The group behind a new report urging the federal government to fix systemic Criminal Code discrimination against the queer community says it doesn’t matter how much it costs — it’s time for Canada to fix the problem.
“It’s our turn and we want a response,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale.
In its report, Grossly Indecent: Confronting the Legacy of State Sponsored Discrimination Against Canada’s LGBTQ2SI Communities, Egale’s Just Society Committee lays out a three-point plan of action they want the federal government to accept that they say will start the conversation about how to eliminate discrimination against non-heterosexual Canadians.
First, the committee asks Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accept their recommendations by July 3, which is Pride Day.
Second, it asks the government to meet with former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, who has volunteered to facilitate the process, and identify where it can immediately pay recompense to past victims of discrimination, such as members of the Canadian military who were discharged for being gay.
Third, the committee asks the government to work with stakeholders, including Egale, to come up with a 12-month plan to get rid of the discrimination against the queer community in the Criminal Code.
George Elliott, a constitutional lawyer working with Egale, pointed to Section 159 of the Criminal Code as one of the many areas that can be quickly changed.
That section says that “every person who engages in an act of anal intercourse is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment” for no longer than ten years.
It excludes anal intercourse between “husband and wife” or “any two persons, each of whom is eighteen years of age of more.”
Elliott says the exceptions don’t matter though because having the law on the books at all is discriminatory, and that while there is great progress being made across the country to reduce discrimination, the federal government needs to commit to playing a leading role in the form of the recommendations laid out in the report.
“There’s a lot of moving parts out there,” Elliott said. “Someone needs to be the shepherd.”
The press conference Monday in Ottawa came just one day after a radicalized American gunman opened fire on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., killing 49 people.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the killing Sunday afternoon and said Monday during a press conference that the flag of Parliament Hill had been lowered to half-mast to honour the victims, as well as to honour Canadian Robert Hall, killed by the radical Islamist group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines.
Kennedy said they thought “long and hard” over whether to delay releasing the report in light of the Orlando attack but decided against it and said the tragedy drives home the discrimination that queer communities face around the world.
Even though Canada legalized gay marriage a decade ago, it’s work is far from done, Kennedy said, noting communities around the world are mourning the loss of the victims in Orlando.
“We are not competing here for the attention,” Kennedy said. “We are united as one.”