Saturday, January 16, 2010



I am very proud of the fact that Canada has moved about as far a country can go in the matter of genuinely equal rights.

We have had gay marriage - not gay unions or some other unequal substitute, but marriage - for a few years now, and all forecasts of doom by the Religious Right have proved utter nonsense.

It took little time for this change to settle into the accepted social norm. Today in Toronto - a city that maybe four decades ago was so repressive in tone that it was known by some as the Belfast of the North – the Gay Pride parade is a major event, as big as the Santa Claus parade, with families and public officials attending, a turnout of a million, a big, happy party.

That’s a good measure of how human rights matters can change if some leadership is shown, as it was by our Supreme Court and Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

The horrible case in Uganda is interesting for two reasons.

First, the proposed laws were so extreme, involving the death penalty, that a world-wide protest was started. The proposal now at least has had the death penalty withdrawn.

The second reason the Uganda case is interesting is the influence of some of the most extreme Religious Right people from the United States.

A certain American fundamentalist has been very active there in promoting opposition to homosexuality with lectures and meetings.

America itself has a profound problem on this issue, as it does with so many genuine issues of human rights. A large and noisy portion of the population confuses human rights with religious standards, a go-nowhere situation.

But the Religious Right is fighting a rearguard action, just as it does on evolution or abortion rights. It is caught, like a deer in the headlights, by centuries-old notions in a constantly changing world. The direction of human rights in advanced societies has only one path to follow, and sooner or later, all must accept the fact.