June 28, 2011

No going back!

Pride 2011 statement from the Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League

This summer, as the LGBTQ communities and their allies across Canada hold Pride events, there is much to celebrate, but also serious challenges. The Communist Party of Canada and the Young Communist League send warmest greetings, and pledge our solidarity to the ongoing struggles for full equality.

These struggles gained more new ground in the past year, in Canada and many other countries. The powerful movement for full gender and sexual equality continues to break down old barriers and prejudices. The right to same-sex marriage equality is being recognized in more U.S. states and in other countries. The “It Gets Better” campaign has given some hope to millions of queer and questioning youth who face abuse and hatred. Toronto City Council has rejected attempts by homophobic mayor Rob Ford to deny funding to Pride Toronto.

We welcome the continued expansion of queer‑positive environments in the public realm, the growing numbers of trade unions with active Pride and LGBTQ caucuses, and the increase of gay‑straight alliances, safe school spaces and “Pride proms” in our schools. These and other legal, political and cultural victories are the hard‑won results of decades of efforts by the LGBTQ community and allies.

But this progress is under attack. Those who rely on the divisive tactics of fear and bigotry have a powerful new ally – the Conservative majority elected on May 2. Other far-right forces seek to gain power with the aid of reactionary, fundamentalist groups, such as the Hudak Tories in Ontario. The manufactured outcry against the Burnaby School District’s new anti-homophobia policy, and the Toronto Catholic School Board’s banning of a lesbian comedian from an anti-bullying event, are reminders that anti-equality groups will keep trying to turn back the clock.

Alarmingly, police‑reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation rose by 18% in 2009 according to Statistics Canada, after more than doubling from 2007 to 2008. Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are often violent, confirming news of more gay-bashings in recent years. Despite the “It Gets Better” campaign, most LGBTQ students still report feeling unsafe at school, and prosecutors are often unwilling to prosecute vicious gay‑bashings as hate crimes.

Bill C-389, the historic legislation to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act by making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender equality or gender expression, was adopted by the last House of Commons, only to die with the dissolution of Parliament before a vote in the Senate. The struggle for legal equality for transgender Canadians will now be much more difficult and complex.

We are confident in eventual victory for trans equality, but the cost of delaying for years will be tragic. To those who dismiss the significance of this issue, we point out that trans people are about one-tenth of the LGBTQ population, and face huge medical costs, higher levels of unemployment, less access to housing, widespread intimidation at work, and lack of legal protections.

The demand for trans equality must be intensified by the LGBTQ communities and our allies in the coming period. But the Harper Tories hope to use their new majority to reverse queer rights as well as decades of gender equality gains by women. Right-wing forces continue to scapegoat the LGBTQ community and racialised groups, to divide working class resistance against finance capital, corporate bailouts and global environmental plunder.

Globally, the struggle to end the criminalization of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression faces stubborn resistance. Violent expressions of homophobia are on the rise in many countries, sometimes in response to courageous attempts to hold public events such as Pride Parades. Working class queer people suffer vicious discrimination, along with women and racialized communities who bear the brunt of neoliberal economic and social policies.

ILGA, the association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersexed peoples, reports that 76 United Nations member states still criminalize consensual same‑sex acts among adults. In five countries, punishment for homosexuality still includes the death penalty.

But the ILGA also notes that “from the adoption of marriage laws in Argentina and Iceland, and the decision of the Brazilian Supreme Court recognizing rights of same‑sex civil unions, to the issuing of a Statement signed by 85 countries at the UN Human Rights Council condemning persecution on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a lot of progress has been made the last year on recognition of LGBTI rights in the world.”

The myth that queer rights can only be won in wealthy capitalist countries is shattered by these advances, and by the reality that homophobic and racist concepts are exported from North America and Europe.

Today the so‑called “war on terror” is an excuse to remove civil liberties, and the ruling class is using the economic crisis to conduct a vicious assault on workers and hard-won social equality gains. We must always remember that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Just like racism, sexism, and national chauvinism, homophobia and transphobia are weapons to divide working people. Equality and human rights must be expanded to include full legal and political protections for sexual orientation and expression, and gender identity.

This demand is not “divisive.” It is a vital part of the fightback by people’s movements. A broad democratic and social resistance is needed to block and reverse the corporate agenda. Together, we must build a powerful coalition around a genuine people’s alternative ‑ a common front of labour, Aboriginal peoples, youth and students, women, seniors, farmers, immigrant and racialized communities, environmentalists, peace activists, the LGBTQ community, and many other allies.

Ultimately, this struggle in our communities and workplaces, in the streets and at the ballot box, can defeat the Harper Tories and open the door to a people’s coalition government. The goal of the Communist Party is to win fuller social freedom and genuine people’s power in a socialist Canada, where our economy will be owned by all and democratically controlled. It will then become possible to eradicate the intersecting forms of exploitation and oppression which we all face today. We urge you to join us in this goal of creating a liberated society in which, as Karl Marx said, “the freedom of each is the condition for the freedom of all.”

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