If the Conservative party is serious about supporting LGBTQ youth, they should be passing legislation to protect them instead of making Youtube videos. That's one gay rights group's response to a Conservative anti-homophobia ad, which was posted Thursday as part of the "It Gets Better" campaign and immediately provoked scorn from critics who say the Tories' record on LGBTQ issues is far from stellar.
"I think it's vapid. It's a little late, and a little disingenuous," said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale, a national LGBTQ human rights group. She points out that most Tory MPs in the video voted against legislation this year that would have added transgendered and transsexual people to the list of groups protected under Canada's Human Rights Act.
"(If you're committed to helping LGBTQ youth), show me," Kennedy said. "Stand up in the house and put the legislation on the books. Do something that shows you are actually going to change the lives of some of the most marginalized and vulnerable people in our society."
Bill C-389 would have made it illegal to discriminate against people based on their gender identity or gender expression, and was passed narrowly by the House of Commons in February by a vote of 143-135. Prime Minister Harper, who didn't appear in the video, and most of the Conservative party voted against it. John Baird, who does appear in the Youtube ad, was one of the few party members who did support the bill. Some pundits predicted it would be killed by the Tory-controlled Senate, but the bill died when the spring election dissolved parliament.
Similar legislation has now been introduced by both the NDP and the Liberals, but with the Conservatives controlling a majority government, it's not clear that it will pass. The Tories still control the Senate.
In the past, Harper also campaigned against gay marriage, at one point saying the only definition of marriage that aligned with "Canadian values" is a union between a man and a woman. He lost a vote to open up the issue in 2006, and has since said he considers the matter closed.
The Conservatives' "It Gets Better" video, which featured Tory MPs, senators, and staffers voicing the "It gets better" message, was posted Thursday in honour of Jamie Hubley, the openly gay son of an Ottawa city councillor who took his own life last Saturday. Before he died, Hubley kept a blog that detailed the constant bullying he suffered at school. He was 15-years old.
According to statistics posted on Egale's website, queer youth are up to twice as likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts.
While some observers have taken the video as a sign the Conservatives are coming around on the importance of protecting LGBTQ youth, Kennedy says it's simply not enough.
"In fairness, they did do it, so hats off," she said. "But it's baby steps. That doesn't mean much to some kid who takes his own life, to the family and the carnage that's left behind."