QP GETS PECULIAR
Earlier this month, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was forced to defend himself from insinuations of homophobia in his caucus after a series of peculiar exchanges in the Legislature.
On April 11, the Day of Pink, the international day against bullying and discrimination, Cam Broten, the freshly-minted leader of the NDP, asked Premier Wall if his government would support providing information on the province’s website about Gay-Straight Alliances. The groups are student-led organizations at high schools that provide a safe and supportive environment for LGBT youth and their straight friends, and they’re believed to be a useful tool in protecting LGBT kids from bullying and ostracization.
Wall responded first by pointing out that Jennifer Campeau, a Sask. Party MLA from Fairview, is preparing a wide-ranging report on bullying and that any input from the NDP into that report would be welcome. He also noted that GSA’s are already being formed in Saskatchewan schools.
And if things would have ended there, everything would’ve been fine. But Wall continued:
“There are some other issues in provinces that we’ve noted and I think we need to explore those issues with respect to the alliances,” said Wall. “And I think specifically of religious schools that are operating in the province today, not just Christian schools. We have to be concerned, and I hope the member is concerned about the protection of freedom of religion as well.”
This left many wondering why the Premier was raising the spectre of religious freedom being infringed upon when all that was being discussed was passively offering information on their website for the benefit of schools and school boards.
Broten pressed the question on April 12, and Wall responded by pointing to accommodations that have been made for churches that don’t respect the marriage rights of the LGBT community. Religious freedom “ is part of the discussion,” Wall argued.
Weirdly, Wall later answered a reporter’s question about sexual orientation being a choice (which it isn’t) by saying he hasn’t given the topic much thought.
Further making the event eyebrow raise-worthy is the Saskatchewan Party’s less-than stellar history on the LGBT file. In 2000, under the leadership of Elwin Hermanson, the party famously attacked Regina’s Queer City Cinema film festival as “pornographic”.
This time around, during question period on April 11, Sask. Party MLA Don Toth heckled that Broten’s parents would be offended by Broten’s line of questioning. (Toth later apologized).
And some will remember that Wall himself appeared as an extra in the infamous 1991 Tom Lukiwski video where the Conservative MP made several homophobic slurs.
Over the years, Canada’s conservative political parties and many of their strongest supporters have tended to oppose gay rights. And yet, finally abandoning their formal opposition to same-sex marriage — and toning down their rampaging social conservatism in general — it could be seen as one of the factors in the increased palatability of right-ring politics to mainstream Canadians.
This incident suggests that Saskatchewan’s right hasn’t reversed their old ideas, misconceptions and prejudices as fully as many may have thought.
In any case, the premier did end by focusing on the fact that Gay-Straight Alliances are happening in the province.
“We have GSAs being formed or groups that are accomplishing the objectives of GSAs,” said Wall. “They’re happening today. They absolutely can happen in the province of Saskatchewan today. We encourage their creation whenever students want to come together with teachers, with allies to make them happen.” /Paul Dechene and Stephen Whitworth
HOW TO GET THINGS NAMED AFTER YOU
At their April 8 meeting, council approved name changes for two parks in the Fairways West subdivision. The developers of the suburb, Harvard Developments, put forward the names Bundon and Steinson in honour of two people they say have made significant contributions to the community.
Normally, park naming doesn’t raise any red flags but this time one of the names rang a bell. Mo Bundon is Harvard’s senior vice-president and chief operating officer. I interviewed him back when Prairie Dog heard that Harvard hopes to tear down the Gordon Block, the building which once housed Novia Cafe.
To date, an application to demolish the building has yet to go to council. And every time since that first interview that I’ve contacted Bundon’s office to get an update on the Gordon Block’s status, he hasn’t returned my call.
Naturally, I had to find out what he’s done beyond defend sending a historic building to the landfillto warrant a park name.
Well, according to the administration’s report, Bundon has received an Order of Merit from the University of Regina and a President’s Award from the United Way… actually, his list of accolades is quite long. And based on that, he passes muster with the city’s naming guidelines.
And according to city administration, the names for the two parks were brought to the local community association and to the West Zone Board for comment and both organizations approved the choices.
According to Dana Turgeon, chair of the civic naming committee, anyone can put forward the names of people they think are worthy of the honour of having a park or street named after them. Then it’s just a question of if a developer, like Harvard Developments, decides to pull names off the city’s master list or go with someone on their payroll.
But here’s the thing. With greenfield developments, there generally won’t be a community to put forward names for their streets and parks. As a result, developers will generally get first crack at naming our city. And maybe that’s all fair and good. And maybe not. Your call. /Paul Dechene