Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Canadian Gov't Funds Study On Effects Of Gay Activism

Count me IN or should I say OUT!!!

by Newscenter Staff

July 4, 2006 - 9:00 pm ET

(Ottawa) A federal government agency is funding a research study into the impact Canada's Constitution has had on the lives of gays and lesbians.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada has awarded Prof. Miriam Smith of Trent University its prestigious Bora Laskin Fellowship.

Laskin was a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and noted constitutional expert.

“No one has gained more legal recognition from section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — the section devoted to equality rights — than lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Canadians,” said Smith, who, in addition to her role at Trent, is a research associate at the University of Toronto’s Sexual Diversity Studies Center.

“I want to find out what difference that has made for political organizing and community development, and whether a new culture of activism has emerged as a result.”

Smith’s previous research found that the fight for legal rights in the last two decades had made lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations less radical.

For one thing, the battle was led by lawyers, traditionally a relatively conservative group. For another, success meant inclusion in the mainstream. “People now feel more accepted,” she says, “so they don’t feel they have to agree on every issue.”

Another factor has been a legal provision under which the federal government is obligated to provide legal funding in constitutional challenges. That has made it economically viable for gays to bring challenges before the Supreme Court.

The question Smith now wants to answer is whether the high-profile struggle for same-sex marriage and similar rights has undermined a thriving grassroots LGBT political culture.

Smith said she will conduct research in Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax and Toronto. In each city, she will interview activists in three kinds of LGBT groups — youth, ethno-cultural and professional — that represent a range of political orientations.

“It’s important to know what’s really going on here in Canada,” she said, adding that her multi-disciplinary approach combines political science with law, sociology and urban geography.

“We tend to assume social patterns here are pretty much the same as in the U.S. and elsewhere—but that’s just not the case.”

Some critics have suggested that the study is in itself radical, but Smith points out that she is, in fact, asking traditional political science questions: what impact does law have on society? What effect do political institutions have on social movements?

© 2006


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