Reasonable people dislike discrimination, and want to eliminate it. In doing so, however, it is prudent to examine the history of the issue in order to reach conclusions that are based on facts, rather than hype. The situation may not be as clear cut as presented.
A rational approach to discrimination should be applied to all issues, no matter how contentious the subject matter.
Currently LGBT activists are requesting an apology for alleged past discrimination in their dismissal from the public service and the military. They are also seeking financial compensation and the lowering of the age of consent for anal intercourse.
It is true that previous governments have apologized for historical acts of discrimination. To cite some examples: the Chinese Head Tax in 1885; the 1914 refusal to allow landing of the Kamagata Maru with Sikhs and Hindus on board, the turning away of the St. Louis with 900 German Jews escaping the Nazi regime, the evacuation of persons of Japanese origin to internment camps during World War II.
Are these discriminatory acts similar to past acts taken by the government against homosexuals? It seems that the treatment of homosexuals by the government may not be similar to those other acts by the government.
Homosexuality was prohibited under the Criminal Code until Trudeau Sr. decriminalized it in 1969 for consenting adults over 21 years of age, (later reduced to 18 years). The practice of homosexuality was a crime, formerly referred to in the Code as buggery or sodomy and later as anal intercourse. This prohibition was in accordance with the social and cultural values of the time.
The Criminal Code prohibition against homosexuality was based on the moral law as expressed in Judeo-Christian faiths and principles. Society in general believed religion provided good guidance which protected people from harm. For example, bacterial infections and death by venereal disease were the consequences of promiscuity before antibiotics. Thus the laws served to protect vulnerable people from these and other negative consequences.
The reason for the dismissal of homosexuals in the military and public service was that they were subject to blackmail if their sexual orientation, then a criminal offence, was publicly disclosed. This blackmail could result in not only forcing homosexuals to pay money in return for silence, but also requiring them to divulge national security secrets to which they were privy because of their employment. Homosexuals in the military had led to problems in operational effectiveness because of the impact on the cohesion and morale of the unit.
The law that prohibited homosexuality in the Criminal Code may not be acceptable to everyone, but it was not unjust discrimination. Such action by the government was distinguishable from the outright discrimination that occurred when groups were refused entry into Canada and denied full citizenship rights. By contrast, this was not the situation with homosexuals who were, in fact, accepted as citizens.
The Trudeau government has also introduced legislation to lower the age of consent for homosexuals from 18 years of age to 16 years of age. This amendment is to “ensure respect for equality rights” since the age of consent for heterosexuals is set at 16 years of age.
Rather than focus on “equality”, the government should be concerned that the proposed amendment may be harmful to adolescents. This is because anal intercourse carries higher risks than vaginal sex and can leave adolescent males unprotected from exploitation and medical risks.
This is not a new issue. It has been argued before the courts by lawyers defending older males charged with having sex with under-age boys. In a number of cases some judges have enthusiastically jumped on the equality bandwagon stating that the discrepancy in the age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual acts infringes on the guarantee of equality among adolescents. However, the intent of the law has always been to protect children from exploitation with a law enabling the prosecution of the adults involved.
Anal intercourse is one of the riskiest behaviours, associated with the transmission of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Given the interest some adults have in engaging sexually with youngsters, which is well documented, why then are those who should be protecting them, compromising their physical and emotional health?
In 1986-87 NDP MP Svend Robinson proposed that the age of consent for anal intercourse be reduced for reasons of equality. The then Attorney General, Raymon Hnatyshyn, stated that there were other factors that should be taken into account which mitigated against lowering the age of consent. He stated that these included the fact that medical experts were not certain at what age sexual preference is established, and may be fixed only in later teen years. Another factor was the heightened danger of contracting Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or other sexually transmitted disease from homosexual intercourse since the tissues are more susceptible to physical damage from penetration than heterosexual.
It is significant, despite court rulings, that no government, either Liberal or Conservative, has amended the Criminal Code to lower the age of consent because of the risks to adolescents.
The Trudeau government must look beyond perceived “inequalities” before issuing an apology for alleged discrimination, and lowering the age of consent in our Criminal Code, and instead, consider the well-being of Canada’s adolescents.
November 22, 2016