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Anti-Hate Legislation Passed

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Issue: 8 Section: Canadian News Topics: homophobia

September 27, 2003

Anti-Hate Legislation Passed

by Daron Letts

svendclassic.jpg
Svend Robinson in Parliament.
Bill C-250, an Act to include "sexual orientation" in existing hate propaganda sections of the Criminal Code, passed in Parliament on September 17 by a decisive vote of 143-110. Svend Robinson, MP for Burnaby-Douglas, first tabled the bill in 1990.

"As I sat there watching the votes being counted and as I realized that the bill was going to pass, I was thinking about friends who had been gay bashed, beaten and murdered - and I thought, in a small way, hopefully, the passage of this bill will make the lives of gay and lesbian people a little more safe and respected," Robinson told The Dominion a day after the vote. "I think it is absolutely safe to say that Canada now leads the world in recognition of equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people and that is something we should all take a sense of pride in."

Vancouver has one of the only police forces in the country that maintains statistics of hate crimes based on sexual orientation. In 2002, these accounted for 62 per cent of the city's total hate crimes. Queer activists increased pressure on the government to pass Bill C-250 following the vicious murder of Aaron Webster in Vancouver's Stanley Park two years ago.

"Based on what we see [here], we believe that there is a need to have legislation for hate crimes against individuals based on sexual orientation," said Vancouver Constable Sarah Bloor.

The queer liberation struggle in Canada has not ended with Bill C-250.

"As long as young gay people take their own lives and feel alone and alienated and lacking in support from their family and their friends and their church and other institutions, we still have a lot of work to do," said Robinson.

"Gay and lesbian people in many parts of the world have to hide their existence in order to survive. They are beaten, they are sometimes tortured and executed, and so, whenever we get complacent and think we have really made it here in Canada, we just have to remember that there is still so much work to be done for our brothers and sisters around the world."

Robinson was first elected to parliament in 1979, and came out publicly during a CBC interview in 1988. At the time he was one of only four openly gay elected national politicians in the world.

» Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere

» Rabble.ca: Hate Crimes Put To A Vote

» Aaron Webster

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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