25 January 2012

Bully for you, Minister Baird

John Baird has never been one of my favourite politicians. There is too much of the bully about him. Nonetheless, I applaud him for his speech Monday in the UK in which he criticized other Commonwealth nations for denying fundamental freedoms to homosexuals and others. "Dozens of Commonwealth countries currently have regressive and punitive laws on the books that criminalize homosexuality," he said, referring to the unfortunate fact that homosexuality is illegal in 41 of the 54 member states. His position is particularly welcome at a time when gays are increasingly under attack in a number of African countries.

Last November, Baird condemned legislation in Nigeria that toughened anti-gay laws and made same-sex marriage punishable by 14 years in prison. The legislation also targets anyone who supports or even witnesses such unions or those who form gay-rights groups. In the 12 Nigerian states that have adopted Sharia law, same-sex sexual activity is punishable by death by stoning. Baird's view of all this was unequivocal. "The government of Nigeria must protect all Nigerians, regardless of sexual orientation," he said at the time. "Through the Commonwealth and other forums, Canada will continue to make this point in the most forceful of terms."

One suspects that there are more than a few members in the Conservative core that are not impressed by the government's stand on gay rights. That makes Baird's forceful views all the more commendable. In any case, he also criticized discrimination against those practicing their faith, emphasizing attacks on Christians, so the core is by no means overlooked. And then there is the new Office of Religious Freedom which should also ensure the core that Christians are firmly in the government's mind.

"For we cannot be selective in which basic human rights we defend," Mr. Baird said in his speech, "Nor can we be arbitrary in whose rights we protect." We can but agree.

No comments:

Post a Comment