Jason Kenney spams LGBT refugee supporters
Canada’s Foreign Affairs and Citizenship Ministers are doing a lot of pro-gay PR these days. While John Baird vaunts his efforts on same-sex decriminalization on the global stage, Jason Kenney touts himself as pro-gay for Iranian refugees to over 10,000 people in an unsolicited e-mail. Queer activists suspect pinkwashing.
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Jason Kenney issued a mass e-mail last Friday, September 21, to over 10,0000 people who had petitioned his office over the deportation of Nicaraguan gay refugee Alvara Orozco. Entitled “LGBT Refugees from Iran,” the letter was greeted with shock and suspicion by many LGBT refugee advocates. “Canada should always be a place of refuge for those who truly need our protection. That is why we continue to welcome those fleeing persecution, which oftentimes includes certain death, including on the basis of sexual orientation,” Kenney’s e-mail reads. Today, the National Post confirmed that Kenney’s office obtained recipients’ personal e-mails via petition site change.org, which supported a campaign to halt Orozco’s deportation. It would appear that the Minister’s office retained the Orozco campaign e-mails for over a year, and used them to send an e-mail about successful applicants from Iran, even though Kenney’s office never officially replied to petition coordinator Michael Erickson about his May, 2011 campaign.
“How did Jason Kenney get my e-mail?”
An open letter by York University grad student Johanna May Black calls Kenney’s reaching out to LGBT refugee sympathizers “a poor attempt at ‘pinkwashing’ the Conservative government’s obvious desire to encourage war with Iran.” Citing the recent closure of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, Black points to the letter as an indication that the Harper government is “attempting to instrumentally highlight the homophobia faced by LGBT people in Iran in order to generate, ahead of any declaration of war, a negative shift in public opinion surrounding Iran.”
The “LGBT refugees from Iran” e-mail was particularly perplexing to many in the context of the Harper government’s anti-immigration policies. Minister Kenney is leading a campaign against “immigration fraud” and making it more difficult for Mexicans and Rom to obtain residency or citizenship by passing Bill C-31, aka the “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System” Act.
Activists and bloggers are further perplexed by how Kenney, Baird, and the Conservatives are engaging the public and the international community in their pro-gay project, while simultaneously clamping down on immigration claims, increasing deportations, and demonizing claimants as fraudsters and opportunists, as they did when Kenney’s office announced on September 9 that 3,100 successful immigrants would have their citizenship revoked.
Kenney and Baird up a Tree?
During a lunchtime speech with the Montréal Council on Foreign Relations on September 14, the very gay/friendly John Baird confirmed that the Conservatives are “working with allies like the EU and the United States on encouraging the decriminalization of homosexuality.” While most of the LGBT community tends to associate all of the Conservative Party with its right-wing Christian voter-base, Baird has sought to be seen as a champion for LGBT rights on the international scene as Canada’s Foreign Minister. Whether criticizing African and Caribbean Commonwealth nations for their continued criminalization of homosexuality, or slagging Russian politicians for the municipal “don’t say gay” laws which have come into effect in that benighted country, Baird has kept the gay parts of his agenda out in the open.
Banner photo of Jason Kenney via Flickr “Mostly Conservative”