September 18, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 12  

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Equality under the law when it comes to hate

Thrust and Perry
Dan Perry
News Editor

The federal Parliament returned this week to find a storm brewing. As close to an election as we are now, the issues contested on the Hill in the weeks and months to come may well determine the outcome of the next election.

Perhaps the most publicized issues on the table this term revolve around the issue of gay and lesbian rights. While the legislature's discussion of these issues isn't unprecedented, these debates are picking up where they left off and breaking into uncharted legal territory.

Wednesday's bill-du-jour, put forth by New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, sought to revamp hate-speech laws and provide better protection for homosexuals from hate literature.

While I understand the concept of democratic debate, is a debate even necessary here? Voting against this motion would only prove Canadian Parliament is in serious denial.

Essentially, not enacting hate-crime laws to protect gays and lesbians is the equivalent of denying that there exists any social prejudice based on sexual orientation - and if the too-close-to-call victory over the "traditional" nature of marriage is any indication, then there are still a great many politicians (let alone average citizens) who view homosexuals as second-class citizens who are not entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals.

In Canada, hate speech against most minorities is prohibited, whether based on religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Why not base this on sexual orientation too?

In terms of the marriage vote, many MPs voted based on their personal, and not necessarily their constituents', moral inclination. The hate literature bill however, can't be debated on these grounds - violent discrimination is a crime and I don't believe for a second that any MP will think this is a moral question.

Liberal MP Dan McTeague gave another reason for not supporting the bill when he said in The Globe and Mail there are already adequate laws in place to protect gays and lesbians. Following his argument, then, murder based on sexual orientation is no different than any other murder - unless, of course, that murder's based on race, gender, ethnicity or religion.

Hate crime is a different breed of crime and to evaluate crimes based on race, for example, as more severe than those based on sexual orientation, offers preferential treatment to four specific cases which may be less common than the one not protected against.



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