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Canada to expunge records of people convicted under ‘unjust’ laws

Government announced new regulations on Wednesday

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(Photo by Mehaniq/Bigstock)

The government of Canada announced on March 7 that new regulations were in place allowing people who had been convicted of historically unjust offenses that targeted queer people and women seeking abortions to have their criminal records expunged.

Under the new regulations, people who have been convicted of the offenses related to being found in a “bawdy house” or putting on an “indecent performance” or exhibition — offenses that had in the past been used to target queer people — as well as various offenses related to seeking or providing an abortion, can now apply to the Parole Board of Canada to have all records of their conviction destroyed. Deceased persons can have their records expunged by a representative. There is no fee to apply for the expungement.

The regulations are an expansion of the 2018 “Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions” law, which originally allowed men who were convicted under laws banning “gross indecency,” “buggery” and “anal sex” to have their records wiped.

“We need to recognize the historic injustices that wrongly targeted vulnerable communities,” said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino of the new regulations in the House of Commons. “This is about recognizing the legacy of discrimination suffered by women and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community while protecting their right to choose and access safe reproductive health care. This is one more step toward building a compassionate, inclusive and diverse country.”

According to the government’s analysis included in the announcement of the new regulations, the RCMP National Repository of Criminal Records identified 18,579 records related to bawdy houses and indecent acts and 67 abortion-related convictions that may be eligible for expungement. The Parole Board is expecting up to 2,500 people to apply for expungements. 

Canada’s “bawdy house” law formerly criminalized anyone who worked in or was found in a place where prostitution or indecency occurred. The intentionally vague law was used regularly as an excuse to raid queer spaces — particularly bath houses. 

Coordinated raids on four bathhouses in Toronto in 1981 led to the arrests of more than 300 men in one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. The event, dubbed “Operation Soap” by Toronto Police, sparked massive protests that are frequently cited as the start of Toronto’s Pride Festival. Bathhouse aids continued to be a semi-regular occurrence in Canada until 2002, when Toronto Police raided a lesbian event called “Pussy Palace.” In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that consensual sex in a bawdy house is not indecent, and therefore not illegal, significantly narrowing the scope of the law. 

Abortion in Canada was generally illegal unless a hospital committee determined that it was necessary to save the life of the mother until 1988. That year, the Supreme Court struck down Canada’s abortion laws as a violation of women’s right to life, liberty and security of the person. 

The bawdy house and abortion laws were finally repealed from the Criminal Code in a general overhaul that had also struck out defunct laws that established a different age of consent for anal sex. The indecency law remains in the Criminal Code, but its use is generally limited. 

Although the entire bawdy house law was repealed, the expungement order explicitly does not apply to anyone whose conviction stems from a bawdy house used for sex work or anyone who engaged in sex work in a bawdy house. The expungement order also does not apply to convictions for indecent acts that occur outside a bawdy house, for example, cruising in a public park. 

“Canadians deserve non-discriminatory policies that put their safety first, which is why the Government of Canada recognizes that past laws and regulations were unjust and compromised the freedoms of 2SLGBTQI+ communities and women,” Women, Gender Equality and Youth Minister Marci Ien said in a press release.

The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken a number of steps to address historic injustices against LGBTQ and intersex Canadians since being elected in 2015. In addition to repealing unjust laws and creating the record expungement program, the government issued an apology for past persecution of queer Canadians in 2017, and reached a settlement with queer government employees who had been purged from the civil service from the 1950s to the 1990s.The government also prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and expression under the Canada Human Rights Act, banned conversion therapy, and recently ended the ban on blood donations from gay men. However, a regulation banning gay men from donating sperm still exists in Canada.

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Rob Salerno is a writer, journalist and actor based in Los Angeles, California, and Toronto, Canada.

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Canada

Montreal Pride organizers cancel parade

A lack of security personnel prompted last-minute decision

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(Courtesy of 𝐅𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐭é 𝐌𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫é𝐚𝐥 𝐏𝐫𝐢𝐝𝐞/Facebook)

Citing a lack of adequate security personnel, the organizers of the Fierté Montréal Pride Parade abruptly cancelled Sunday’s parade. The event organizers told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation the decision was made in collaboration with Montréal police.

CBC reported that other Pride events taking place at the Esplanade du Parc olympique from 2 p.m. local time, including the closing show with Pabllo Vittar, will go on as as planned. Tens of thousands of people were expected to attend the parade.

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Canada

Libs of TikTok extremist group attacks Canadian LGBTQ youth center

OutLoud North Bay Center received death threats

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(Photo courtesy of the OutLoud North Bay Center)

The LGBTQ youth center in North Bay, a quiet city located about three hours north of Toronto, is currently under siege with death threats and extremist anti-LGBTQ bullying. In fact the flow of hate washing over this small center is a virtual tsunami.

The striking aspect to all of this ugly vitriol is that a massive percentage is coming from online, in text, voice mail messages and comments left on the center’s social media accounts from outside of Canada.

CTV Northern Ontario journalist Eric Taschner reported Friday that the catalyst was a post two days earlier by the right-wing anti-LGBTQ Libs of TikTok social media accounts that contained the announcement by OutLoud North Bay Center for its scheduled youth drag show, slated for July 15. 

What happened next was beyond shocking, Taschner told the Washington Blade in a phone call Saturday afternoon. In fact the hateful actions by the outside sources has involved the North Bay Police Service and badly scared the center’s youth as well as overwhelmed its director, Seth Compton.

Speaking to CTV Northern Ontario, Compton said his staff and even youth who attend the space have been targeted.

“I got up at 4 a.m. to thousands of emails, tweets, messages on social media platforms that were so discriminatory and full of hate,” Compton said Friday, fighting back tears. “The average person wouldn’t be able to bear that … never in my 47 years have I ever experienced this.”

The messages and comments include a range of obscene accusations and comments, he said.

“People are sharing my personal photo saying I’m a pedophile and adults here should be tossed into a wood chipper,” Compton said. “Kids have received messages that they’re groomed and parents have received messages that they’re child abusers.”

Compton briefly texted with the Blade Saturday noting: “I can send you our media release. Now that I’ve had a minute. I don’t know if I can add to what took place yesterday. I’m emotionally broken. I am an advocate but I’m human too and need a minute. I’m afraid to draw any more attention, because ‘Libs of TikTok’ have seemed to move on to something new. The hate and harassment hasn’t stopped but I couldn’t handle a second wave of hate to that extent. My focus moving forward is the kids. We need to keep them safe.”

CTV’s Taschner told the Blade that the levels of animosity and the hate expressed were unlike any seen prior and noted that there were hate-filled ugly posts from nations way beyond even the U.S.

Earlier this spring, the Washington Post’s reporter Taylor Lorenz confirmed that Chaya Raichik is behind formerly anonymous ‘Libs of TikTok.’ The influential anti-LGBTQ account has has been trademarked as a “news reporter service” by a Republican operative, although the Post notes that “Raichik has claimed to run the account alone.”

In a profile written by Slate magazine’s Jeremy Stahl, reported that Raichik, a Brooklyn, N.Y., real estate agent, “has become a powerful voice in the culture wars, pushing discourse designed to demonize supporters of LGBTQ rights as sexually predatory ‘groomers’ of children.”

The account has been promoted by podcast host Joe Rogan, it’s been featured in the New York Post, the Federalist, the Post Millennial and a slew of other right-wing news sites. Meghan McCain has retweeted it. The online influencer Glenn Greenwald has amplified it to his 1.8 million Twitter followers while calling himself the account’s “Godfather.”

Last April, Raichik appeared anonymously on Tucker Carlson’s show to complain about being temporarily suspended for violating Twitter’s community guidelines. Fox News often creates news packages around the content that “Libs of TikTok” has surfaced.

Slate also noted in its piece that Raichik has also made a name for herself by helping to blow up fights within school systems and among teachers and students, even getting a number of teachers removed from their jobs.

More problematic however is that Raichik is inspiring a virtual army of anti-LGBTQ adherents including the white supremacist group, the Proud Boys, to take direct action against these events. Over the course of this past Pride Month alone, the Proud Boys have disrupted more than 10 LGBTQ events ranging from drag queen story hours to Pride events.

In a column a week ago, Blade columnist James Finn pointed out that the Proud Boys have particularly targeted family Pride events, succeeding in having several postponed or cancelled through acts of disruption designed to sow fear and even terror.

In one highly publicized incident in the Northern California city of Woodland, the Proud Boys attempted to enter a bar and restaurant hosting an all-ages drag show. However, their efforts were stymied by bar patrons who defended the entrance and pepper-sprayed the white supremacists.

“Fuck you, pedophile motherfuckers!” shouted the masked man as patrons of the Mojo Lounge pepper sprayed him to stop him and other members of the Proud Boys from forcing their way inside.

Canada’s public safety minister, Bill Blair, in February 2021 announced the addition of the Proud Boys, an organization founded in 2016 by a Canadian living in the U.S and two neo-Nazi networks, Atomwaffen and The Base, to Canada’s terror entity list.

While the Proud Boys has not been identified as a component entity of the attack on the North Bay OutLoud youth center, a senior FBI source told the Blade Saturday evening that “it was highly likely-in fact probable, that individuals who are either members of the the Proud Boys or affiliated in some way are involved.”

Back in Northern Ontario, OutLoud staff and the community continue to scramble to create a buffer and a safety zone for their kids CTV reported.

Photo Credit: OutLoud North Bay

North Bay Pride CEO Jocelyn Green said the organization is working with OutLoud to support the staff and youth in the city.

“I’m absolutely abhorred and disgusted,” Green said. “I can’t believe this kind of hate still exists. It’s like we’ve gone backwards in time.”

Compton is calling on the community for its support during this troubling time.

“We need to come together as a community because this is something that not only happens worldwide,” he said. “It’s happening right here in our community.”

The local police service is actively investigating the tsunami of hate speech and ugly homophobic diatribes CTV’s Taschner told the Blade.

North Bay Police Service Inspector Jeff Warner told reporters in a briefing that police officials are “aware of the offensive and hateful comments OutLoud has received via social media” and that his department is “deploying resources.”

“We are going to watch the comments and if any of them cross the line into criminal activity we will act for sure.”

Warner was asked what that line would be.

“If comments or actions turn into what is chosen a hate crime for a designated group in the community, we take those investigations very seriously. We will investigate those thoroughly,” he said.

The most prominent slurs center on accusations that LGBTQ people and their allies are pedophiles, using the word “grooming,” which the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children defines as when “someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.”

The term has been weaponized online, and it now appears almost constantly on many social media platforms. Data from the social media platform Reddit analyzed by Jeremy Blackburn, an assistant professor of computer science at Binghamton University in New York who studies online extremism, found about a 100 percent increase since the beginning of the year in discussion of “grooming” in conjunction with various LGBTQ slurs starting in early March and accelerating in mid-to-late March.

Inspector Warner was also asked by reporters how hard it would be to find the sender of these messages.

“When it is online activity, they are difficult to investigate. They are not impossible — we do have resources and we can liaison with other policing agencies that have the expertise in tracking down where some of these comments originate.”

Warner then voiced his displeasure over the youth center being a target of hate.

“It is disappointing. OutLoud has been supporting the youth in the community since 2019. It is a safe place for the youth to go. OutLoud is committed to the mental health and well-being of the youth in the community. It is just disappointing to see the hateful, hurtful comments directed towards the youth.”

Watch CTV Northern Ontario’s story here.

 

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Canada

Canada lifts gay blood donor ban

It’s 1st time Statistics Canada differentiated between “sex at birth” & “gender” in census- 3 mo. donor deferral period for gay/bi men ends

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Health Canada approved Canadian Blood Services’ submission to eliminate the three-month donor deferral period for gay and bisexual men as well as some other folks in the LGBTQ+ community CTV News reported Thursday.

The policy change, which was years in the making, will allow Canadian Blood Services (CBS) to introduce the new behavior-based questionnaire by Sept. 30. It will apply to both blood and plasma donations. CBS will be able to screen all donors regardless of gender or sexuality. Instead, donors will be screened based on their sexual behaviors.

Census data released Wednesday offers an unprecedented snapshot of Canada’s transgender population, showing 0.33 per cent of residents identify as a gender that differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

The data collected during last year’s national household survey shows about 100,815 people are transgender or non-binary, including 31,555 who are transgender women, 27,905 who are transgender men and 41,355 who are non-binary, CTV News reported.

It’s the first time Statistics Canada has differentiated between “sex at birth” and “gender” in the census. While the agency and advocates agree the new numbers likely underestimate the true size of the population, they say the data will offer crucial insight into a marginalized community.

Fae Johnstone, a transgender advocate, told CTV that population-level data backing up trans people’s lived experience has thus far been slim, so this new information is important both symbolically and practically.

“It says something when our government is recognizing the existence of trans folks who have historically been kept out of these conversations and uncounted,” Johnstone said. “But it also is useful to us to better understand how we can focus interventions and address health inequities experienced by trans folks across this country.”

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