Jason Kenney, the sitting Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada, recently sent out a bizarre spam email to many queer and trans Canadians titled “LGBT Refugees from Iran,” which touted the Conservative Government’s supposedly “…principled foreign policy, including our efforts to promote basic freedoms around the world, and to take a stand against the persecution of gays and lesbians, and against the marginalization of women in many societies.”
This might sound a bit odd to the ears of many in Canada’s queer and trans community, especially given last year’s attempt by the Conservative Government to deport queer artist and advocate Alvaro Orozco to Nicaragua— Alvaro’s home country that he had fled for his safety.
That deportation order was ultimately overturned, following a groundswell of support from queer and trans activists (and not apparently because of any particular change of heart in Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government, who never even bothered to send a response to those who had signed a petition on Alvaro’s behalf).
This of course goes without even mentioning the Conservatives more than questionable commitment to trans rights.
Indeed, it turns out that the email addresses for those who received Kenney’s ridiculous spam mail (including myself) were probably yanked from the Alvaro Orozco petition— which seems pretty disingenuous considering that Kenney never bothered to respond on the subject of the petition itself in the first place.
While I myself have recently departed Canada, I am still going to try to stay on top of queer politics in Canada. Hence, I was glad to see (and sign on to) the following response to Kenney’s concern troll mail, which is in fact a transparent attempt to pinkwash any future military strike on Iran:
Dear Jason Kenney,
We are not your friends, we are your critics.
We are writing to you in response to the mass email we received from your office on September 21st 2012. None of us have ever signed up to receive emails from your office and we wonder how our names ended up on your propaganda spam list. The more important issue, however, is the content of the email.
In this email you congratulated yourself and your government on working to make Canada “a safe haven for Iran’s persecuted gay community.” This is not the first time you have engaged in such blatant self-congratulatory behaviour. We were similarly disturbed earlier this year when your office generated a petition to “Thank” you, Jason Kenney, for cutting off refugee claimants from access to health care.
Your most recent campaign is a poor attempt at “pinkwashing” the Conserative government’s obvious desire to encourage war with Iran (as evidenced by the recent closing of the Canadian embassy in Iran and the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Canada.
By inflating and exaggerating claims about your government’s concern for LGBT rights, it seems that your office 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. This is a crudely transparent move to target mostly radical activists, queer-identified people and people of colour who have opposed your government’s policies in the past. What this campaign signifies is a temporary and instrumental invitation to LGBT people and refugees to join in the nationalist sentiments of a government that is in need of a wide support base for its hawkish foreign policies.
We are not fooled. We oppose your government’s imperialist foreign policy and war-mongering propaganda against Iran. We remain critics of your racist, imperialist, and homophobic immigration policies. We remember the hundreds of asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants who were denied refugee status in Canada based on the homophobic judgements and assumptions of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). These were and are our friends, lovers, family members, and community members. We have in the past and will continue in the future to fight for the rights of LGBT refugees and migrants.
We are especially critical of the recently passed Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, introduced on February 16th of this year. This bill introduces a list of “Designated Countries of Origin,” so called “safe countries,” countries considered “nominally democratic”. As queer people, we know that homophobic violence exists and kills, including in so-called democratic countries like Canada. We also know that the denial of an appeal process for refugee claimants from these countries will have a particularly harmful impact on LGBT refugee claimants who often are dependent on the appeal process for any chance of receiving refugee status, due to the homophobic assumptions and attitudes of many IRB judges. (See here) Indeed, we remember that it was you who appointed openly homophobic Doug Cryer to the IRB.
We will continue to stand in solidarity with LGBT people around the world, including those in Iran and those fleeing persecution from various states, even so-called “safe countries”. We will also continue to stand in solidarity with ALL Iranian people by opposing your government’s rush to invade and declare war on Iran.
Your faithful critics.
Michael Connors Jackman
Tobin LeBlanc Haley