Activists at the recent gala for Equality For Gays And Lesbians Everywhere tried hard to rally the troops.

“We have come a long way,” said EGALE president Kim Vance at the May 11 fundraiser and MP schmooze on Parliament Hill. “But the battle is far from over.”

That sentiment was echoed by EGALE executive director John Fisher, who lauded efforts over the years both in the courts and through public education.

“Today we have seen many changes, there is legislation in the making that would see 68 federal laws recognize same sex relationships, there have been changes to Immigration laws, and in the 2001 census, same-sex relationships will be listed,” said Fisher. “This is only the beginning, however. More needs to be done.”

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgendered Equality Rights In The 21st Century was the theme for this year’s annual gala.

Vance told the crowd of 300 that the year 2000 will be a busy one for the organization in its continuing fight for gay and lesbian rights.

The event raised approximately $7,000 for EGALE’s coffers.

Each of the five federal parties was represented. Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett (who represents the Toronto riding of St Paul’s), Canadian Alliance MP Rahim Jaffer (of Edmonton), Maurice Dumas of the Bloc Quebecois, out British Columbia New Democrat Svend Robinson and Tory Scott Brison (a Nova Scotia MP) took part in a panel discussion on gay and lesbian rights.

Despite a faulty sound system, which made the discussion hard to hear, let alone understand, the Alliance’s Jaffer came under fire.

Jaffer was criticized for his party’s failure to support Bill C-23 (the same-sex spousal rights omnibus legislation) and his party’s continuing effort to thwart any advancement of gay rights.

Jaffer said his party is not opposed to equal rights for gay men and lesbians – but on how to achieve those rights.

“We all believe there should be equality for all Canadians, regardless of their situation,” he said, “but our answer isn’t to put specific groups in the Charter, but to have equality for all individuals.”

Robinson didn’t buy that.

“Just look at their record,” said Robinson. “They voted against amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act. They voted against hate crime laws to protect gays and lesbians. They voted against Bill C-23 – every single piece of legislation. Regardless if it’s the old Reform Party or the new Alliance – it’s the same old homophobic agenda.”

As for the new millennium, Robinson says there are many challenges still left.

“By far the biggest is reaching out and supporting gay and lesbian youth,” said Robinson. “Suicide and attempted suicide is still devastatingly high – [we need to be] challenging schools and politicians to show some leadership on this issue.”

EGALE can be reached at (613) 230-1043 or write 306-177 Nepean St, Ottawa K2P 0B4.

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