June is Pride Month. It is a time to celebrate the freedom to love who you love and to be who you are without fear. Pride is more than a flag, it is more than parades and festivals… It is about freedom!
On the eve of the passage of the Canadian Bill of Rights on July 1, 1960, Prime Minister Diefenbaker declared in the House of Commons his pledge to uphold our heritage of freedom for all mankind. The Conservative Prime Minister said:
“I am Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
Clearly, Diefenbaker’s powerful statement does not make up for the harmful treatment of the LGBTIQ community in his time, but on July 1, 1960, Prime Minister Diefenbaker made a pledge—a pledge that has come to mean so much more today. That pledge was a call to action for Canadians then, and particularly today.
In our world, the LGBTIQ community is not free. In more than 70 countries, the rights of LGBTIQ persons are not guaranteed. In some countries, a lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex, or queer person can be executed simply for being who they are! Canada has an obligation to stand up for human rights here and around the world—always.
In my role as the Shadow Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, I have been highlighting the global discrimination of the LGBTIQ community. Nowhere is this more urgent than in Uganda, where their Parliament has passed an Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
While the original version of the bill would have legislated imprisonment of persons who identify as LGBTIQ, it now states that those who do not act on their “deviant proclivity” will not be punished by law. Same-sex acts were already illegal in Uganda and can lead to maximum prison sentences. This new law even prescribed the death penalty in cases of “aggravated homosexuality.”
I was honoured to welcome a group of Ugandan MPs who oppose this terrible law to Ottawa this week. Along with LGBTIQ activists from Kenya and representatives of civil society organizations here in Canada, we held discussions on the situation around the world and discussed how Canadian leaders can support freedom everywhere.
Here I would normally include a picture of meeting these brave lawmakers from Uganda. Except they told me it would be unsafe for them to have their picture taken and posted online as it could lead to severe consequences back home. They were worried about being hunted down and persecuted for advocating on behalf of LGBTIQ constituents and fellow citizens. It’s hard to imagine but it is a reality for these MPs and many more around the world.
While we have made tremendous progress here at home, we still have more work to do to ensure all people know and experience the safety and security our constitution guarantees to every Canadian.
Discrimination is pernicious. It seeds division and hate.
Let’s choose love over hate, inclusion over division, and freedom over discrimination.
(Photo of Parliament Hill by festivio on Pixabay. Photo of Scott Aitchison courtesy of Scott Aitchison.)
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