Tagged: homophobia

Canada’s equivalent of “real Americans” — #gag #spoon

I won’t presume that Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, poster child for the Harper government’s plan to kill the long gun registry, was purposely being nasty when she referred to citizens who oppose the registry as “good salt-of-the-earth people,” “upstanding citizens who work hard,” and parents whose children “probably aren’t involved in gangs in the streets.” But I wish she would take a moment to consider how offensive her characterizations are.

They’re upstanding citizens who work hard. They take their kids and grandkids out hunting and shooting and those kids, by the way, probably aren’t involved in gangs in the streets.

These are good salt-of-the-earth people and for so long they have had really nobody in government who has been able to make any changes on their behalf. So it really was very gratifying to know how thankful they were and how much it meant to them to have someone who was going to be promoting good policy, policy that was fair and wasn’t targeting them.

By dividing Canadians into “good salt-of-the-earth people” vs. unnamed others, the Harperites are borrowing yet another unwelcome page from the US Republican Party’s noisome playbook.

Personally, I find guns creepy, and I believe the danger of having them around far outweighs the good some people see in them. But I feel no great stake in the long gun registry, which was a badly conceived and atrociously implemented indirect attack at a problem politicians lacked the gumption to tackle head on. I’m ambivalent about ending it, but it’s a repulsive lie to suggest that one side of the debate has a lock on worthy citizenship — or even that some citizens are intrinsically more worthy than others.

There are plenty of good people, and no shortage of arseholes, on both sides of this issue.

By the same token I won’t be joining the chorus of indignation that has greeted the “it gets better” video cobbled together, somewhat ineptly, by a group of Conservative MPs in response to the suicide of a gay Ottawa teen.

Yes, some Conservatives have been slow to shed bigoted ideas about homosexuality that were the norm in Canada only a few short years ago. Yes, as MP Scott Brison pointed out, the Conservative caucus has fought against such advancements in gay rights in Canada as pension benefits and the right to marry.

But the fact they are now climbing aboard the “it gets better” bandwagon marks a remarkable political watershed. The generous interpretation would be that the MPs were simply moved by the human tragedy of a promising teenager taking his own life because of the cruel treatment he faced as a gay boy. In the cynical view, this was a cold Conservative Party calculation that Canadian public opinion has fetched up firmly on one side of this issue, and the party had best get on board.

I incline to the former, but either way, it shows that those least inclined to accept equal treatment for people of all sexual orientation have now realized the debate is over in Canada. Tolerance won.

It’s about time.

(The National Post’s Chris Selley goes overboard with the argument, and lets his CPC partisanship show, but on the basic point, I find myself in rare agreement: “The fact its supporters cut across political lines is a benefit, not a drawback.”)


Spirit Place? How about Atheist Heights instead?

My netizen pal Angela Mombourquette makes a good case for the proposed seven story housing project that has stirred opposition in the otherwise low-rise, middle-income neighborhood where church elders want to build it.

Venerable St. John’s United Church, which currently occupies the lot at Windsor and North in a residential neighborhood of Halifax’s West End, has reached its best-before date. The congregation proposes to replace it with a building, called “Spirit Place,” that will house both a place of worship and an independent living facility for old people — all wrapped into a seven-storey structure. Furthermore, St. John’s specifically promotes Spirit Place as “an affirming, welcoming space [for] seniors of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) community.”

The hitch? The neighborhood is zoned for 2-1/2-storey, one- and two-unit dwellings not exceeding 35 feet in height. Spirit Place weighs in at 65 units and 72 feet in height. It would turn this neighborhood…


…into this:


I have a vested interest in the issue, because my own part-time, low-rise abode sits just four short blocks away. I could conceivably be a resident someday, if the Ross Ferry wing of  Baddeck’s Alderwood Home wont take me in! Nevertheless, and notwithstanding Ange’s endorsement, I bristle at everything about the way the church folks are promoting this project.

The effort to wrap their quest for a very substantial variance in a holier-than-thou display of welcome to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered residents smacks of a diversionary tactic. The church elders are, in effect, starting a fire at one end of Main Street, so no one will notice them robbing a bank at the other.

Every apartment building in Nova Scotia welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered residents. That’s the law, which forbids landlords and land developers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Is there any evidence — a study, a survey, a public opinion poll, a rumor? — that old gay folks face discrimination in housing? If so, please bring it forth for public inspection and debate. Otherwise, please remove these red herrings from the path to a zoning hearing.

My suspicion deepens in light of the haste with which proponents of this housing development have cried homophobe at anyone who objects to the massive variance they seek. If Wal-Mart planned a seven-storey superstore at the same location, but offered to host a garden for endangered wildflowers at the rear of the parking lot, would we take seriously any attempt on the company’s part to paint opponents as anti-conservationist?

Mistrust festers further in light of the proponents’ churchy, Goody Two-Shoes language. There’s the name, for starters. While objectively no worse than once fashionable tropes like “Windsor Arms” or “Willow Manor,” the proposed moniker smells of daffy New-Age spiritualism. Speaking for myself, I’d rather move into a building called “Atheist Heights” or even “Homo Haven,” and I’d be mortified to put “Spirit Place” on my personal stationery.

In the same vein, a board member speaks not of planning the development, but of being called to build it. Called by God, one presumes, or at the very least, by the Still Small Voice. Great! Now anyone opposed to doubling the height restriction is not only homophobic but anti-God and perhaps a friend of Satan.

I remain undecided about this development. I see its size and height as big drawbacks, but they may be necessary to allow affordable housing. I wonder about parking. I dislike Halifax’s habit of fearing, then thwarting, every new development, but I bristle at the promoters’ patronizing dismissal of concerns about this one as mere “resistance to change.” I personally tend to seek out social settings featuring mixed incomes, backgrounds, ages, and sexual orientations, so I wonder at the wisdom of ghettoizing the elderly. Would the neighborhood be better off with a mixed-age apartment building?

I do agree with Ange on one point:

[W]ho has the most potential to be seriously awesome neighbours? Gay seniors, of course. Imagine the incredible dinner party circuit.

If any Spirit Place-supporting gay seniors are planning such a meal, I’m open to offers.