Thursday, October 15, 1998. No. 135

Lawrence Aronovitch

p. 15.

ENFORCED CELIBACY: Justice Minister Anne McLellan has said she's studying upping the age at which you can have sex. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh says it's to protect children.

Dosanjh wants to raise consent age

Attorney-General respects our rights but is uncomfortable with sex issues

British Columbia's attorney-general is lobbying to raise the age of consent. And he gives sexual abuse as a reason.

"The main issue for me is to prevent sexual exploitation of children, whether those children are male or female," says Ujjal Dosanjh.

He also believes he has insight into what the proper age of consent should be.

"To protect our kids, I feel the age of consent should be raised from 14 to 16, regardless of gender. It is really difficult at 14 to make certain decisions. Sixteen would be reasonable."

In the past two years, Dosanjh has successfully introduced legislation that pushes BC to the front of the line in providing gay men and lesbians with the same rights as heterosexuals -- specifically in family and pension law.

But the attorney-general is uncomfortable talking about sex.

Dosanjh is a baby-boomer Indo-Canadian male, married with three kids. "I come from a culture where talking about sex was a taboo, let alone talking about gays and lesbians," he says. "It's been a learning experience for me."

He says he doesn't care whether sexual orientation is inherent or a lifestyle choice." At the end of the day, whether it's something physiological, inherent in you as a person, or something that you've chosen, you don't begin to dislike people or hate people because they've made certain choices that don't impinge on your liberty. I was raised in the Sikh faith. If I convert to some other faith tomorrow, people shouldn't decide to dislike me because I've made that choice."

Pornography is a different matter.

His department's intervention against Little Sister's, in a court case involving Canada Customs seizing materials bound for the Vancouver bookstore, has been misunderstood, he insists.

Dosanjh says his interest in the case has nothing to do with whether the books and magazines involved are harmful -- he's interested in protecting the province's powers with respect to film classification.

As Little Sister's goes to the Supreme Court of Canada, he promises to review the department's position to ensure that arguments are kept to that subject.

Does he feel that it's acceptable that pornography be available in Little Sister's? "Well, that's the crux of the case," Dosanjh says -- and declines to express a view about a case before the courts.

He argues that there is no absolute freedoms. "It is difficult to discuss freedom in a sexual context."

He says he doesn't care whether porn involves gay men, lesbians or heterosexuals. Individuals may have different standards of what's acceptable, he says but from society's point of view, pornography, especially when it involves children, is totally abhorrent and is not acceptable."

He supports the position put forward by some women that even adult pornography involving women is abhorrent.

When it comes to gender identity, Dosanjh continues to waffle. Last year, to the delight of the transgendered community, the BC Human Rights Commission argued for the inclusion of gender identity as a prohibited grounds of discrimination in the provincial human rights code. Dosanjh has not acted on the recommendation. Gay MLA Tim Stevenson has said that the province is awaiting the results of a human rights tribunal on a transgendered case in Victoria, but observers expect no government action any time soon.

Change, Dosanjh explains, is sometimes very slow.

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Created: October 16, 1998
Last modified: August 27, 1999

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