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Quebec Plans Wide-Ranging Fight Against Homophobia

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Aug 19, 2009
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Forty years after the August, 1969, decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, Quebec is poised to begin a wide-ranging push to counter lingering homophobia and discrimination.

The new program is expected to emphasize needs of GLBT youth, according to an Aug. 16 article in the Canadian Press that was carried at Yahoo! News Canada.

The article noted that GLBT youth are up to sixteen times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to consider, or even to attempt, suicide.

The article quoted Justice Minister Kathleen Weil as saying that the plan will constitute "real actions," adding that the plan would detail "what we’ll do and how we’ll do it differently."

Noted Weil, "Minorities are often confronted with obstacles, obstacles that stop them from reaching their full potential as human beings.

"Society can’t afford that, can’t afford to lose these great people," Weil added.

Montreal Pride’s Jasmin Roy hailed the anti-homophobia plan, calling it "a big step," and indicating that the new government initiative would spur this year’s Pride celebration to greater heights of celebration.

"That’s why we’re marching," Roy was quoted as saying, "to say that finally, this year, Quebec will have a policy against homophobia."

But Roy expected that change would only come with effort, noting, "We still have to work to apply the law."

The plan is the result of a study commissioned in 2005 by then-Justice Minister Yvon Marcoux. Released two years later, the study showed that GLBTs in Quebec still faced discrimination, with GLBT youth particularly hard hit.

GLBT immigrants to Quebec also contend with homophobia from within their ethnic community. The article quoted Immigration Minister Yolande James, who said, "We’ve always been avant-garde in our progress towards equality, and I think this policy will allow us to do more and continue to be the front-runners."

Added James, "When we speak of Quebec in foreign countries we make sure we re-iterate equal rights and the importance of diversity."

The plan is the second government initiative in a quarter-year to target the specter of homophobia: the article noted that last May, Quebec put funding into place to educate the public about the needs of GLBT senior citizens.

Anti-gay religious site LifeSiteNews, which frequently reports on GLBT issues, posted an article in March of 2007, when the report on which the the new campaign is based was first issued.

That article labeled GLBTs as individuals with "disordered sexuality."

However, as LifeSiteNews noted, the 2007 report that led to the new plan approached existing social attitudes toward gays as disordered, not GLBT people themselves.

The March, 2007 article read in part, "The report ascribes to homophobia negative consequences of what many acknowledge as problems associated with disordered sexuality.

"The report says that homosexual, bisexual and transsexual persons are ’a population at risk,’ noting that they experience higher rates of psychological distress, depression, illegal drug use, alcoholism, and suicidal tendencies," the article continued.

"The report claims that these afflictions are the result of heterosexist ’social stigmatization’ and ’homophobia,’" added the article.

The article continued with a claim that education aimed at lessening bias toward GLBT people would infringe on the religious freedoms of people of faith.

"While psychologists who assist people to overcome disordered sexuality see many of the afflictions mentioned as symptoms of the homosexual disorder, the report uses the plight of the many people who find themselves in such heart-rending situations to urge for political action which will threaten freedom of religion and freedom of speech regarding the immorality and dangers of the homosexual lifestyle," the article stated.

While the 2007 report identified schools in Quebec as hot spots for anti-gay prejudice, a separate initiative undertaken by the Quebec Ministry of Education has been instituted to provide teacher training in the area of diversity and the needs of children with same-sex parents.

The site decried this development in an item published on Aug. 11, citing an anti-gay group opposed to gay couples acting as parents for their own children.

The article noted that the new training cost less than $100,000 to fund, and provided three-hour training sessions for teachers, as well as supplementary educational materials.

The article cited The Coalition of Same-Sex Families’ Manon Boivin, a lesbian mother raising a young daughter with her same-sex life partner. Said Boivin, who trains the teachers under the program’s auspices, "Often, in the face of homophobic insults, teachers do not know what to say."

Added Boivin, "We will make an offensive to inform the schools."

The article noted that in 2002, change sin Quebec law allowed lesbians to make use of fertility treatments, and also opened the way for same-sex second parent adoption.

That has helped the growth of the number of gay and lesbian families with children. Said Boivin, "In Quebec, there are thousands of children living in a same-sex family."

Added Boivin, "The Coalition has 1,000 member families in Quebec."

The article cited REAL Women of Canada, an anti-gay group that sees education around gay parenting as an infringement on the rights of heterosexual parents.

Said Diane Watts, a researcher associated with the group, "We’re opposed to any government or educational system interference in parental direction, parental care of children.

"This type of thing does not consult the parents of the children and it interferes with parental rights."

Watts couched her argument in the realm of "family values," even though the educational effort is aimed at bolstering awareness and nderstanding about same-sex families.

Said Watts, "If the parents have objections to same-sex relationships or same-sex marriage and they’re trying to teach their children family-oriented values, this will interfere with their work and they will not have control over what their children are taught."

Added Watts, "Unfortunately our provincial governments are not concerned enough about the rights of parents and the duties of parents," despite the government’s work on parents who happen to be of the same gender.

Those who oppose family equality for gays and lesbians, and their spouses and children, frequently make reference to studies that indicate that children thrive best in homes with a mother a father.

However, those studies are based on research into families headed by single, heterosexual parents, usually the mother. Proponents of gay and lesbian family equality point to a number of studies focused on same-sex couples and their children that demonstrate that children from two-parent homes in which the parents are both of one gender do just as well as their peers from two-parent mixed-gender homes.

Watts did not acknowledge those studies, saying, "The social studies indicate that the best environment for a child is with a family with a mother and a father."

A report issued by REAL Women five years ago made assorted claims about gay and lesbian families, including assertions that same-sex parents are more prone to domestic violence and sexual abuse of children.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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