Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is helping Harper’s war drive, and distracting from his own policies, by suddenly claiming the Tories are friends of queers and refugees.
A week after ending diplomatic relations with Iran, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made a speech congratulating Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for “working to make Canada a safe haven for Iran’s persecuted gay community.” Kenney followed this with an email to thousands of Canadians stating “We are proud of the emphasis our Conservative Government has placed on gay and lesbian refugee protection, which is without precedent in Canada’s immigration history…In particular, we have taken the lead in helping gay refugees who have fled often violent persecution in Iran.”
This is not the first time Kenney used Islamophobia to distract from Tory bigotry and other policies. On December 12, the day the Tories officially withdrew from the Kyoto protocol on climate change, Kenney created a distraction by banning women wearing the niqab from citizenship ceremonies, claiming that his government “want women to be full and equal members of Canadian society.” This as the Tories were putting forward anti-choice Motion 312, which Kenney (a long-time anti-choice activist) will be supporting this week.
Now Kenney is using hostility to Iran as a cover for Tory policies against queers and refugees, and using support for queer refugees to bolster Harper’s drive to war—a war that would kill many queer Iranians and many others.
The Tories have a long history of homophobia—including cutting funding to Pride Toronto, removing references to gay rights and same-sex marriage from the Citizenship manual for newcomers (public outrage forced Kenney to restore the information), and opposing Bill C-279 that would put gender identify and expression into the human rights code (Kenney voted against the bill).
The Tories also have a long history of attacking refugees—from demonizing tamils during the last election campaign, imposing Bill C-31 that attacks refugees, cutting refugee health and deporting war resisters. Bill C-31’s list of supposedly “safe” countries has been specifically criticized for ignoring homophobia and transphobia, as Sharalyn Jordan of the Rainbow Refugee Committee explained: “Ukraine has an elected parliament, an independent judiciary, and civil society organizations. Based on Bill C-31, it could be designated, and yet its parliament is considering a law banning speech or writing that promotes homosexuality, and neo-Nazis are attacking LGBTQ people in the streets of Kiev.” All these anti-refugee policies provoked widespread opposition, so the Tories are looking for a distraction by whipping up war on Iran.
But Kenney’s hypocrisy is not going unchallenged. An open letter in response to his email explains that “Your most recent campaign is a poor attempt at “pinkwashing” the Conserative government’s obvious desire to encourage war with Iran…We will also continue to stand in solidarity with ALL Iranian people by opposing your government’s rush to invade and declare war on Iran.”
Queers for Social Justice will join the October 6 day of action against war on Iran, showing that the best way to support queer refugees is by stopping Harper and Kenney’s war abroad and at home.