Queer Issues, 2007 Provincial Election

During the 2007 Ontario provincial election, ask the candidates who want your vote where they stand on these issues

No tax funding for faith-based schools

The Progressive Conservative Party proposes to provide tax funding for non-Catholic faith-based schools. They say it’s an issue of fairness and will help to integrate Ontario’s increasingly diverse student population into the mainstream. We say it will provide tax money, including the taxes paid by queer people in Ontario, to finance the perpetuation of homophobia by schools controlled by the religious right. Many of the denominations that run faith-based schools view homosexuality as sinful, evil and abnormal and promote life-long celibacy for queer people who refuse to be cured. It’s bad enough that tax funding is already provided to Catholic schools, when Catholicism also promotes these views. Fairness does not require that more tax money be provided to promote homophobia and intolerance. Fairness requires that no tax funding of any amount be provided to faith-based schools, whether Catholic, other Christian denominations or other faiths.

More proactive measures to eliminate homophobia and create queer-positive environments in all schools

The provincial government must make it a priority of the Ministry of Education to ensure that all schools are free from homophobia – whether expressed in attitudes and beliefs, systemic biases or as acts of harassment and violence – and are safe and welcoming for queer students, teachers and staff. School safety and anti-violence programs must specifically include anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia initiatives. There must be a requirement for ensuring mandatory responses to reported incidents of harassment and violence and effective provisions for enforcement and disciplinary action. School equity policies and programs that specifically prohibit the inequitable treatment of queer students, teachers and staff must be mandatory and must include effective measures for monitoring and ensuring compliance.

Reinstate sex reassignment surgery for coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan

Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage for sex reassignment surgery was eliminated in 1998 under the former Progressive Conservative government and has not been reinstated under the Liberals. As a result, a fundamental health need is inaccessible to a majority of trans people who seek to have sex reassignment surgery because of prohibitive costs. The Ontario government must publicly fund sex reassignment surgery and related medical procedures, including access to hormones, electrolysis, and counseling, and whenever possible, ensure that these services are delivered in community-based settings.

Amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination

Trans people in Ontario have no explicit legislative human rights protections. In 2000, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended the inclusion of gender identity in the Ontario Human Rights Code to ensure that trans people have the same protections in respect of employment, housing and access to services as do other Ontarians. The failure of the Government of Ontario to act on this recommendation is unacceptable. The next government must commit to immediately amending the Code to include gender identity.

CLGRO Sex Laws Committee Statement on Antiquated Criminal Code Sections

Stop the Raids – Repeal the Laws

The recent raid by Hamilton police and other agencies on the Warehouse, a gay bathhouse, is yet another example of the need to repeal vague and antiquated Victorian-era laws that criminalize consensual sexual activity, says The Sex Laws Committee. The Committee is a Toronto-based group of organizations and individuals committed to changing Canada’s archaic laws relating to sex and sexuality. The Committee has called for dropping of indecency charges laid during the raid and an apology for the conduct of the police officers conducting the raid.

The raid was conducted as part of a sweep of 14 businesses. It included raids on three of the six businesses in Hamilton that are exclusively gay or have a significant gay clientele. Apparently, a multi-agency task force that involved the police conducted the raids to check for bylaw infractions (health, safety, smoking, etc.) and any Criminal Code violations. Two men were charged with committing an indecent act when police officers encountered them in the TV lounge at the Warehouse.

Hamilton’s queer community has responded with shock and concern over the raid. Witnesses to the raid have indicated that the police used unnecessary force in arresting the two men charged with indecency, and unnecessarily handcuffed them during the arrest. It was reported that the handcuffed men were required to remove the towels they were wearing and had to be assisted with changing into their clothes by female officers involved with the raid. This is reminiscent of a raid in 2000 by Toronto police on the Pussy Palace, a women’s bathhouse event in which male police officers observed women in various stages of undress. In that case, police laid “disorderly conduct” and other charges under liquor licence legislation. A court later found that the police had violated the women’s right to privacy.

Although bawdy-house charges have not been laid in the Hamilton case, such charges are usually laid after raids on bathhouses. And there is a long history of the indecent act section of the Criminal Code being used almost exclusively against gays. Calgary police used the bawdy-house laws to charge the owners and customers of Goliath’s bathhouse in Calgary in December 2002. Bawdy-house and indecent act charges were laid by Montreal police during a raid on Taboo, a gay strip club in Montreal in May 2003. In Toronto, police laid bawdy-house charges in a raid on Remington’s, a gay strip club (1996) and indecent act charges against men during raids on the Bijou, a gay porno bar (1999).

Consensual heterosexual sex is also targeted by police forces. Police in various Ontario cities periodically raid heterosexual body rub parlours and strip clubs. Private clubs for heterosexual swingers in Montreal have been raided and charges successfully prosecuted under the bawdy-house laws. The Quebec Court of Appeal has rendered conflicting judgments in two of those cases, finding in one that a sex club was a bawdy-house but ruling in another case that a sex club was not a bawdy-house. And Terri-Jean Bedford was found guilty of operating a bawdy-house in Thornhill following a 1994 police raid on her house, where paying customers engaged in consensual S-M, fetish and bondage fantasies.

The Committee calls on Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler to bring in legislation to repeal the sections of the Criminal Code dealing with indecent acts in a public place and common bawdy-houses. Consensual sex is not indecent, and the places in which it occurs are not “bawdy”. These are laws and words that are laden with moral judgements. The only people harmed are those who are charged. (The relevant sections of the Criminal Code are reproduced below.)

It is outrageous that these ancient and vague laws continue to dictate what is moral by criminalizing consenting sexual activity. The raids must stop and the laws must be repealed.

The Sex Laws Committee, Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario

Criminal Code Sections Dealing With Indecent Acts And Bawdy-Houses

Public place

S. 150 “public place” includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, express or implied;

Indecent acts

S. 173. (1) Every person who willfully does an indecent act in a public place in the presence of one or more persons, or in any place, with the intent thereby to insult or offend any person, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Common bawdy-house

S. 197. (1) “common bawdy-house” means a place that is (a) kept or occupied, or resorted to by one or more persons for the purpose of prostitution or the practice of acts of indecency.

Keeping common bawdy-house

S. 210. (1) Every one who keeps a common bawdy-house is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Every one who is an inmate of a common bawdy-house, is found, without lawful excuse, in a common-bawdy house, or as owner, landlord, lessor, tenant, occupier, agent or otherwise having charge or control of any place, knowingly permits the place or any part thereof to be let or used for the purposes of a common bawdy-house, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Where a person is convicted of an offence under subsection (1), the court shall cause a notice of the conviction to be served on the owner, landlord or lessor of the place in respect of which the person is convicted or his agent, and the notice shall contain a statement to the effect that it is being served pursuant to this section.

Where a person on whom notice is served under subsection (3) fails forthwith to exercise any right he may have to determine the tenancy or right of occupation of the person so convicted, and thereafter any person is convicted of an offence under subsection (1) in respect of the same premises, the person on whom the notice was served shall be deemed to have committed an offence under subsection (1) unless he proves that he has taken all reasonable steps to prevent the recurrence of the offence.

Transporting persons to a bawdy-house

S. 211 Every person who knowingly takes, transports, directs, or offers to take, transport or direct, any person to a common bawdy-house is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

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