Today is the first day of summer and we have finally begun to get some warm weather.
The onset of warm weather heralds Gay Pride season in this province and the number of municipalities celebrating Pride or showing their support for the LGBTQ2 community is growing. Many places have painted rainbow crosswalks to show their support, and in Springdale — a community that was embroiled in controversy over its refusal to grant a student request for such a crosswalk — a compromise reached between council and the student group saw the recent raising of a rainbow flag and the town celebrating its own Gay Pride week.
Here in St. John’s, Gay Pride week activities have been announced for next month following some disharmony over past actions of police, which led to the resignation of the old board of directors and the formation of a new board. Thankfully, the new board has welcomed all police officers to march in the parade, wearing their uniforms if they wish, thus reaffirming the spirit of inclusion upon which Pride has become based.
There is much to celebrate here, and while it’s far from perfect, we should be thankful we live in such a safe and welcoming society. Such is not the case for many in this world who may want to move here to share in the freedom we have built. While it is important that we attempt to be welcoming and be aware of the dangers they may face in their own countries, we need to be vigilant of the pre-existing biases they may bring with them and ensure that the movement towards equality for the LGBTQ2 community does not get co-opted by something that has nothing to do with it. A case that concluded in court last week provides a relevant example of how this can happen.
Such criminal activity has nothing to do with sexual orientation and, in committing this exploitative crime, he has abrogated any asylum claim his purported sexual orientation may have allowed him.
Sadab Mosaddek, recent MUN graduate and native of Bangladesh, was sentenced by provincial court Judge Mike Madden to 14 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of possessing and distributing child pornography; he has been placed on the national sex offender database for life. Mosaddek had told the court his homosexuality played a role in his crime, and that he had come across the child pornography while looking for support and people to chat with about his sexuality because it was unsafe for him to do so in his native Bandgladesh. Sensibly, Madden rejected his explanation that his sexual orientation had anything to do with his offences and lectured him on the devastating impact and damage of child exploitation, which is maintained by the actions in which Mosaddek engaged.
Mosaddek says he plans to apply for asylum here when he is released because he is afraid for his life if he is forced to return to Bangladesh. If he was just a gay man who was at risk based on his sexual orientation, I would have some sympathy. However, he is a convicted child sex offender who tried to make excuses for his behaviour by claiming he was seeking support for his homosexuality. By making this outrageous claim, he feeds into the very prejudices we have been working so hard to overcome in Canada and there are still isolated pockets in our society that equate homosexuality with child sexual abuse.
Even if we were to give Mosaddek the benefit of the doubt, that he had somehow accidentally found child pornography while researching something gay, he not only accessed that material but shared it on Skype and social media. Such criminal activity has nothing to do with sexual orientation and, in committing this exploitative crime, he has abrogated any asylum claim his purported sexual orientation may have allowed him.
As we celebrate our freedoms this year, we are more than willing to share our good fortune with others. However, we can’t and won’t allow these freedoms to be misused and abused to support any criminal activity, especially the exploitation of children. Regardless of sexual orientation, we are all stewards in the protection of our children, and we are all proud of this.
Brian Hodder is an LGBTQ2 activist and works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at email@example.com.