And now for something that has nothing to do with the Canadian census! I would like to highlight another Globe and Mail article that makes me want to bash my head against things. This time it is the editorial entitled “Refugee Sponsorship: Canada’s Queer Community Needs to Help Persecuted Sexual Minorities”.
Before I say anything, however, I would like to give props to the author’s usage of the word queer. I consider it a far more inclusive term than any of the other acronyms and titles used for all sexual minorities. However, there is still a lot of fear and confusion surrounding the word so I am delighted to see it used in such a mainstream piece.
But now, back to the article. First of all, to address the recent actions of Citizenship and Immigration. Every time someone says that Jason Kenney is doing things again, shivers go down my spine. When he does things, they usually result in a rather large amount of bad for Canada and people with less privilege than the average Conservative Party member. Appointing homophobic people to the tribunals that preside over the refugee claims of people who claim discrimination due to their sexual orientation is not the smartest, nor the most progressive move Kenney has ever made. In fact, it is downright idiotic and an example of his complete and utter disregard for the equality of these refugee claims and for queer people overall. However, this is coming from the man who demanded that queer issues be taken out of the latest Canadian citizenship guide, so I doubt queer issues are really at the top of his list of priorities.
Yet it is not Kenney’s actions which bother me the most. It is actually the thesis of this article which rather perturbed me: the assumption that the queer community is not being helpful and supportive enough to the international queer refugee community. How many Canadians sponsor refugees every year? Just who should be responsible for such a significant commitment? I am an agnostic with social anxiety disorder. Does that mean that I am obligated to sponsor refugees who happen to have the same identities? Am I the only one who could be there for such people? Should white Christians only ever be responsible for white Christians? Or should we all be decent human beings and believe that we are responsible for all people of the world in need? Why is it that the queer community is suddenly held solely responsible for sponsoring queer individuals from around the world? Why is it if they celebrate Pride activities, they can be told that their festivities are inappropriate because they do not care enough for other people and their money would be better spent on other more important things? It can also be easily said that the billions North America spends on Christmas every year could be better used to help solve problems of global poverty. Why are we telling a minority group that is still fighting against discrimination that they are not helping society enough? That “their” people are their own responsibility and theirs alone?
I further question the appropriateness of calling out a minority group on their “failures” in a national forum that is certainly not frequented solely by people of that minority group. Take a few moments to dig through the comments on this article and you will find all sorts of bigotry. Homophobia still exists in Canada aimed at people of the queer community. Publishing an editorial blaming them for not being supportive enough of the international queer community only gives homophobic bigots more ammunition. Perhaps a better forum for such a discussion would have been a queer-centric publication or, at the very least, a left-leaning one. Then, perhaps, the dialogue engaged in could have been more meaningful and effective, instead of being centered on battling off homophobic comments.
Finally, I believe that this article completely misses an important point about the responsibility of sponsorship for refugees overall. While I agree that Canadian queer communities should be more involved in refugee integration, I disagree that this failure to help is necessarily entirely their fault. There is a person who is in charge of all immigration programmes in Canada and whose job it is to encourage, educate and help coordinate sponsorships. That person is good old Jason Kenney. If he is worried about a lack of queer community involvement, should it not be his job to help fix this by reaching out to the community and helping to teach and guide them so that they can be more effective and helpful? This is what he has been doing with many other minority groups, so why are queer groups suddenly at the centre of this so-called failure? Why is Kenney wagging his finger at them when he has an incredible amount of power to do something other than chastise?
The challenges faced by queer peoples around the world are many. They suffer in ways that I as a queer Canadian cannot even begin to comprehend. However, I know that Canadian queers have not forgotten that this global problem exists. People from all over the sphere of progressive politics in Canada have tried to help, have called for change and have fought for the rights of peoples of other nations. We have asked for our borders to be opened and for our arms to be as well. There is much work left to be done, but to claim that Canadian queers are not doing anything is inaccurate and harmful. Instead of a public call of denouncement, let us have a public call to action for all Canadians.