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Tories to press gay rights at Commonwealth - but won't commit to funding Pride

Revellers dance on a float during Vancouver's annual Pride parade on July 31, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak/rafal gerszak The Globe and Mail

The Conservative government has vowed to raise the issue of gay rights at a meeting of Commonwealth leaders that takes place next week in Australia.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told the House of Commons Friday that Canada will make it clear it disapproves of the rampant criminalization of homosexuality that has occurred in countries around the world.

Randall Garrison, the New Democrat who represents Esquimalt–Juan de Fuca, opened the discussion by asking Mr. Baird during the daily Question Period if he would commit to ensuring human rights are a priority at the Commonwealth meeting in Perth.

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"Remember, in 41 of 54 member states, being gay is still illegal," Mr. Garrison said. "The Prime Minister of Britain and the Australian Foreign Minister have now spoken out strongly, saying this issue must be on the agenda for the Commonwealth heads of government meeting."

Mr. Baird responded by saying the Canadian government would join Britain and Australia in the effort.

"The rights of gays and lesbians are tremendously important. It is completely unacceptable that homosexuality continues to be criminalized in a majority of Commonwealth countries, and we will certainly take that issue to the summit," the Foreign Affairs Minister said.

Mr. Baird is one of a group of Conservative MPs, staffers and cabinet ministers who took part in a campaign called " It gets better" this week, which urges gay teenagers to seek outside help if they are being bullied.

Scott Brison, the openly gay Liberal MP who represents the Nova Scotia riding of Kings–Hants, complained to the Commons that the Conservatives have fought and voted against every advancement of gay rights in Canada, from pension benefits to marriage to transgender rights.

"If the Conservatives are now serious about helping gay youth, will they recognize the support that Pride festivals provide to struggling young gays?" Mr. Brison asked. "Will the Conservatives restore the funding that they themselves cut for these important Pride festivals across Canada?"

Paul Calandra, the parliamentary secretary to Heritage Minister James Moore, said the government receives many applications funding for different types of events.

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"We support a lot of different cultural festivals in communities across Canada," Mr. Calandra said. "We look at all of those applications on their merit and we support the ones that Canadians ask us to support and the ones that meet the criteria of the programs that we establish."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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