After two gay bashings over the past two weeks in Edmonton, some people are pointing fingers at the anti-gay Conservative leader of Alberta, Ralph Klein, for raising rhetoric to a point where hate crimes are being almost tolerated in the province. In the first incident, a group of men on their way to the city’s Pride celebration was attacked by four aggressors. “It was just because of what I was wearing, a fur coat, and how I was walking,” one of the men said. In the second incident, two men who were holding hands while walking down the street were attacked by eight other men as they exited a convenience store.
The response has been swift, despite the region’s notoriously conservative base. “It’s like a cancer,” an Edmonton police officer said, “and that’s why the Edmonton Police Service takes these crimes so seriously.” Meanwhile, Mayor Stephen Mandel decried the attacks, saying, “That’s so 1800s…I mean, get into the century. It’s a new century here. People have the right to live the life they want to live. I’m not going to be telling people how to live and I don’t think other people should either.”
In a recent poll, 39% of Canadians said they think the debate over same-sex marriage has increased discrimination against gays and lesbians; in Alberta, 52% agreed.