OTTAWA — Gay and lesbian activists say Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s refusal to refer to gay rights and same-sex marriage in the Canadian Citizenship Guide was an effort to rewrite Canadian history.
Openly gay NDP MP Bill Siksay called it “an unbelievable insult for gay and lesbian Canadians” and said Kenney should apologize.
Helen Kennedy, executive director of the gay-rights group Egale, said the minister assured her in December the omission was “an oversight” and would be fixed.
“I want an explanation. The community is entitled to an explanation. This is not OK,” Kennedy said. “This is a significant part of Canadian history, whether they like it or not, it happened. You can’t change history.”
Kenney said he rejected proposals to discuss gay rights and gay marriage because marriage was not discussed in the previous guide.
“Frankly, if we had accepted every suggestion, the document would have been well over a hundred pages. We had to keep the content fairly brief because it is a study guide for newcomers. We did decide to recognize, for instance Mark Tewksbury — he is a great Canadian and a prominent gay rights activist,” Kenney said on CTV’s Power Play Tuesday.
Joe Varnell, who with his partner were the first same-sex Canadians to be wed, said Kenney’s actions were consistent with the Conservatives’ effort “to push their ideological agenda on the public” and “not surprising.”
“It doesn’t take very long to indicate that gays and lesbians and bisexual and transgendered individuals enjoy equal status and equal rights in this country,” Varnell said.
Charles McVety, the president of Canada Christian College and an opponent of same-sex marriage, supports Kenney’s action.
“The gay and lesbian community is trying to force themselves on all new Canadians. I don’t see that as positive, I see that as negative. I don’t see how that is constructive to building a country that respects everyone,” he said.
Kenney’s action came to light after documents were obtained by the Canadian Press through an access-to-information request.