REFOCUS BY GERARD VELDHOVEN
One of Stephen Harper’s accomplishments has been the establishment of the Freedom of Religion Office set up in 2012. The ambassador of this venture has apparently travelled extensively and met with the likes of the Dalai Lama and other influential officials in the religious community.
While I applaud any effort to bring the world closer together, I am of the opinion Stephen Harper should have gone further, establishing the Office of Equal Rights and Freedom and basing it on the world’s discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. If our esteemed prime minister is serious about the world’s citizens, not only those who practise a religion – which should also be a freedom of expression – he falls short of embracing other wrongs committed on a daily basis because of sexual orientation.
Attacks continue around the world against members of the gay community in such countries as Uganda, Russia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia, where gays may be stoned to death under the protection of the law. Uganda’s President Museveni signed into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which threatens the very existence and freedoms that all deserve.
Where was Harper’s voice when southern U.S. right-wing evangelists and religious leaders travelled to Uganda to influence and provide financial assistance to the Ugandan government? This was an attempt to discriminate and rid the country of its gay population, keeping in mind that the death sentence was on the books when this group travelled there, and turned out to be used successfully. Of course, the death sentence was deleted.
Even as religious freedom is important, the freedom and rights of the world’s LGBT community must also receive the same treatment and respect. The prime minister has been silent on the treatment of gay citizens in other nations and our Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird has been the voice we hear on this issue. However, these words fall on deaf ears.
Museveni told the media that the West will not influence decisions of his government and to keep out of the affairs of his nation. Bringing attention to the plight of the LGBT community world-wide must be addressed by real opposition such as strong measures in the form of levying sanctions and the formation of an Office of Equal Rights and Freedom for our brothers and sisters in the queer community.
Go for it Mr. Harper and you will be the envy of world leaders! Do I hear a resounding “YES”? Comments and information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.