If life does get better for Canada’s gay community you wouldn’t know it from the Tory record

When a bevy of Conservative cabinet ministers and MPs released a video last week to honour a gay Ottawa teen who took his own life, it inevitably sparked controversy.

When a bevy of Conservative cabinet ministers and MPs released a video last week to honour a gay Ottawa teen who took his own life, it inevitably sparked controversy.

If the participants in the It Gets Better video in the memory of Jamie Hubley deserve credit for speaking out, they also had to know they would face charges of hypocrisy, given the Conservative history on same-sex rights.

Hubley took his life after being bullied for his sexual orientation at his Ottawa high school, and his father, an Ottawa city councillor, bravely shared the family’s sorrow in the hope that it would force change in the country’s schools. The sad Hubley story has received global attention.

Three ministers, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, are featured in the video, which has so far been viewed more than 12,000 times.

It was an important gesture from the caucus and cabinet members who lent their voice to this issue.

But they have also invited a review of this government’s record when it comes to Canada’s gay, lesbian and transgendered population.

On Friday in the House of Commons, Liberal Scott Brison charged the Conservatives “have fought and voted against every advancement of gay rights in Canada, from pension benefits to marriage to transgender rights.’’

This is the government that cut funding to gay pride events in Toronto and Vancouver.

And two of the featured ministers in the video — Toews and Ambrose — opposed what is perhaps the ultimate reason to believe it gets better: same-sex marriage. Toews argued in 2006 that the onus was on those who wanted to change the traditional definition of marriage to prove it wouldn’t hurt future generations.

Ambrose was less rigid, backing the traditional view of marriage but supporting spousal benefits for gays and lesbians.

Dan Savage, the Seattle columnist who started the It Gets Better movement, wrote that Canada’s Conservatives, who have made life worse for gays and lesbians in the past, can have evolving views.

“But it’s going to take more than a video to undo the damage done by Vic Toews and Canada’s conservatives,’’ Savage wrote. “This was, quite literally, the least Vic and his conservatives could do. The very least.’’

Beyond the video, this government could use its majority to highlight the problem of bullying and homophobia in Canadian schools.

It could follow the lead of interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, who has called for a national suicide prevention strategy and a dialogue on bullying that will empower victims to fight back.

The Liberals used their opposition day earlier this month to highlight the suicide rate in this country, which Rae says is three times higher per capita than in the U.S.

The Conservatives have created the Mental Health Commission, which is due to report back by the end of 2012 with a strategy to deal with mental illness in Canada.

But it can start making a substantive difference as early as this week, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper attends the Commonwealth summit in Australia.

Of the 54 members of the anachronistic Commonwealth, 41 still outlaw homosexuality and there is expected to be a push for the decriminalization of homosexuality at the Perth summit.

Harper has spoken in favour of decriminalization before, most notably with his condemnation of an anti-gay bill in Uganda that would have instituted the death penalty for homosexual acts.

Baird has promised Canadian opposition to such horror will be heard at the Perth summit.

“It is completely unacceptable that homosexuality continues to be criminalized in a majority of Commonwealth countries, and we will certainly take that issue to the summit,’’ he told the Commons.

The video in the memory of a young, tragic victim of anti-gay bullying was one thing.

Jamie Hubley’s memory can really be honoured by the Conservative government by giving its full voice to the move to bring much of the Commonwealth out of the dark ages.

Tim Harper is a syndicated national affairs columnist for the Toronto Star.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the 500 deaths from COVID-19 in the province are a tragic milestone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta hits ‘tragic milestone’ with more COVID-19 deaths

Province up to 500 COVID-19 deaths, adds 1,265 cases

A recent investigation by the RCMP Central Alberta District Crime Reduction Unit led to the arrests of 24 people. (Contributed photo)
24 people arrested following RCMP investigation in central Alberta

Twenty-four people are facing a combined 235 charges following an investigation by… Continue reading

Photo from Town of Sylvan Lake Facebook page
Sylvan Lake communities band together on development plan

Sylvan Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan expected to be approved next spring

Tribe restaurant owner Paul Harris, left, consults with manager Brandon Bouchard about how to proceed under pandemic rules that make it hard for eateries to be profitable. (Contributed photo).
New pandemic rules deemed workable for Red Deer retailers

Stricter COVID-19 reduction measures introduced in lead-up to Christmas

Quentin Lee Strawberry
Man accused in 2019 Red Deer murder will stay behind bars

Quentin Strawberry going to trial next year on second-degree murder charge

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Hockey Canada suspends world junior selection camp after positive COVID-19 tests

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Liberals to present bill on single-game sports betting

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

Bayern, Man City win to advance to Champions League last-16

FILE - In this March 26, 2006 file photo, former soccer player Diego Maradona smokes a cigar as he watches Argentina's first division soccer match between Boca Juniors and River Plate in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Argentine soccer great who was among the best players ever and who led his country to the 1986 World Cup title before later struggling with cocaine use and obesity, died from a heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, at his home in Buenos Aires. He was 60. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)
Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona dies at 60

In this July 1, 2020, photo, Salt Lake Tribune data columnist and Utah Jazz beat writer Andy Larsen poses for a photo. Larsen is a sports writer, but with much of that world sidelined during the pandemic he's been digging into coronavirus data and its sobering implications. So when he found himself with a cache of spare change, partially from his childhood piggy bank, he knew plenty of people could use it. (Francisco Kjolseth/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

Tweet on spare change generates big money for virus aid

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 18, 2020 file photo, a view of a 'Matterhorn-Express' gondola lift in front of Matterhorn mountain in the Zermatt ski resort, in Zermatt, Switzerland. Restrictions to slow the curve of coronavirus infections have kept ski lifts closed in Italy, France, Germany and Austria, as well as countries further east. But skiers are already heading to mountains in Switzerland, drawing an envious gaze from ski industry and local officials in mountain regions elsewhere on the continent who lost most of last season due to the virus. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP, File)
As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

As season nears, Europe ponders skiing during pandemic

FILE - In this Dec. 10, 2015 file photo, actor John Boyega, right, pose with Star Wars characters during the Japan Premiere of their latest film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Tokyo. Boyega stars in Steve McQueen’s “Red White and Blue,” the third film in the director’s anthology of West Indian life in London from the ‘60s through the ’80s. The five-film series will debut Dec. 4. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)
John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

John Boyega isn’t going to ‘take the money and shush’

The Hockley Motel in Mono, Ont., is shown in this undated handout photo. An Ontario motel that served as a backdrop for the beloved CBC sitcom "Schitt's Creek" is up for sale. The Hockley Motel in Mono, about an hour's drive northwest of Toronto, was listed for $2 million today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Colliers International
Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Calling all eccentric millionaires: ‘Schitt’s Creek’ motel up for sale for $2 million

Most Read