Canada: New Registry To Track Homophobic Incidents In Quebec
The Montreal Gazette reports:
On a frigid night last winter, a gay man and a straight man went into a downtown Montreal bar known for having straight patrons. They chatted a bit, took a few photos of themselves on a camera phone and then ordered some cocktails.
Within 45 minutes the men, who are colleagues, say the drinks they were served lacked alcohol and that after they complained, three doormen threw them down the stairs and onto the street.
“We don’t want you here,” they were told. “F—-ing gays!”
“François,” the gay man who is in his 40s, said he landed hard on his back at the bottom of the stairs. He spoke to The Gazette on condition that his real name not be used.
“I was really humiliated,” he added. “It was the most violent thing in my life.”
The bar owner is scheduled to discuss the case on Tuesday with the two men during a mediation session with the Quebec Human Rights Commission. François asked that details about the incident, such as the name of the bar, not be printed so as not to jeopardize his case.
This is the type of incident that a new registry of homophobic acts, set up Monday by the Montreal gay helpline Gai Écoute, plans to track. The goal is to raise awareness about ongoing homophobia in Quebec – a place better known for its liberal views on homosexuality.
But gay-haters are out there, Gai Écoute president Laurent McCutcheon says. “The more visible (gays) are, the more the anti-gay types come out of the woodwork,” he adds.
In what may be a world-first, Gai Écoute’s anonymous and confidential Registre des actes homophobes will document complaints ranging from name-calling in schools to psychological harassment at work and physical assaults against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
The registry will not be used as a tool for a new homophobia police, McCutcheon said.
“We will refer people (who fill out the registry’s forms) to existing resources, like youth protection officials, the human rights commission and the police,” he said. “We do not plan to intervene directly.”
Based on the number and type of calls Gai Écoute gets, McCutcheon said he expects there might be hundreds of complaint-worthy cases for the registry. “We notice it especially in calls from outside of Montreal, in smaller communities. Sometimes it’s a student who got mocked at school or a teenager with parents threatening to throw the young person out.”
In two years, the group will analyze the registry data and make recommendations to help stem homophobic acts. The registry is being funded with $60,000 from the Quebec Justice Department, which has set aside $7.1 million to battle homophobia over five years.
Montreal police Commander Alain Gagnon of Station 22, which includes the Gay Village, said the registry will be useful for victims or witnesses of homophobia who want to alert someone but want to remain anonymous.
“Not all hurtful things that are said are illegal,” Gagnon said. “Some things may just be part of a person’s freedom of speech. But this registry will help (police) understand what is going on province-wide.”
Suspected crimes will be investigated, he added.
Station 22 has its own tip sheet for homophobia complaints and has investigated 12 reports in the last two years, Gagnon said. “Eight of them were valid. We made one arrest for assault.”
François said he hopes the bar owner will apologize and pay “a symbolic amount” in damages. But he said he doesn’t expect the doorman to change.
“He was too violent. I don’t think he’ll turn gay-friendly.”
People can report homophobic acts to the registry by phone (1-888-505-1010), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), mail (RAH, P.O. Box 1006, station C, Montreal, H2L 4V2, or on Gai Écoute’s website (gaiecoute.org). The registry forms will be available in English this week on homophobiaday.org