Equality under the law
when it comes to hate
Thrust and Perry
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
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