QO Statement on BLMTO and Pride

February 1st, 2017 Comments off

Queer Ontario’s Position Statement on

Black Lives Matter Toronto and Pride Toronto

January 30, 201

It has been suggested that the only way for long established white dominated institutions in our society to reach the goal to become truly welcoming of racial equity is for them to be shut down and rebuilt with that goal established as its foundation. At Queer Ontario, we wonder if the recent vote at Pride Toronto approving the Black Lives Matter demands and electing five new members of the Pride Toronto executive might give Pride Toronto the opportunity to test that premise.

Queer Ontario welcomes the Pride decision as a way of moving toward more active participatory inclusion of a wider diversity of LGBTQ folks and their concerns than has been seen up to now. Recent events have provided a challenge to white LGBTQ folks especially and the ability to re-imagine a deeper form of democratic inclusion and participation. Coming to this realization depends on understanding how the very important gains in community-building and resistance in our queer politics has also been a history of the leverage that whiteness (and middle-class) status affords those who engage in social justice politics as well.

Has Pride in Toronto become a corporatized tourist event with a party agenda and little to no tolerance of politics? Pride, which symbolizes the dawning of the modern-day gay liberation movement, was born out of resistance as demonstrated by the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City and the 1981 bathhouse raids in Toronto. We have made enormous progress on queer issues in Toronto, Ontario and Canada but that progress has not been evenly meted out. Some members of our communities do not reap the benefits, namely those that are racialized, ethnicized, Indigenous, gendered, the disabled and the impoverished. The experiences of these communities at Pride in Toronto are not the same as revelers that reap the benefits.

Let us hope that the new Pride Toronto takes this opportunity and will reconstruct itself in such a way that it will become a truly inclusive and equitable organization.

QO Statement on BLMTO and Pride

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Queer Ontario Consultations on The Anti Terrorism Act Bill C-51

November 29th, 2016 Comments off

House of Commons Standing Committee on

Public Safety and National Security

November 29, 2016

Re: Public Consultation on Canada’s National Security Framework, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015, formerly Bill C-51.

To the Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security:

Queer Ontario is a Province-wide social justice organization based in Toronto. Through our various membership modes, Queer Ontario reaches over 2000 individuals who identify as or are allies with LGBTQ people in Ontario. As an LGBTQ organization with a long history of civil rights advocacy and community education we wish to address the serious matter of Canada’s National Security Framework specifically embodied with the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015 (ATA, 2015), formerly Bill C-51.

At the Pride Day Parade in Toronto following the celebrated passage of inclusion of “sexual orientation” as grounds for protection into the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1986, two groups where asked to lead that march. One group was the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO), which is the predecessor or our group Queer Ontario (QO). The other was a group named the Right To Privacy Committee (RTPC). These groups were chosen by the Pride committee to mark the degree of importance placed on the right to privacy in our communities and the protection of minority opinions and dissenting voices.

Accomplishing this success, which was met with tremendous resistance and had been the major focus of CLGRO for 12 years, enabled us to lobby for and eventually win recognition federally in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Resistance to these accomplishments within Canadian society continues. We see the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015/Bill C-51 as an example of that resistance and an effort to undermine the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Much as we appreciate the need for the government to protect the Canadian public from the threats of terrorism, we keep in mind that a major goal of those threats is to undermine our way of life and destroy those rights and freedoms for which Canadians have so long fought. The aspects of Bill C-51 which undermine Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms would, we feel, actually work to support the goals of the terrorists in this regard.

We entreat the government to repeal the Anti-terrorism 2015 Act created by Bill C-51 and ensure that legislation brought forward to protect the Canadian public from threats of terrorism will also protect those rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As an organization that has fought for sexual and gender minority rights in Ontario for over 3 decades (including our predecessor organization, CLGRO), we are deeply concerned with any law which seeks to curtail individual and group rights for free association, free speech, and the right to dissent and level criticism of social policy and governments, all enshrined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We see the Anti-terrorism Act 2015 as deeply flawed and entreat lawmakers and policy makers to take heed of these areas that we deem especially grievous:

First, the anti-terror law expands the definition of security threats to potentially include an extraordinary range of social justice activities. Law Professors Kent Roach (University of Toronto) and Craig Forcese (University of Ottawa) have stressed that what is covered by ‘terrorism offences’ is a much broader category than what is regarded as actual terrorism. In a 27-page brief dated February 3, 2015 they are concerned about an overbroad definition of terrorism, especially the language, “advocating and promoting terrorism,” and, relatedly, its vagueness and stresses that this could include many activities and speech acts that fall short of actual terrorism but that may be used to arrest someone. Roach and Forcese point to the constitutional guarantees against vague and overbroad laws that risk being violated under the new terrorism law.[1]

Daniel Therrien, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, is concerned and has stated that, “all Canadians – not only terrorism suspects – will be caught in this web.  Bill C-51 opens the door to collecting, analysing and potentially keeping forever the personal information of all Canadians in order to find the virtual needle in the haystack. To my mind, that goes too far.”[2]

Second, Canada’s Security Agency, CSIS, was created to erect a buffer between the collecting of information and the ability to act on that information as law enforcement due to the history of past human rights abuses duly recognized. Bill C-51 radically redefines CSIS’s role to one which bears resemblance to a secret state police force with little or no public accountability. This is not compatible with the most fundamental tenets of liberal democratic states and is in violation of the Canadian Charter.

Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, has stated that the anti-terrorism bill could be used to target environmental activists and aboriginal protesters, or any other form of protest that has not been granted an official permit. Neve states that “It is absolutely vital that terrorist threats be addressed through measures that are in keeping with international human rights obligations. Anti-terrorism laws cannot put human rights second to security; and absolutely must not be used to target or have disproportionate impact on individuals and groups exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of religion, expression and association.”[3]

And finally, we are very concerned with the provisions that will give CSIS the power to act like a police force. The 1960s and 1970s saw serious rights abuses by the RCMP as they undertook security intelligence as per their mandate at the time. Human rights abuses against LGBTQ people and others have been well documented by Professors Gary Kinsman and Patricia Gentile.[4] CSIS was created to separate security and intelligence gathering activities from enforcement, following recommendations from the McDonald Report of 1981. The new anti-terror law sets us back in this regard, and, as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association have stated, we too are concerned about how the secret nature of security intelligence may have no public accountability in the courts if these roles are not scrupulously separated.

We urge Parliament to repeal the Anti-terrorism 2015 Act created by Bill C-51 and ensure that any future legislation brought forward will also protect those rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Prepared by:

Richard Hudler, Chair

Queer Ontario

rh@richardhudler.ca

and,

Robert Teixeira, Member

Queer Ontario

rteixeira@faculty.ocadu.ca

Queer Ontario Consultations on Anti Terrorism Act Bill C-51

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Queer Ontario’s Statement on “Project Marie”

November 18th, 2016 Comments off

Queer Ontario Challenges Toronto Police Service, 22 Division with Slew of Questions.

Disheartening as it is to see the police (so soon after their so called ‘regret’ to our communities for the 1981 bath raids) engaging in the types of activities we are seeing at Marie Curtis Park, one cannot help but wonder about their motivation. The police claim that they are not targeting any community although news reports indicate 95 percent of those charged were men who have consensual sex with men (MSM). It would be interesting to know how many of the undercover police officers sent in to investigate and lay charges were female.

Police say they are only responding to complaints. Now Mississauga Councilor Jim Tovey’s, whose jurisdiction includes Marie Curtis Park is having a big rally to “take back the park.” From whom? Who took the park away from them in the first place? Are men, even men who have sex with men, not allowed to use a park as a meeting place? Are parks not a public place? Who gave the go ahead for ‘Project Marie”? How much funding went into carrying out this sweep? Why was this made a priority over other policing needs? What are the actual 89 charges against the 72 people arrested? Are these charges being lumped together as a smear tactic against men who engage in sexual activity in parks?

The LGBTQ communities have a long history of resisting attempts by the police who impose upon and/or restrict spaces we have created to address our needs. From raids on bathhouses and strip clubs to arrests in parks and washrooms, the police have used discretionary law enforcement to try to curtail the sexual activity of men who desire other men. It seems that the police are allowing themselves to be agents of the prurient prejudice of the complainants. Surely whatever minor inconveniences that might have disturbed other members of the community by the presence of these fellow citizens could easily have been addressed without requiring undercover officers laying charges. Could this be a reason they wanted “stealth” vehicles?

Black Lives Matter made a valid point when they disrupted the unveiling of a police mural. Clearly, much work remains to be done. Thank you to Marcus McCann and the other lawyers offering to defend those charged. We believe that standing up to bullying is important.

QO Statement Project Marie

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: