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Justin Trudeau issues apology to the LGBTQ community

In a bold, historic and heartwarming moment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered an apology to the LGBTQ community after decades of discrimination. Trudeau made the apology in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov 28.

The chambers held a lot of emotion, as even Trudeau wiped away tears at the end of his speech. Trudeau was able to express the regret, shame, and sorrow the Canadian government has taken responsibility for in the discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ Canadians. The rejection and treatment of the LGBTQ community was a state-sponsored and witch-hunting event to purposely exclude people from society based on their sexual orientation.

“You are professionals. You are patriots, and above all, you are innocent. And for all your suffering, you deserve justice and you deserve peace. He said  ” It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. And it is our collective shame that this apology took so long— many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words. And for that we are truly sorry.”

Many LGBTQ Canadians faced such discrimination and harsh treatment from others that were not willing to understand nor accept people with non-conforming sexual orientation and desire. Between the 1950’s to the 1990’s thousands of federal workers were fired based on their sexual orientation. This was part of  a “national security’ purge. In the 1960’s alone, there was a database collected by the RCMP of over 9000 suspected gay and lesbian federal workers and suggestions of demotion and denial of promotion.

In June of 2016, members of the advocacy group Egale Canada released a report on the systematic discrimination members of the LGBT community has faced over the years. This prompted them to issue ways in which the treatment and viewpoint of the LGBTQ community can be changed in Canada. One of the recommendations was a formal apology issued by Ottawa. In May of 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that he will issue a formal apology on Nov 28, and as he promised this was delivered to a packed house.

However, there are still some people who thought the apology was not enough to make up for years of hurt and damage caused in many communities. The fact is, this ‘purge’ was a systematic event that lasted longer than necessary and changed many lives.

In 1969 the House of Commons voted to pass a bill that decriminalized homosexuality and in 1967 the bill was first introduced by the acting Justice Minister at that time, and future Prime Minister, the late Pierre Trudeau, who said, “The view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Now 50 years later, his son has taken the opportunity to offer an apology for government actions that were truly vile, invasive, discriminatory and un-Canadian.

This is yet another historic moment in the LGBTQ community in Canada. Comment below.

Quebec passes bill prohibiting the niqab while using public services

Wednesday, Quebec’s National Assembly passed a law that will prohibit women from wearing the niqab while using public services.

Bill 62, ironically called the religious neutrality bill, bans public service workers, as well as people seeking government services, from wearing this any face-covering garb such as the niqab or the burka. This ban also extends to using public transportation.

It should also be noted that those who voted against the bill did so because they didn’t think it went far enough. They wanted to extend the ban to include people of authority, like judges and police officers.

To be incredibly clear: if a woman choses to wear the niqab for religious reasons, she will no longer be allowed to work as a teacher, doctor, or government agent. She will also not be able to use any of the services provided by these people and will not be able to take the bus to get there if she finds someone sympathetic to her beliefs.

The bill carefully avoids using the terms niqab or burka, and specifically says people must have their “face uncovered”, and claims this includes people who wear masks to protest. However, there are very few instances where a face would be covered and it is easy to deduce what population is being targeted by this law.

People can apply for an “exemption” to the rule; however the bill also specifies the religious accommodation “is consistent with the right for equality between women and men”, which would most likely rule out the niqab. The bill also says that “the accommodation must be reasonable in that it must not impose undue hardship with regard to, among other considerations, the rights of others, public health and safety, the effects on the proper operation of the body, and the costs involved.” This makes exemptions extremely subjective and difficult to receive.

The best part of the bill is the little disclosure at the end that says: “The measures introduced in this Act must not be interpreted as affecting the emblematic and toponymic elements of Québec’s cultural heritage, in particular its religious cultural heritage, that testify to its history.”

Honestly, if I was a politician in Quebec, I wouldn’t want this bill affecting the history or culture of my province either. It paints an absolutely despicable picture similar to other fascist countries.

I’m not a big fan of the niqab. Most women aren’t. But, I would never force a woman who chooses to wear one to remove it. I would also never prevent a woman from taking the bus or from picking up her child at school because of what she is wearing. This is not a security issue or a communications issue. This is racism in its simplest form. This is a group of people afraid of someone who dresses a bit differently. The law does not encourage “religious neutrality” as the government claims. It doesn’t prevent people from wearing a cross or a yarmulke on the bus or at the doctor’s office. It directly attacks one religion over others.

Personally, I’m hoping someone brings this bill to the Supreme Court. Quebec politicians should be ashamed at the blatant discrimination they just enacted in to law.

This is not my Canada. Is it yours?

The law is affective immediately.

Time to shut down the pregnancy questions

There are certain things, as proper etiquette, you may not ask a woman: her chest size, her weight, and her pregnancy plans. It seems like common sense, but I guess sometimes men need reminding.

Jacinda Ardern is a newly elected 37-year-old politician in New Zealand and she is the youngest ever leader for the New Zealand Labour Party. Of all the questions that Ardern has faced, this one seemed the most absurd. While appearing on radio talk show, The AM Show, Ardern was asked by male host Mark Richardson of her pregnancy plans. Ardern was asked live on air if she plans on becoming a mother during her time in parliament. Richardson based his questioning stating he thinks it’s a legitimate question to ask on behalf of New Zealand because she could potentially become their Prime Minister.

In what world is it okay to ask this type of question to a woman, regardless of the position she may hold? Ardern, however, quickly shut down the radio host, calling the question out of line.

That is unacceptable in 2017,” Ardern said. “It is a woman’s decision about when she chooses to have children and should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have got opportunities.”

Ardern is familiar with Richardson’s stance on women and pregnancy in the workplace, as the host previously said that employers should know this information from their female employees. Richardson’s bold question asking if it is ok for the Prime Minister to take maternity leave left many upset.

Ardern has already publicly spoken out about her plans to to start a family and she doesn’t mind discussing it, however the comparison to women in the workplace is what caused the upset. Ardern insists that women should not have to be worried about maternity leave and consider this a struggle in the workplace.

Ardern even went on to ask Richardson if he would ask a man this question, to which Richardson responded with an unenthusiastic “yes”. Instead of focusing on the accomplishments of this young woman, many seem to be stirring up drama and provoking emotions from the public about her personal decisions. This is not the first time that Ardern was asked this question. During an appearance on a New Zealand TV show called The Project, she was asked by male co host, Jesse Mulligan, if she planned on having children. In this case, Ardern responded politely and said her situation is no different from any other working woman looking to balance priorities and responsibility.

In New Zealand, many activists are debating this form of sexism. The Human Rights Act of 1993 prohibits any employer to discriminate on the grounds or pregnancy or plans to start a family.

Ardern’s case is no different.

What is the legality of President Trump’s immigration ban?

The past eleven days in the United States has been nothing short of shocking, with several executive orders reeking of racism, xenophobia and megalomania passed by newly-inaugurated President Donald Trump that have turned many people’s lives upside down.

Trump’s executive order to ban immigration has suspended all refugee admissions for 120 days, barred Syrian refugees from entering the United States indefinitely, and blocked entry of people from seven countries; Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, for 90 days. The decision has rocked the globe and has resulted in complete chaos on the U.S borders since the order was signed on Jan. 27.

The legality of the decision to ban citizens from Muslim-majority countries has been widely questioned by legal officials in the United States, and it appears that the order contravenes at least two constitutional amendments and may also be violating international human rights laws. On Saturday night, federal judge Ann Donnelly from Brooklyn blocked the order from sending people back to their home countries in the airport by claiming that it infringed upon Due Process and Equal Protection under the United States Constitution.

Protection for Refugees under the constitution

Due Process is covered under the fifth and fourteenth amendment and prevents against denying people entry who have valid visas. Equal protection should protect refugees from being sent back to unsafe conditions that threaten their safety and livelihood. Similar rulings were issued in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington. The Department of Homeland Security agreed to comply with rulings, but didn’t release detainees or comply with the ruling right away.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in New York is leading one of the biggest lawsuits on the issue and is claiming that the Establishment Clause in the constitution indicates that one religious denomination cannot be preferred over another. Though Trump’s order does not officially target Muslims, it does establish that it would help citizens of ‘minority religions’ in the seven listed countries, all of which have a Muslim majority. This indicates that the order attacks the Muslim majority, and thus violates the Establishment Clause.

After the executive order was granted, US Attorney General Sally Yates questioned the legality of the immigration ban and refused to direct staff in the justice department to execute the order. She was subsequently fired on Monday.

International Human Rights Laws

The ban may even contravene international human rights law as pointed out by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Geneva refugee convention requires the international community take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. The refugee convention, which is a United Nations treaty signed by the U.S., also prohibits discrimination against refugees on the basis of religion. Though the President of the United States is able to suspend entry to ‘any class of aliens’, a 1965 revision of law also indicates that people cannot be discriminated against based on their race, sex, nationality, place of birth or residence.

The best chance of success to repeal the immigration ban is for the Supreme Court to define the executive order as unconstitutional. This stands a good chance of being granted due to several counts of unconstitutionality that have been brought up by legal agencies across the country. The decision really comes down to the power of the law as distinctly separate from politics and if judicial branch is capable of being a supposedly impartial legal system. This is arguably the only chance the United States has to protect itself from megalomaniacs like President Trump.

The fate of many lives is at stake and one can only hope that the law is, indeed, just.

“Canadian Blood Services is afraid of my blood because I am a gay man”

I am a healthy 31 year old man.

I’m in a stable, loving relationship and own a beautiful Golden Retriever named Baxter. On Tuesday nights, I play poker with the boys and on a hot summer afternoon there’s nothing I enjoy more than downing a few cold pints on a patio.

I’m close with my mum and dad, I last washed my dishes 4 days ago, and I’m a terrible dancer. I drink milk out of a glass instead of the carton if someone else is around and I would choose a bucket of fried chicken over a tossed salad any day of the week.

I laugh when someone falls.  I’m ambitious with my career and lazy with my workouts.  I like porn.  I own three pairs of jeans, a few dress shirts, and a half dozen t-shirts that comprise my wardrobe.  My next door neighbour cuts my hair short for me every two weeks because I can’t be bothered to take more than a couple of minutes each day to style it.  I’m still friends with several people I went to high school with.

By this point in my description of myself and my life, you’ve probably started to form a picture in your head of what I’m like and what my life looks like.

Unfortunately, Canadian Blood Services only cares about one detail of my life: I have sex with another man. My partner and I are both healthy, monogamous, and proactive with our sexual health, yet the only words on this entire page that matter to Canadian Blood Services are “I have sex with another man.”  Today, Canadian Blood Services announced that the lifetime ban on gay men donating blood has been lifted, however, they are only interested in donations from gay men who have been celibate for 5 years or more.

All I see here is Canadian Blood Services perpetuating a homophobic and discriminatory idea that HIV/AIDS is something that only affects gay men. If clinics are able to test for the presence of HIV in blood and have results in less than five minutes, then why can’t this test be modified for donated blood from ALL donors?  It pains me to feel like a second class citizen with poisonous blood in a country I am so proud to live in, but it hurts me more to know that I am unable to help those in need with something I have to give.

So, Canadian Blood Services: either enhance your blood screening methods and change your policies, or change your slogan.

“Canadian Blood Services: it’s in you to give. Unless you’re a sexually active gay man because we think there’s a good chance you have AIDS.”