Friends, the next four years are going to be a difficult time for progressives in Canada. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives — in winning a majority May 2 — no longer need to be responsive to centrists and lefties and can pursue their projects unfettered. Expect swift, sweeping changes in the first 12 months of his time in office.
Harper’s majority is doubly dispiriting to my friends here in Toronto, friends who are already fighting privatization, service reductions and ideological cuts at the municipal level. The spectre of a Tory sweep in this fall’s Ontario election only adds to their worries.
But resistance, contrary to what they say, is not futile.
Some battles will be winnable, by the sheer force of our shaming the Conservatives, of making our case loudly and publicly. On crime, on human rights, on sexual freedom, we have the better arguments. It’s important we not stop making them. Let us not give up before we’ve begun.
Some battles we will lose. But even losses aren’t in vain. Even if we don’t change the minds of those in power, we can change the hearts of our neighbours. We can create room for future decision-makers to undo what’s being done.
We can and must create a climate where there is a political cost for bad decisions. I believe that to be important.
In the coming weeks, I suspect we’ll see artists, pro-choice activists, harm-reduction advocates and gays and lesbians reaching out to each other. If we’re willing to put in the work, together we can build a strong, non-partisan movement that cannot be ignored.
At the same time, please consider doubling your contribution to charities and causes to which you give. If you haven’t considered donating before, please do. Any group that deals frankly with sex and sexuality is likely in trouble. If you haven’t given already, Planned Parenthood is a good place to start.
As you’re probably aware, the omnibus crime bill is now virtually certain to pass. It includes provisions that would severely limit the right to privacy on the internet and make it easier for police organizations to watch what you do, keystroke by keystroke. Gays have always suffered disproportionately under the weight of government surveillance. If we can’t get Conservative backbenchers to break rank, it’s a fight that’s destined for the courts. The BC Civil Liberties Association is a good bet, no matter what part of the country you live in. Its national counterpart, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, has recently been reinvigorated; it’s looking more solid by the day. Your money won’t be wasted if it goes to either organization.
Arts groups will need your money, if cuts come to any of the federal granting agencies. Policy changes could also hinder cultural production, such as the changes the Conservatives introduced for Canadian magazines, which take effect this year, and ones that were proposed but withdrawn that would manipulate movie production in favour of family-friendly films. If you’re in the position to subscribe to a magazine or buy season’s tickets to the theatre, now’s a good time to do so.
Planned Parenthood, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association or a local theatre troupe — any way you slice it, organizations that help sexual minorities and push boundaries are going to need your help. And, for better or worse, they may prove better situated to fight the immediate battles than either Egale Canada or the fledgling Queer Ontario.
If I were made of money, of course, I’d donate to each of them.
For many, making substantial donations is simply out of reach, and that’s okay. All of these fights are going to need volunteers, organizers, planners, letter writers, poster designers, proofreaders, cooks, bike couriers and party planners. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any organization. Your unique skills are needed.
If I had the time, my first offer would certainly go to Queer Ontario, which has the potential to become the most important development in gay activism in a decade. I admire the work they do, and if I weren’t here at Xtra, I’d be with them.
Keep calm. But let’s carry on fighting.
Marcus McCann is the managing editor of Xtra.