is a message to all LGBT citizens that our government believes we are truly equal with others.

Discrimination in law, as Coren proposes, has grave consequences, as we know. If we are to tolerate such discrimination, it better be for good reasons. Coren provides none in his column against same-sex couples.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Senator Ruth rocks, Obama steps up damage control, MDA likely stays Canadian

Just three short notes today:

Kudos to openly lesbian Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth for speaking out against the recent handling of the Tom Lukiwski homophobic affair. I wonder what gay cabinet minister John Baird will say during that caucus discussion.

I seem to have underestimated the damage likely caused to Obama's campaign by his recent "guns and religion" speech. We'll have to see if his damage control can stave off a major loss next week in Pennsylvania.

And finally, I'll give credit where credit is due. This was a good decision by the Harperites.

*******UPDATE*******

As a reader kindly pointed out, Senator Nancy Ruth ran twice for the Ontario PCs in the early 1990s (when she was known as Nancy Jackman). I remember those races well, particularly the 1993 St. George-St. David by-election in which she lost to Liberal Tim Murphy. Please forgive me for not connecting the dots quicker between Nancy Jackman and Nancy Ruth...lol

Monday, April 14, 2008

Beware revisionist history from Lysiane Gagnon, Chantal Hébert and others

Reading Lysiane Gagnon's column in today's Globe & Mail (the article, like many with the Globe, was not posted online for public consumption), I was struck by this line about Stéphane Dion:

"Mr. Dion will not be able to shed his negative image in Quebec. And he won't get any help from the Quebec section of the party, which is under the spell of Mr. Ignatieff. Mr. Ignatieff was overwhelmingly the favourite Quebec candidate at the leadership convention, whereas Mr. Dion had virtually no support in his home province."

This follows a similar description in a recent column by Chantal Hébert:

"Given that the province's Liberals massively supported Ignatieff bid for the leadership, it has been easy and ultimately only too convenient to see a conspiracy under every Quebec rock that has tripped Dion along his uncertain way. Without Ignatieff's supporters there simply would not be much of a Quebec Liberal wing."

Both writers are simply incorrect, at least in terms of how they describe Dion's alleged lack of support from his home province during the 2006 leadership race.

According to the CBC's Super Weekend page, Quebec delegates split like this: Ignatieff won 401 delegates, Dion won 292 and Rae won 248 (results for other candidates, totalling about 5% of the rest, aren't listed.)

Democratic Space posted the following results for Quebec:

Ignatieff 39%; Dion 29%; Rae 25%; Volpe 3%; Kennedy 1%; Brison 1%; Dryden 0%; Hall Findlay 0%; and Undecided 1%

There's no doubt that Michael Ignatieff won a plurality of Quebec delegates during that leadership race, about 39%. It's even fair to say that Ignatieff likely took a majority of Quebec delegates on the fourth and final ballot at the leadership convention (although, of course, we have no way to verify this.)

But to describe the 2006 leadership results with statements like, "[Quebec's] Liberals massively supported [Ignatieff's] bid," (as Hébert did in her March 31 column) or, "...Mr. Dion had virtually no support in his home province," as Gagnon described today, is simply false and bad journalism.

Dion won 30% of Quebec's delegates! He actually led the Quebec vote after Day One of Super Weekend voting, as most might recall. I'm not saying that Mr. Dion is without his Quebec problems today, but enough of the revisionist history, please!

In their bids to undermine Mr. Dion's leadership, it seems some writers are more than happy to ignore the facts.

*********UPDATE*********

CTV is playing the revisionist game too today. Don't these media types know we can verify their mistakes?

"Although Dion is a native son, his deputy leader, Michael Ignatieff, had much higher support in Quebec in the 2006 Liberal leadership race..."

Again: Iggy got 39% in Quebec, Dion got 30%, Rae got 25%. While one could write that "Ignatieff had higher support in Quebec than Dion," I'm sorry, but writing, Iggy had "much higher" support misrepresents history just a bit. According to CTV's definition of "much higher," one could also say the BQ, with a nine point lead over the Tories in Quebec today, have "much higher" support in that province too.

Barack Obama fights back

It seems some more comments by Barack Obama have gotten him in a little hot water. Like the Reverend Wright controversy, I still think this is much ado about nothing. There's a ring of truth to what Obama said in San Francisco about the frustrations of some rural, blue-collar Americans. But still Obama himself acknowledges he misspoke with his comments about "guns and religion." I don't buy the Clinton/McCain/establishment conservative spin on this as much as John Ibbitson seems to.

Of course, his opponents have jumped all over this alleged Obama misstep. Still, I've got to say I admire Obama's ability to get back on the horse and fight back. When Obama wins the nomination (and I, like many, still predict that), these minor errors and the subsequent quick recoveries (as witnessed in this Youtube video) will only strengthen his campaign. Mistakes like these make him seem more human and, let's face it, certainly don't offend his base. I'm still very hopeful Obama has it in him to successfully reach out beyond that base and win over the majority of Americans who want real change this year (not the fake change offered by Hillary Clinton and John McCain.)

Memo to Rogers Cable: PVRs should record the selected program, not the channel/time

On Friday, I encouraged readers to consider watching the documentary 'Cure for Love' that aired this past Saturday night on Global TV. I was out of town visiting family this weekend, so I programmed my Rogers PVR to record the doc that was set to air at 7 pm on said channel and watch it last night when I got back.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't realize Global was also broadcasting the Masters golf tournament just before its 7 pm-scheduled 'Global Currents' show, which was airing a shortened version of filmmaker Christina Willings's film. And of course, the Masters ran overtime, pushing the starting time of 'Cure for Love' to something like 7:40 pm or so. And of course, when you choose to record a program that's supposed to air on Global at 7 pm on your PVR, you really are scheduling only to record Global at 7 pm, regardless of what's airing at that time. Thus my PVR recording mostly missed the doc.

Still what I managed to see seemed well-produced and the portraits poignant and conflicted. There was much discussion among the subjects of agony over sexual orientation, of previous self-abuse and suffering. Just as one ex-gay man discussed how his old struggles led him to consider suicide, my PVR recording ended (on the dot at 8 pm.) I certainly want to see the full feature-length documentary, so perhaps I'll have a chance later on DVD or soon at a LGBT festival. I'll reserve judgment on the documentary until that time.

I've had this problem before with my Rogers PVR when taping other shows that either start late (due to some preceding sports coverage or other coverage) or run late (like awards shows which always run late or even 'Lost' which occasionally runs for an extra five or 10 minutes.) PVR recordings miss portions of desired programs.

MEMO to Rogers: The next time you upgrade your PVR technology, please make it possible for users to record the actual shows when they air, not just the station and time selected, and perhaps make it possible for PVR to record the actual show in its entirety, not just its scheduled length which is frequently incorrect. Perhaps this is impossible, but it would definitely be an improvement. Also, it would be nice to be able to record more than just two shows at a time, but perhaps I'm asking too much...lol

Friday, April 11, 2008

'Cure For Love' to air Saturday night on Global TV

I just heard about a documentary set to air on Global TV on Saturday, April 12 at 7pm. Cure For Love is a new film about the "ex-gay" religious movement. The film profiles two couples: one couple has “renounced” their sexuality and is apparently happily married and another couple has ceased questioning their gayness and accepted it.

Cure For Love was co-produced by Earth to Sky Pictures Inc. and the National Film Board of Canada. For more info, check out an interview with filmmaker Christina Willings on the NFB website.

Personally, I don't believe that it's possible to turn gay people straight, or vice versa. Our sexual orientation is inborn and, I believe, part of God's design for humanity (and the sooner mainstream religions accept this reality, the better). Based on my research over the years, it seems that the only homosexuals who claim they have been "cured" are those also still employed by such ex-gay ministries or churches. Nevertheless, Cure should make for interesting viewing.

Another excellent documentary worth checking out is 'For the Bible Tells Me So' by director Daniel G. Karslake. I posted about it earlier this year. It's now available on DVD.

Obama talks queer issues with the Advocate

Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama sat down recently with the U.S.-based queer publication, The Advocate, to discuss various issues of interest to the LGBT community, including "Don't ask, don't tell," Rev. Wright, and same sex marriage. As always with Obama, it makes for very compelling reading.

Here's Obama's take on same sex marriage versus civil unions:

ADVOCATE: Both you and your wife speak eloquently about being told to wait your turn and how if you had done that, you might not have gone to law school or run for Senate or even president. To some extent, isn’t that what you’re asking same-sex couples to do by favoring civil unions over marriage -- to wait their turn?

OBAMA: I don’t ask them that. Anybody who’s been at an LGBT event with me can testify that my message is very explicit -- I don’t think that the gay and lesbian community, the LGBT community, should take its cues from me or some political leader in terms of what they think is right for them. It’s not my place to tell the LGBT community, "Wait your turn." I’m very mindful of Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” where he says to the white clergy, "Don’t tell me to wait for my freedom."

So I strongly respect the right of same-sex couples to insist that even if we got complete equality in benefits, it still wouldn’t be equal because there’s a stigma associated with not having the same word, marriage, assigned to it. I understand that, but my perspective is also shaped by the broader political and historical context in which I’m operating. And I’ve said this before -- I’m the product of a mixed marriage that would have been illegal in 12 states when I was born. That doesn’t mean that had I been an adviser to Dr. King back then, I would have told him to lead with repealing an antimiscegenation law, because it just might not have been the best strategy in terms of moving broader equality forward.

That’s a decision that the LGBT community has to make. That’s not a decision for me to make.

ADVOCATE: Is it fair for the LGBT community to ask for leadership? In 1963, President Kennedy made civil rights a moral issue for the country.

OBAMA: But he didn’t overturn antimiscegenation. Right?

ADVOCATE: True enough.

OBAMA: As I said, I think the LGBT community has every right to push for what it thinks is right. And I think that it’s absolutely fair to ask me for leadership, and my argument would be that I’m ahead of the curve on these issues compared to 99% of most elected officials around the country on this issue. So I think I’ve shown leadership.

Heritage minister 'hates' Bill C-10, says Conservative senator

Wow! Check out the Youtube video available at the bottom of this Xtra.ca story.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Heritage Minister Josée Verner "hates" Bill C-10, a Conservative senator was caught on tape saying in committee Apr 10.

Senator David Angus' comments were recorded by C-PAC at the Senate's banking committee, which is studying a controversial clause within Bill C-10 that would revoke tax credits for films that are "contrary to public policy."

Angus called for a two-minute break between hearings around noon Apr 10, but for a short time after he adjourned the meeting, Angus' microphone was left on. His conversation with an unidentified man was broadcast over the Senate's live internet audio feed.

"The government has to bite the bullet," he was heard saying. "The minister agrees, she told me she hates the law."

Representatives from Verner and Angus' offices were quick to downplay the claims.

"He's wrong," says a spokesperson for Verner, reached at the minister's office. The minister herself had no comment when contacted by xtra.ca.

A representative for Angus defended the senator.

"The context is that I don't think that anyone realized it was going to cause such a controversy," he says. "Probably the minister is just tired of dealing with the bill."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Canadian stars take fight against Bill C-10 to Ottawa

Kudos to the stars and filmmakers for taking their fight against the industry-destroying Bill C-10 to Ottawa today. Stories here, here and here.

As stated here previously, what's most offensive and confusing about these proposed changes is the double standard when it comes to American or other foreign productions made in Canada.

Currently, Canadian producers that receive an indigenous tax credit can offset 25% of their labour costs, while foreign producers that tap the production services tax credit can offset 16% of labour costs. While the percentage is smaller, the dollar figure is generally much higher due to the larger budgets involved with U.S. productions.

The new rules will only threaten Canadian productions, while foreign productions won't have to worry about losing their lucrative tax credits.

"If you're going to have a double standard, at least have a double standard that gives the Canadian industry a leg up," says director Martin Gero, whose debut film Young People Fucking has been a lightning rod during the current debate, said in an interview this week.

"Why would you limit the industry you should be supporting, while helping the industry that doesn't need it? Everyone wants to make it about censorship, but really, it's just terrible business, ill-conceived from start to finish."

To me, this double standard undermines the entire intent of these new proposals. It appears tax credits will still flow to "offensive" American productions that are "contrary to Canadian public policy" and in greater amounts. So Charles McVety's tax dollars will still go to productions he deems offensive.

These provisions in Bill C-10 do nothing more than threaten to destroy the domestic Canadian film and TV industry.

"I know very few filmmakers that would risk trying to try to make a film that was controversial or pushed the envelope or was even interesting in any way if this bill was in place," filmmaker Sarah Polley said today.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Not cool: Copenhagen cemetery designates special space for dead gays

This is lunacy. I'm not sure what point this makes or why any LGBTs would want to be buried in their own separate space. I certainly wouldn't.

Guelph prognosticating: Fight b/n Grits and Tories for 1st, NDP fights for third with Greens...

Now that Guelph MP Brenda Chamberlain has retired from Parliament, speculation has begun about a possible by-election in the Royal City. NDP and Tory opponents have shamelessly flogged the former MP over her attendance record over the past year, chomping at the bit to fight for the seat.

As a Guelph native and former co-chair of Chamberlain's 1993 election campaign, I can say I know a bit about the local Guelph political scene and its voting history. Guelph had been a bellweather riding, always voting in a government member, in every election since 1974. The only recent exception was 2006 when Chamberlain won again by over 5,000 votes. Chamberlain was always a well-respected MP, noted for her hard work and dedication to fighting for local issues. She had previously won by huge margins: 10,000 votes in 2004, 15,000 in 2000, 14,000 in 1997, etc., etc...

I'll have much to say about this riding as a possible by-election approaches. Of the three current vacancies - Saint-Lambert, Westmount-Ville-Marie and now Guelph - I'd say the latter is the only one the Tories have any hope of taking. They placed a distant second in Westmount in 2006, and a distant third behind the Liberals in Saint-Lambert in that same election. Thus, we can expect the Tories to pour tonnes of resources into Guelph, which lies just outside of the Greater Toronto Area.

The local Tory candidate, Gloria Kovach, is going to need that outside support as many local Tories are still miffed the candidate they actually elected to carry the nomination again, Brent Barr, was mysteriously removed by party central. After losing to Barr in the first round, Kovach quietly won by acclamation late last year. Barr has promised not to interfere with Kovach's efforts this time, but there's little doubt her campaign will be hampered much like Don Meredith's in Toronto Centre, who replaced fired Tory candidate Mark Warner. Let's not forget, Meredith polled only 12% in the subsequent Toronto Centre by-election, down from 18% in 2006.

Frank Valeriote, the new Liberal candidate, is the consummate local guy. Well-known, he served for 18 years on the local Catholic School Board as a trustee and Chair. Both of my parents taught in that school board and had the highest regard for him and his abilities. Valeriote would also be Guelph's first MP of Italian descent if he wins, something I'm sure is not lost on the large local Italian community.

Plus, Valeriote has turned out to be an excellent, hard-working candidate. As the Guelph Tribune notes, he's been virtually everywhere in the run-up to a possible vote. No doubt his team will launch a very visible and strong local campaign. I think this will make the difference against a Tory machine populated largely by recruits from Ottawa and elsewhere.

The NDP's Tom King is a strong candidate, although probably not as well known locally as either Valeriote or Kovach. He'll draw some votes, however he starts off the race clearly in third place. The last NDP candidate won only 22% of the vote.

It's true that Chamberlain was seen as one of the most socially conservative members of the Liberal caucus and local Guelph voters knew it. Her initial opposition to same sex marriage (something I wasn't too pleased about), plus her stands on other issues didn't endear her to local progressives. That's why the NDP polled as well as it did in Guelph in 2004 (with 20%) and in 2006 (with 22%.) But now with Chamberlain gone and the Green Party on the rise, I think the NDP is going to see a drop, not a rise in its Guelph support, despite King's best efforts.

At this point, I'd say King has a solid shot of holding onto third place over the Greens' Mike Nagy, who I expect will see his vote rise considerably from the 9% he got in 2006. Last October, the Greens took 3rd place with 20% of the vote in Guelph in the provincial election with a stronger candidate. Still the Greens have been doing very well in by-elections lately, so I'd expect Nagy to get at least 15% this time.

That'll cut into support for all three major parties. In the end, I suspect and hope Valeriote's strong local organization will pull out a victory for the Grits. Of course, we'll have to see what happens between then and now in Ottawa.

I would describe Guelph as a progressive town and not just because the University of Guelph is the city's biggest employer. I'd say that Guelph voters are generally more progressive than their neighbours in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and London. The Tories would, no doubt, love to win it. However, considering their nomination shenanigans, I'd say they've shot themselves in the feet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

iTunes.ca pulls anti-gay dancehall songs from its online store

This is a good move by iTunes Canada. It sends the right message.

The songs — by Jamaican dancehall artists Buju Banton, Elephant Man and TOK — contain lyrics that promote the violent killing of gays, including the lyrics, "Dance wi a dance and a bun out a freaky man" (Join our dance and let's burn out the queer man).

To all the free-speech literalists out there, how exactly does, "let's burn queer men to death," contribute to the marketplace of ideas?

I hope HMV, Archambault Inc, and Amazon.ca follow suit.

*******UPDATE*******

Slap Upside The Head agrees with me, I'm happy to say.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Jonathan Kay: "Gay or straight, sexual orientation is in your blood"

Wow! On this issue, Jonathan Kay's my kind of conservative. Required reading for sure.

Here's his best paragraph from the column:

"Notwithstanding church programs that promise to de-program gay kids, the APA has declared that sexual orientation is "not changeable." According to the United States Surgeon General, "there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed." Not surprisingly, the "ex-gay" men who find Christ and declare themselves "cured" of homosexuality usually wind up not so "ex" in the long run (much to the disappointment and mortification of their God-fearing spouses). As others have noted, the truest test of a person's belief that a gay man can be turned straight is whether you would let such a convert marry your daughter. If there's a reader out there who can say yes to that, [he]'d like to hear from him..."

Tom Lukiwski still needs to atone for his sins...

I did a lot of thinking about the Tom Lukiwski case over the weekend, read and watched a lot of the coverage. A few things continue to stick out in my mind.

The words expressed by Lukiwski in the video were beyond disgusting. No doubt Lukiwski then lived and worked at that time in a conservative environment that condoned this kind of random, casual hate.

Have things changed much since then? Sure they have. Now this kind of virulent homophobia has been driven mostly underground.

Lukiwski claimed in his various apologies last week that he didn't actually believe what he said in the video, that he was simply being stupid and thoughtless. I must say I continue to find this explanation hard to believe, mostly because it's too convenient and seemingly designed to help minimize the damage caused by his comments.

I can't help but picture some emergency Tory brain trust meeting on Parliament Hill last Thursday when the video came to light. Ian Brodie-types would've sat around and determined how to best deal with a scandal that had the potential to destroy the Harper government's attempts to leave behind its socially conservative/Reform Party past.

Considering the level of disgusting hate so unapologetically on display in the video, it's difficult to argue that Lukiwski somehow has changed his tune all that much, even over 17 years, I'm sure the Tory brain trust worried. He was 40 years old when he made the comments, after all. It would likely take some kind of major personal event, perhaps a loved one coming out of the closet, to cause the type of epiphany that could explain how a virulent homophobe in 1991 could become a nice, mainstream gentleman in 2008.

I suspect the Tory brain trust last week decided it was best that Lukiwski claim in his defense that he never truly believed what he said in 1991, thus giving his apology today more credibility. I don't believe it for a second. There's no doubt in my mind that Lukiwski believed what he said in that video.

But it still begs the question: When did Tom Lukiwski change his opinions about homosexuals? At what point after 1991 did Lukiwski have his epiphany? He needs to explain himself further. When you look at his record as a parliamentarian, safely ensconced within the Tory backbench and voting every time against gay equality, it defies credibility. However, maybe he's gotten to know some of his gay colleagues in the House of Commons since being elected and has genuinely changed his views?

I do agree with Jason Cherniak on this one. I'm torn on this issue. Part of me wants to believe that Lukiwski has changed, give him the benefit of the doubt and hope this incident becomes a major learning experience for him. On the other hand, it's clear that Lukiwski's record to date would indicate he's only now sorry because he got caught.

The damage that has been done again to the Tory/Reform Party brand by this incident has no doubt been huge. Thus far, the Harperites have played it somewhat poorly, showing a sensitivity only to their own base (Lukiwski has yet to be punished for his comments because, Lord knows, 95% of the Tory base has uttered similar comments in the past, but simply not on video.) But in so doing, the Harper government is sending the message that it's soft on hate.

Lukiwski needs to be relieved of his parliamentary secretary duties to show the government is serious about courting mainstream Canadians. They kicked Larry Spencer out of caucus for virulently homophobic comments, it's the least they can do.

*********UPDATE**********

Sadly, there'll be no atoning in Harper's caucus for anti-gay slurs. Shame.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tommy Douglas on homosexuality in 1968

Yesterday's tape incident with Tory MP Tom Lukiwski reminded me how opinions can evolve over time, how some thoughts shared on tape in a different era can seem so wrong when viewed decades later.

This clip of NDP stalwart Tommy Douglas, the founder of medicare, the CBC's Greatest Canadian, discussing homosexuality during the 1968 federal leaders' debate, speaks volumes about this very issue. Of course, Douglas was simply communicating the mainstream consensus opinion on the subject of homosexuality at the time. His statement may have even been fairly progressive for 1968. Within a few years, that consensus changed, as we know, as homosexuality is not a mental illness, but an inborn sexual orientation just like heterosexuality. When heard today, Douglas' comments seem absolutely archaic.

My point being - it's easy to find old clips of politicians saying things that were mainstream in their day, but considered bigoted by today's standards. Before we crucify Tom Lukiwski for his hateful 1991 remarks, let's not forget that opinions about homosexuality have evolved greatly over time. I truly hope Lukiwski's have as well (despite his vote to re-open the issue of equal marriage in 2006.)

Heck, I'm sure we could even find a clip of Pierre Trudeau attacking homosexuals in the 1940s or 1950s if we had enough time to look.

**********UPDATE

And of course it's easy to find clips of various Liberals making homophobic statements in the recent past. In posting Douglas' 1968 comments today, I was merely trying to illustrate that even the most progressive of us have come a long way over the years on this issue. This was not an attempt by me to slam Mr. Douglas or the NDP at all. I know full well that, on the issue of queer rights, the NDP has been at the forefront in Canada.

**********UPDATE # 2

I most definitely agree that Tommy Douglas was not motivated by hate with his 1968 comments. Douglas's comments are only offensive if you ignore the historical context in which they were spoken. But of course doing so is unfair. I think highly of Douglas, and not so much of Lukiwski.

With this post, I'm certainly not trying to let Lukiwski off the hook for what he said. But I do agree that everyone should be able to learn or unlearn previous prejudices, given the right life experiences. Or I'd like to think that, at least. My hope is that the learning for Lukiwski starts now, if it hasn't started already. I'm sure this incident will be life-changing for him. And is Lukiwski so untypical of men of his generation? There are very few people out there who haven't uttered or thought homophobic thoughts, or previously been very ignorant. That's why I pointed out Tommy Douglas, because if he can be mistaken, perhaps we all can be forgiven.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tape scandal snares Tory MP

Here's the link to the CP story.

It's awfully strange and funny these Saskatchewan Tory types were dumb enough to videotape this kind of thing, and presumably forget about it only for the tape to be found by their opponents once they vacated their opposition offices last year.

Current Tory MP Tom Lukiwski (pictured in 1991 video) apparently says on the tape: ‘Let me put it to you this way — there’s As and Bs. The As are guys like me. The Bs are homosexual faggots with dirt in their fingernails that transmit diseases.”’

In 2004, Lukiwski replaced ex-Canadian Alliance MP Larry Spencer, a raving homophobe. Can't the people of Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre please elect somebody who doesn't hate or used to hate LGBT people?

**********UPDATE***********

Lukiwski (pictured today) just scrummed in Ottawa on this and has apologized for his homophobic remarks.

For more info, click here or here or here.

**********UPDATE # 2*********

Here's the link to Lukiwski's 1991 comments on Youtube.

I've got to say that, sadly, Lukiwski wasn't alone in his hateful opinions of gay men back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. It's just interesting he felt completely comfortable saying something this inflammatory in 1991 to a camera while in the company of his Tory friends and colleagues. Right-wing types are always the last to get educated. I'm glad he's been raked over the coals today for this. His apology seemed sincere. With some luck, this incident will cause more men like Lukiwski to reflect on some of the vile bigotries they used to hold (or perhaps in the back of their minds still do.)

Memo to Chief Head: Party nomination processes are rarely "democratic"

I enjoyed reading Chief Marcel Head's column in today's National Post. I'm also very glad someone of his stature has decided to stay very involved and work to rebuild the Liberal Party in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, Saskatchewan, especially after our recent by-election loss there.

But the Chief writes as if his riding was the first to see its nomination process manipulated by party central. As we know, the power of party leaders like Stéphane Dion to appoint good candidates in local ridings, or to simply manipulate the process to produce the kinds of winners leaders seek, has long been common practise across the country.

Why? Because under the traditional nominating process the Chief describes, the only voters who got to decide who ran locally for a political party were local party members, not citizens at large. As a result, anybody, no matter how extreme or inexperienced, could run for a nomination, sign up thousands of friends or instant party members, get them to a nominating meeting and win a local party nomination. This is not democracy by any stretch of the imagination, it is the perversion of democracy, the manipulation of the local voting pool in favour of one candidate or candidates.

It would be like holding a by-election in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River and then flooding the riding with 50,000 new White residents, who would then be able to determine the outcome.

It's clear that the appointment of Joan Beatty in his riding wasn't handled well at all. It led to the Liberal defeat in the riding. These things have to be handled delicately and time must be taken to ensure the powers-that-be in the riding support the move. Unfortunately, that wasn't done here and it cost the Liberals greatly. The appointment of Martha Hall Findlay in Willowdale, on the other hand, is a textbook case on how to do it right.

I don't like candidate appointments, but I don't like the old-fashioned nomination processes either. I wrote about this issue earlier this year, saying the answer could be to open up the local nomination process completely to all self-identified party supporters and perhaps even independents in a riding, not just paid-up party members. In essence, we could hold primaries to nominate local candidates. I'm not sure this proposal would actually be feasible in the context of our Canadian election processes as such primaries would be expensive to hold and would be difficult to manage in the event of a sudden government defeat in Parliament. However, with the arrival of fixed election dates in this country, this practise could eventually become possible and preferable to the status quo.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

New poll: Tories tied with Grits in Quebec after all...

According to Harris-Decima's latest, things aren't quite as CROP would have us believe in La Belle Province: "In Quebec, the latest poll suggested 37 per cent support for the Bloc, 21 per cent each for the Conservatives and Liberals, 10 per cent for the Greens and nine per cent for the NDP."

If this is true, the Tories are down four points since 2006, the Liberals have retained all of their 2006 support and the NDP is only up one point. But I thought, according to Quebec guru Chantal Hébert, that the Tories are on a roll in Quebec, tied with the Bloc, and that the NDP is threatening the Grits for third place in Francophone Quebec. Let's not forget all of those so-called experts on CTV's Question Period last weekend who said it's clear that the NDP's Thomas Mulcair is doing his job in building his party in that province. Moving the party from 8% to 9% isn't exactly a job well done, I have to say. Only the Greens have greatly expanded their support in Quebec since 2006.

Of course, some will argue that CROP polls are always spot on in Quebec, while other pollsters don't seem to know what they're doing in that province.

As for the country as a whole, Decima says the Tories have 32 per cent support, with the Liberals at 30 per cent, which is within the survey’s margin of error. The NDP have 13 per cent, the Greens 12 per cent and the Bloc is at nine per cent.

This contradicts the latest Angus Reid online survey which put the Tories at 36%, the Grits at 26%, the NDP at 18% and the Greens at only 9%.

I'm not sure which pollster to believe, but I like much of what Harris-Decima president Bruce Anderson has to say about his numbers out this evening:

“Among those over 50, the Conservatives have seen a 12-per-cent lead over the Liberals in November-December completely evaporate.”

He said the Tories also have a problem with soft and second preferences. Among decided voters, the Conservatives had a 12-point edge in November. That has shrunk to two per cent. Among voters leaning to a party, the Tories and Liberals were competitive for much of the last year, but the Liberals now lead by 12 points.

The survey suggested the Liberals are the second choice for 30 per cent of voters, while the Tories are the second choice for 19 per cent. This narrows the Conservative chance for growth.

“There’s a lack of enthusiasm for the Conservatives, waning interest in the NDP and a firming of support for the Green party,” he said. “The Liberal brand is slowly, but perceptibly recovering from the trauma of the sponsorship scandal...NDP voters show increased interest in the Liberals and fewer Conservative voters see the Liberal brand as toxic.”


Once again, we are reminded that if you don't like a poll out one day, just wait a couple days and you'll probably like the next one much better.

*********UPDATE**********

My friend and fellow blogger Scott Tribe also comments on this new poll tonight. He goes after Chantal Hebert with greater zest than I. We're definitely on the same page on this one.

Another day, another handful of pundits take their swipes at Dion

As we see again, Chantal Hébert surveys the political landscape in Quebec and finds, big surprise, everything is bad for Stéphane Dion. His prospects in Quebec are about as gloomy as Jean Chretien's were in 1992, go figure. She even takes a swipe against Dion's appointment of Gerard Kennedy as Intergovernmental Affairs Critic, widely seen as a great move for Ontario.

And by the way, if indeed the NDP are at 15% support in Quebec, do they have the ground troops and the local campaigns to sustain that kind of support? Or is this support merely a blip, people parking their votes while disenchanted with the Bloc? Normally that kind of discourse would find its way into a fair journalist's analysis of new poll numbers, but not today.

Anyway, I've given up looking for fair assessments from most political pundits, many of whom have their own agendas it seems. Take former Tory advisor L. Ian MacDonald today. The headline says it all: "Dion and his Liberals are in deep trouble in Quebec." Yes, the Liberals seem to be at a low ebb in that province for the moment. The leader has a lot to do to resuscitate his reputation after months of attacks and, yes, federalist voters seem to be parking with the party that's now forming the federal government. In reality, the Liberals are at the same level they got in 2006, and the Tories are only four points higher than 2006.

But what disturbs me is how these commentators seem to only be taking snapshots of the current political situation and pretending nothing will change until voting day. They seem to think Stéphane Dion is not going to do anything to improve his bad numbers, as if he's never shown any ability to react to difficult circumstances, face adversity, plan ahead and come out on top in the end. Have they not been watching this guy over the course of his career?

Of course they have, but these pundits don't care. They're trying to scare English Canadians into buying their anti-Dion bias, to make us believe things are so dire that Mr. Dion should probably step down right now. Of course that won't happen. Nor will things remain as bad as they are now. It's politics.

Over at Bourque, more links to anti-Dion stories.

But all is not bad - check out this column in the Sun of all places.

I truly hope Dion takes this pummeling to heart and fights back soon. It would sure make me feel better.

*******************

NDP Leader Jack Layton seems to want more by-elections soon. This is strange for a guy who just saw his vote collapse in two Toronto by-elections, plus go nowhere in Vancouver Quadra and northern Saskatchewan. Of course of the possible by-elections on the horizon - Westmount-Ville-Marie, Saint-Lambert, Guelph and Don Valley West - none hold any prospects for NDP breakthroughs.

I know the NDP have talked optimistically about Guelph recently. They shouldn't. More on that later...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Chantal Hébert launches new book: "Détester Stéphane Dion"

Détester Stéphane Dion (Hating Stéphane Dion)
by Chantal Hébert (Author) L. Ian MacDonald (Translator)
List Price: CDN$ 27.99
Availability: In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Queer-Liberal.blogspot.com.
Gift-wrap available.


BOOK DESCRIPTION AND REVIEWS:

Finally, renowned columnist Chantal Hébert has put together all of her thoughts about Stéphane Dion into one glorious volume that chronicles the bumbling, flaky meanders of the former professor from his early days as a treacherous cabinet minister charged with undermining Quebec's hopes and dreams, to his failings as Minister of the Environment under Paul Martin, to his huge belly flop as leader of her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Reactions are in:

"C'est magnifique! An incredibly delicious documentation of the bumbling failure of federalism, er sorry, of Mr. Dion, that is" - Jacques Parizeau, former PQ Premier.

"Hébert expertly details Dion's machinations aimed at destroying the dreams of the modern Quebec population. Her work should be applauded and read by all Canadians before they vote in the next election." - Lucien Bouchard, former PQ Premier and founder of the Bloc Québécois.

"I bought it, I returned it, I bought it again. It's a good read." - Gilles Duceppe, current leader of the Bloc Québécois, and one-day candidate for the leadership of the PQ in 2007.

"This book makes it very clear that Stéphane Dion is not a leader." - Sen. Michael Fortier, Conservative Minister of Public Works.

"A fucking masterpiece!" - Thomas Mulcair, NDP MP for Outremont.

"I'm not sure what to say. I read it. I enjoyed it." - Pablo Rodriguez, Liberal MP for Honoré-Mercier.

"Je ne peux pas attendre pour obtenir une copie." - Denis Coderre, Liberal MP for Bourassa.

JUST KIDDING, CHANTAL AND EVERYONE ELSE FICTITIOUSLY QUOTED ABOVE. HAPPY APRIL 1ST, DEAR READERS. ;-)