Wait ... what? He's backing the opponents of pending anti-gay legislation in Uganda? Well, this is certainly awkward.
I remember walking past a crowd of protesters in Toronto during the 2006 election who were chanting, among other things, "Racist, sexist, anti-gay! Stephen Harper go away!" That attitude was pervasive among the bien-pensants of the Annex and the faculty lounges at U of T and York, and it still persists. All it would take, we were told, was a Conservative majority government and then the Secret Agenda would be revealed, bound in baby seal skin and sewn with human hair, and gays would be rounded up by the army and sent to concentration camps on Baffin Island.
I've never experienced homophobia from Conservatives, although I've engaged in many lively but respectful debates about gay marriage with my fellow travellers. I don't believe that most Conservatives, including the Prime Minister, are homophobic. Yes, there are people in the Conservative Party who are bigots, including some MPs, but there are also bigots on the Liberal and NDP benches too (I wrote about that here if you're interested). Most Conservatives I know are laissez-faire on the subject of sexuality, and although we may disagree about gay marriage, we absolutely agree on the subject of basic human rights.
So, it comes as no surprise to me that the Harper government is quietly supporting opponents of a draconian law working its way through the Parliament of Uganda which aims to rid the country of homosexuals:
Canada is quietly financing a concerted grassroots effort to aid gay Ugandans’ fight against their country’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill — and preparing them in case it passes, says a senior Department of Foreign Affairs source.
Since November, when the Ugandan Parliament renewed its effort to pass the legislation, which Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has called “abhorrent,” Canada has spent $200,000 to kick-start several gay rights initiatives in the region. The source confirmed that the Canadian involvement was specifically focused on fighting the Ugandan bill.
Homosexuality is already criminalized, but the proposed legislation would renew and reinvigorate efforts to rid Uganda of its gay population, and has attracted sweeping international condemnation.
The bill sought stiff jail terms for homosexuals, and those who failed to report them to the authorities, and in some cases life imprisonment. Legislators also sought to implement the death penalty for Ugandans who practise homosexual acts with an “aggravating factor,” which includes a spate of criteria, including being HIV-positive.The Ugandan bill is truly abhorrent. Among other things, it specifies the death penalty for the crime of "aggravated homosexuality":
[The bill would] Define a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not). The penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” is death by hanging.Bravo to the Conservative government for not only taking a stand on this issue, but putting resources in the hands of local opponents on the ground in Africa. I'm proud to be a Conservative right now.