Current Affairs

Quebec gay couple win payout for teen harassment

Tony Grew August 1, 2007
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The first gay couple to get a civil union in Quebec, Canada, have been awarded $10,000 (£4,640) after they were harassed by teenagers in their suburban neighbourhood.

Since publicly denouncing threats and harassment from their neighbours with a 1,500 strong anti-homophobia march through their suburban neighbourhood, Theo Wouters and Rodger Thibault say they have been targeted.

“This is happening because we’re an open gay couple,” said Wouters, speaking to the Canadian Globe and Mail.

“We didn’t accept being harassed in the first place, and it all escalated from there. The last 10 years have been sheer hell for Roger and I.”

Wouters said the ruling was victory for him and his partner, who are determined to live in the neighbourhood despite the harassment.

“We love our place,” Wouters told CBC.

“I don’t think that a bunch of morons can chase us out.”

The retired couple, who have been together for over 30 years, won the victory when the Quebec Human Rights Commission ordered a local teenager and his father to pay the damages for violating their rights.

The teenage boy, who remains unnamed because he was 17 at the time, threw a lit firecracker and toilet paper at their house, and threatened them with violence.

Wouters and Thibault proved their case with video CCTV cameras installed outside their house by Quebec’s victim-compensation agency.

The teenager was candid about his reasons: “I didn’t like their lifestyle, found them arrogant and it bothers me that they make their story so public,” he told the commission.

The Montreal civil rights group who fought the couple’s case says they paid a price for their notoriety and their choice to live in suburbia.

“We tend to see Quebec as a very tolerant society, but in practice it all depends on where you live,” said Fo Niemi of the Centre for Research-Action for Race Relations, according to the Globe and Mail.

“The suburbs are very conservative and family-oriented and heterosexual, so sometimes [gay people] aren’t seen as very positive by the neighbours.”

Earlier this year the leader of the separatist Parti Québécois and the first ever out gay man to lead a political party in North America, resigned after only two years in the job.

Andre Boisclair’s party won just 36 of the province’s 125 seats to finish in third place, one of the worst defeats in history for the party.

This left little chance of a referendum on the sovereignty of Quebec, a key electoral issue for the party.

Boisclair was Parti Québécois’ youngest leader and was elected as a member of the legislature at the age of 23.

Neither coming out in 2000 nor his infamous cocaine habit dented his popularity, but it seems that March’s poor electoral result meant the end of his political career.

During the campaign there was more evidence in rural Quebecers.

A radio host described Parti Quebecois, the main Quebec social democratic and separatist party in Canada, as “a club of fags.”

He went on to suggest that local factory workers would not vote for gay candidates.

Many political observers agreed that 40-year-old Boisclair’s sophistication and pitch for tolerance could be unattractive for voters in more conservative, rural areas.

The Quebec Human Rights Commission does not have the power to force payment in the harassment case. The commission will now take the matter before Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal, which can order payment.

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