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True North, strong and gay-free

by admin March 9, 2010

Last November, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney rolled out the red carpet and pulled out all the media stops to unveil his pet project: Discover Canada, a “new, more comprehensive study guide for Canadian citizenship.” Enamoured by the militarized rhetoric and self-ascribed high international value of Canadian citizenship, Kenney told the press the guide was instrumental in ensuring Canadians have a “good understanding of their rights and responsibilities.” Fast forward four short months and this updated guide to “freedom, democracy, human rights, [and] the rule of law” is coming apart at the seams, under allegations of neo-conservative ideological censorship.

Internal federal government communications paint a troubling picture of Kenney’s office actively removing references in the guide to the legal status of same-sex marriage in Canada. According to documents acquired by the Canadian Press, draft versions of Discover Canada included, “homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 and more recently, civil marriage rights to same-sex couples was legalized nationwide in 2005.” In addition, the definition of equality rights originally included “equality of all based on race, gender, sexual orientation etc …” The version presented to prospective Canadians, that Marc Chalifoux, Executive Vice-President of the Historica-Dominion Institute said “should be in the hands of not only new Canadians, but every high school student in Canada,” contains neither of these references.
While the Globe and Mail points out that “Kenney has steadfastly opposed same-sex marriage since his time as an opposition MP in the House of Commons,” his position could be much more aptly defined as a unrelenting homophobia. Back in 2005, sounding like the drunken, slack-jawed uncle of Canadian politics, he spoke with members of the Toronto-area Punjabi language media. “The fact is that homosexuals aren’t barred from marrying under Canadian law,” he said, “marriage is open to everybody, as long as they’re a man and a woman.” All part of the Conservative’s plan to protect the traditional marriage values that they &- displaying a handle on cultural nuances typically reserved for the likes of Rush Limbaugh &- assumed “virtually every minority ethnic or religious group in Canada has.”

It is no secret the Conservative minority government pulls no punches in its disregard and demonizing of the queer and trans community in Canada, fighting first to stop the 2005 legalization of same-sex marriage and then unsuccessfully appealing for its reversal in 2006. But this kind of censorship shows just how low they are willing to set the political bar. Kenney’s anti-queer redactions step beyond the confines of simple conservative ideologies, towards a fundamental undermining of rights enshrined by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section fifteen of the Charter establishes the rights of equality for “every individual” in Canada, including protection from discrimination because of sexual orientation, defined as “analagous grounds” to “discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability,” a right that has been enshrined in legal precedents since the mid 1990s.
In nixing references same-sex marriage and equality rights, Kenney has crossed a line. The federal government has turned censorship into a national project, trying to, as NDP MP Bill Siksay told the media, “edit gay and lesbian Canadians out of Canadian history.”
Kenney defended himself to reporters last week, telling them, “I can tell you that if you were to read the old book, you wouldn’t even know that there are gay and lesbian Canadians.”
Good point Jason, thanks to you everyone knows there is a queer community in Canada, and that our government doesn’t want them.

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