Rights and advocacy - Macleans.ca

Rights and advocacy

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A week ago, Conservative party staff and MPs put together a contribution to the “It Gets Better” video series originally inspired by Dan Savage. In short order it was duly noted that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews opposed same-sex marriage and that Senator Don Meredith once said homosexuality is a choice, while the opposition subsequently pushed for the Harper government to defend gay rights within the Commonwealth and fund Gay Pride events in Canada.

Yesterday brought two new points of conflict: news that Conservatives MP David Sweet, who appears in the video, once said homosexuality is a sin and an odd disagreement during Question Period over whether or not Peter MacKay was willing to say the word “gay” out loud.

Bob Rae. Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the spokesman for the government could indicate clearly whether the Prime Minister will be telling his colleagues in Perth at the Commonwealth conference that as far as Canada is concerned, human rights include gay rights and the Prime Minister will be using precisely that language to describe the situation.

Peter MacKay. Mr. Speaker, I can certainly assure the questioner from the Liberal Party that on every occasion that the Prime Minister engages on the international scene, particularly on occasions where he is speaking with other leaders as he is doing in Perth, the issue of human rights is always there. The issue of human rights is something closely associated with our country and with our government. It is something we are very proud to put forward both internationally and here at home.

Bob Rae. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence still does not appear to be able to use the word “gay”. That is the question I am asking and that is what I am relating to. I would like … Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of National Defence regarding Sri Lanka. Apparently the Prime Minister is going to be taking a position with respect to the human rights record of the government of Sri Lanka. The government opposite has not always been consistent on this question. With respect to the situation in Sri Lanka, as the minister is being prompted by his colleague next to him, I would ask him very directly, can he tell us that it is the position of the Government of Canada that there need to be minimum standards for membership in the Commonwealth?

Peter MacKay. Mr. Speaker, quite to the contrary of what the interim leader has just said, the reality is the Prime Minister has been crystal clear on the international scene. He has made statements definitively with respect to Sri Lanka and our desire to see that country reconcile the very appalling human rights record we have seen over the last number of years. That is a situation the Prime Minister will address at the Commonwealth. That is a situation on which the Prime Minister has already very firmly advanced a position.

Bob Rae. Mr. Speaker, that is twice now that the Minister of National Defence has not answered my questions directly.

A week ago, on a similar question, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was quite explicit about “the rights of gays and lesbians.” A year ago, at another meeting of the Commonwealth, Stephen Harper personally intervened to register his complaint about a proposed anti-gay law in Uganda.