Movin’ On Up
YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T-A victory was scored for LGBT Canadians in the legal battle between the contradictory protections of LGBT rights and religious freedom in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Devout Baptist landlord Will Goertzen tore up a new lease from two signees after he found out the men were a gay couple. He relisted the property without telling them and the two men were left scrambling for accommodation and storage for 10 days. They filed a complaint against Goertzen with the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission. The commission ruled that Goertzen’s religious beliefs were no reason to deny housing to a gay couple. While the adjudicator was not convinced Goertzen acted “maliciously,” he decided this was a clear case of discriminated based on sexual orientation.
According to the report, Goertzen defended his actions by stating his belief that homosexual relationships are “unnatural and against nature” and that the Bible warns against association with such wickedness as there would be undue hardship upon him. The report also includes details of an incident where Goertzen threatened not to renew the lease of the complainant’s sister who lives in the basement residence with her young son.
The commission priced out Goertzen’s sanctimony at $13,400, short of the $47,930 the couple asked for in damages. That loud shaking sound you hear is the collection plate going around Central Arctic Baptist Church, Goertzen’s place of worship. They better raise a heap of cash if they keep pumping out parishioners who believe that the anticipation of divine hardship is a defence in visiting hardship upon others. They can call it “Asshat Insurance.”
Sin in the Classroom
Saved by the bell
SURREY, B.C.-School Districts in B.C. aren’t exactly gay-positive. In 1977, a complaint against the Surrey School Board for its rejection of children’s books depicting same-sex parents made national headlines. The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, which decided books must be evaluated using secular criteria rather than religious beliefs. The decision yielded the T-shirt-worthy quote from Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, “Tolerance is always age-appropriate.” That battle to defend religious bigotry cost Surrey taxpayers more than $1.2 million. While that should be one hell of an incentive to keep homophobes out of school boards, the majority of B.C.’s 60 school districts have yet to pass written codes of conduct that reflect the provincial and federal human rights codes. Thanks in large part to a new generation of LGBT teens standing up for their rights, 11 school districts in B.C. have passed LGBT-friendly policies.
Cariboo-Chilcotin recently passed the Safe, Caring and Orderly Schools policy. Last year, anti-homophobia events initiated by the GSA at Columneetza Secondary Graduate were cancelled for several reasons, including pressure on the board from a group of “influential parents.” The policy will help resist pressure from parents frightened by “the homosexual agenda.” In the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy adopted on Sept. 1 is skimpy on details, but it encourages the formation of GSAs, asks that counsellors be familiar with LGBT issues, and supports a no-tolerance stance on homophobia. May we also suggest bringing back “the strap” for use on parents who insist on placing their idea of “morality” over the safety of queer kids?
A Head for Numbers
A heart for justice
TORONTO-President and CEO of TD Bank Financial Group (TD) Ed Clark was the recipient of Egale Canada’s second annual leadership award in recognition of TD as the single largest supporter of diversity in the workplace. Besides offering queer employee groups, inclusivity training, and support for gender transitioning in the workplace, TD also supports the broader LGBT community. It sponsors North American Pride Festivals and funds LGBT community service providers and professional associations, HIV/AIDS-related charities, and Egale’s Safe Schools Campaign.
Clark said his sensitivity towards LGBT issues began at Canada Trust, one of the first banks to provide same-sex benefits. When he saw that only 50 of the 55,000 employees signed up for the benefits, he realized how difficult it was for employees to come out of the closet. That drove him to promote more diversity initiatives in the workplace.
Of course, Clark’s 2009 salary of $10.4 million probably takes the sting out of any razzing from his golf buddies. But he is proving a model for progress in the private sector. Earlier this year, Clark also accepted an award from Catalyst, an organization that works with corporations to assure the advancement of women in the workplace, for TD’s efforts in promoting women.
Over at Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), they’ve been inspired by the lion’s share of Fortune 100 companies in the U.S. that promote “supplier diversity.” RBC has started questioning suppliers about diversity in their hiring and promotion policies. RBC has also pushed past the support of the traditional equity groups of women, visible minorities, aboriginals and people with disabilities to include new Canadians, religious minorities and LGBT employees. The bottom line is diversity gives an organization a competitive edge. A report commissioned by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accounts (CICA) states, “The influence of a variety of perspectives and viewpoints can contribute to flexibility and creativity within organizations, which can help them thrive in a complex and competitive global economy.” On the other hand, don’t expect a homo CEO of a major financial institution anytime before you’re RRSP matures.
It’s In You To Give
Unless you’re MSM
TORONTO-In the case of Canadian Blood Services (CBS) v. Kyle Freeman, the Ontario Supreme Court ruled in favour of CBS and found Kyle Freeman guilty of negligent misrepresentation. Since 1985, male blood donors have been asked, “Have you had sex with a man, even one time, since 1977?” Those who answer “yes” are prohibited from donating blood. Despite being sexually active with other men, Freeman lied and replied “no” on several donor questionnaires between 1990 and 2002. After Freeman’s last donation tested positive for syphilis, CBS claimed it spent $10,000 to rid the system of all of Freeman’s blood donations. That guy must gush like an oil well.
CBS sued Freeman in 2002. Freeman launched a countersuit based on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation as covered under the Charter of Human Rights.
Seven years later, the decision came down. The judge dismissed Freeman’s countersuit as the Charter only pertains to discrimination by government agencies. Although CBS is funded and regulated by the government, it does not take day-do-day instruction from the Ontario provincial government. The judge also decided that donating blood is not a right under the law. The one area where the Judge agreed with the defence was that dating sexual activity back to 1977 was unreasonable and not in line with scientific evidence. Other countries have shorter timelines or limit donors according to specific sexual behaviour. Freeman has been advised by his lawyers not to make a statement about the decision. The CBS will not seek the $10,000 in damages it originally wanted from Freeman. They bled him enough already.
– Charles Melvin is a Toronto-based freelance writer. To comment on this or any other article in Outwords, write to email@example.com
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