Alberta is the only province in Canada that does not explicitly include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in its human rights code. This, despite a ten-year-old Supreme Court ruling stating that provinces must not exclude gays and lesbians from their human rights legislations.
Rachel Notley, an Alberta MLA, has now brought the matter up in the legislature, calling out the government for its embarrassingly slow response to the court ruling. “Why,” she asked, “does the government continue to give a wink-wink, nudge-nudge to homophobes and gay-bashers by refusing to include sexual orientation in our human rights code?”
Great question, Rachel.
Just last year, Premier Ed Stelmach said that the human rights code would not be updated to include sexual orientation in that legislative session, calling the process “complicated.” Now, Lindsay Blackett, the Minister responsible for the human rights code and the first black cabinet minister in Alberta, has said the same thing for this legislative session, announcing that updating the human rights code would be a “knee-jerk response:”
We do not make changes to legislation… or make amendments to any particular body just because of the whim of one particular individual in this House.
I guess avoiding a knee-jerk response justifies a plain ol’ jerk response. Isn’t politics just the classiest?
Here’s the thing: this issue is not just the wishes of one lone MLA—it’s the wishes of the Supreme Court of Canada, and Alberta has no excuse for letting this go unattended since 1999, when Rosie O’Donnell hosted the Grammys that debuted Ricky Martin—and only one of them was suspected of being gay.
So, yeah, if updating the human rights code is truly complicated and requires cascading updates, then say so—say unabashedly that it was a mistake to ignore it, that you’re on the case now, and that it will be in place soon. But, frankly, I don’t think it’s complicated, especially since the courts must already interpret the human rights code as if sexual orientation were present. Alberta has a long history of institutionalized homophobia by the government, and dragging their feet on updating the human rights code—while continuing to introduce homophobic legislation—gives me reason to suspect that they’re just being… What’s the most recognizable word for it?
Let’s say: “Alberta-governmenty.”