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An open letter to Stephen Harper

November 1, 2002

Stephen Harper, M.P.
Leader of the Opposition
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Harper:

We are writing to express our outrage that the Leader of the Official Opposition would stand in the House of Commons and make a homophobic remark like the one you addressed to MP Svend Robinson on October 23:

“I am sure the picture of the honourable member of the NDP is posted in much more wonderful places than just police stations.”

(Hansard No. 013, October 23, 2002)

The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents almost half a million men and women who work in the public sector across Canada. CUPE members are committed to combating and ending discrimination against lesbians, bisexual people, gay men, transgendered and transsexual people (LBGTT). As equality seekers, we believe in a just society, a society in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

Like many Canadians, we were shocked at your comments. Unfortunately, we were not all that surprised, given positions taken by members of your Party on various occasions. Canadian Alliance MPs and candidates have described homosexuality as an “unhealthy lifestyle”, “destructive to family life”, and “deviant”.

Your Party’s positions, if implemented, would only serve to further exclude and marginalize LBGTT people from the mainstream of Canadian society. For example, under Alliance policy only “individuals related by blood, adoption or marriage” would be considered a family, and marriage is defined as “the union of a man and a woman”.

Your definition of marriage is both exclusionary and discriminatory. It denies LBGTT people access to a legal institution that is extended to the vast majority of Canadians. We believe that your definition violates the equality provisions of the Charter.

We also believe that your Party’s policies are outdated and out of touch with contemporary Canadian society. According to the 2001 Census, the proportion of “traditional” families (made up of a mother, father and children) continues to decline, while the number of common-law couples in Canada is on the rise. The census also counted 34,200 same-sex common-law couples living in Canada, and the true number is likely much higher given the social stigma surrounding homosexuality that still exists in this country.

Mr. Harper, it is exactly this kind of social stigma that many of us are trying to dismantle. Homophobic comments like yours are both dangerous and unproductive for they only serve to perpetuate and sanction discrimination against LBGTT people.

While it’s good that you felt compelled to apologize to Mr. Robinson, we believe you owe an apology to the entire Canadian public. We look forward to your response.


National President

National Secretary-Treasurer

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