Bill C-33 -- My observations and thoughts

by Kenneth Melanson
September 1996

As a gay male, when I heard that the Canadian Government was going ahead with its promise of gay rights legislation, I was overjoyed. I couldn't think of a better way to kick of the start of Pride Day planing than to hear that this legislation was going to be brought up in Parliament, instead of delayed like it was with previous governments.

Before I continue, for those of you who do NOT live in Canada, let me give a brief explanation of what bill C-33 is. It's an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act that discrimination against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation is defined as being illegal.

Now, I didn't know very much about gay legislation a long time ago, when I was in the closet, and at the time I began coming out of the closet, which was July of 1995, I still didn't know that much. However, when I finally heard about the legislation (it was mentioned at the youth group I attend), I remember thinking, "Wow!? They are actually going to include being gay as something that can't be discriminated against??!!" I remember that day as being a very special one, at least to me, because I felt that, when I was fully out, no one could stop me from being who I am.

After finding out what this bill was from one of our facilitators at the meeting, I began watching the news and reading the paper more often. Mom asked me constantly why I was watching the news. Since she didn't accept my sexuality, I explained I had to do it as a project for history, and she left the issue alone. What little she knew...

I remembering reading all the debates about the bill, and reading people's reaction to the proposed legislation. My initial reaction was that this was an issue that was going to tear the country apart, much like the Quebec Referendum (now, lets not go there!). But to my surprise, a lot of people were supporting the idea, and there were very few people opposing the bill. Some people who were opposing the bill were very loud in voicing their opinions, but, mostly, the country was supportive of it.

Then came the day I couldn't believe. Two members of the Reform Party, in the press gallery of the House of Commons, stated that homosexuality was wrong and began the standard "homophobic" speeches most gay men have heard. They said it was wrong, and tried to prove it using the Bible and medical texts. The next day, the Reform Party was quick to chastise them, and kicked those members out. Reform stated that they could not support the bill, because their constituents felt it was wrong, but did not support or condone the actions of these two party members. I felt so enraged at the Party, and its members, for being so homophobic. Gay rights groups from Canada, and around the world were quick to pounce on Preston Manning (the leader of the Reform Party) for not stopping these actions sooner, and for not at least trying to see that this bill was good for the gay community as a whole, as well as the rest of Canada.

Finally after many squabbles, and public outrage over some of the things pro-legislation and anti-legislation people pulled, the day came for the vote. After the vote, the official vote count came in: 153 for, 76 against. Two Reform MP's, Bob Ringma and David Chatters were both thrown out of caucus for their comments about gay people.

Not to my surprise, a Liberal representative from MY OWN PROVINCE, Rossanne Skoke, went against the general consensus of her party and voted against the bill. What surprised me most about the vote, was that Prime Minister Jean Chretien did not make his party vote for the bill; he made it a free vote, meaning that if members of his party (the Liberals) wanted to vote against their own party's new legislation, they could. And some did, with Ms. Skokes as a prime example. However, despite these people, and Reform's overwhelming non-support of this bill, it was passed and came into law.

Nothing much really changed that day, so far as day-to-day things were concerned. However, with regards to life in general, it made being gay a whole lot easier! The Human Rights Act now included gay people; unfortunately, our great enemy homophobia remained. I remember, though, the great celebrations of this bill at Pride Day. It was my first Pride Day too! Every speech rang out with cheers of the new bill. I remember thinking, "Now I can truly be myself anywhere, at work, at school, at home, and no one can stop me!" Mind you, my own fear is too large to be out at home, because of my mom; however, I am taking the leap at being out at school, which will involve coming out to my uncle, since he will be taking classes at my university while I am there. Oh well, it had to happen sooner or later.

World reaction to the bill was mixed, but overall it was taken very well by the public, especially fellow Canadians. Many of my gay friends and pen pals from all over the world have expressed interest in coming to Canada, to live here once they finish school, not only because of the legislation, but because it is a great country to live in, too. To all of you who want to move here, all I have to say is: "COME ON IN! Were under-populated as it is! WE NEED YOUR TAX DOLLARS!!"

Well since I am probably the newest writer on the block (I think?) here at Oasis, I guess I should say a little something about me. I am an 18 year-old, semi-out gay male, and I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I've lived here most of my life and love it here. I attend St. Mary's University, where I will be starting my second year of my three year Arts program (hopefully it will be three years), majoring in Geography and minoring in Geology. I turn 19 in September, so for all of you out there, send me presents! :) The 27th is my birthday, wahoo! The big 19, I feel so old! At the time this was written, I am working for the Government of Canada, in the department of Public Works and Government Services Canada, in the GTIS branch. Its a really cool summer job, and I get to see bill C-33 in action with how my co-workers treat me, since they all know I am gay.

In my articles, I hope to cover issues that seem relevant not only to gay Canadians, but to gay people around the world. I also hope to cover issues that we deal with at the youth group I attend here in Halifax, which is run by Planned Parenthood Nova Scotia. I haven't really got a topic for next month's article right now, but I would love to hear suggestions! So if you have any suggestions for topics, or just comments, why don't you e-mail me?? I can be reached at : ai506@ccn.cs.dal.ca And since your e-mailing me, why don't you stop by my homepage!

Peace and love to you all! Remember, sex is great, but safer sex is even better!

Ken Melanson, 18, is working toward an arts degree from St. Mary's University. He is semi-out, and says he's "very proud to be gay!"
©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.