The ECOSOC panel at the UN
The Coalition Gaie et Lesbienne du Québec at ECOSOC
The "Coalition Gaie et Lesbienne du Québec" (Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Quebec) is a federation in Quebec, and we have nearly the same background as ILGA-Europe.
Consequently, I think we had an excellent file to set out before the United Nations.
I will present what we experienced when we went to New York to answer the questions of the Committee members in May 2005. I will not deal with the questions they asked us, but I would really like to mention one point: you can't imagine the difficulties we had to go to New York. It was not because of the flight schedule, but because of the numerous times the United Nations lost our file, the numerous times they lost our e-mails. Curiously, whereas those who were sent copies of our e-mails received them, the originals were not received at the United Nations. I must thus thank the Canadian Delegation for the pressure they put on the United Nations to finally receive our e-mails.
And I appreciate the atmosphere here today, because I must say that the last time I was seated in a United Nations room the atmosphere was much more tense. I was trained as a lawyer; and I now know exactly how a witness feels when he is interviewed by a lawyer - except that I was interviewed by fifty persons instead of one.
The wait was long. With Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, we arrived on Tuesday; and we were told, hour after hour, that it would be our turn very soon. But our call was always delayed. Thanks to pressure by the German and Canadian Delegations and others, we were called on Friday at the end of the afternoon, although they wanted to make us wait the whole following week. Of course, this "spare" time allowed us to see how it worked with the other organizations: the atmosphere was light and friendly, and people were well treated.
But when it was our turn, when they were looking at us, when they were asking us questions, I can guarantee that it was diametrically different. In Quebec, there is an idiom saying: "l'ambiance était à couper au couteau" (the atmosphere could have been cut with a knife). Actually, the atmosphere could have been cut with a big knife; the tension was unbearable.
I would like to draw your attention to the type of question they asked us. The United Nations' language is obviously always very polite, but what we would be interested in will be what was behind the questions. First of all, despite the presence of translators' services in the room and our presence that Friday afternoon to answer their questions, they asked us - but only us - to provide written answers on the next Monday morning.
They asked us questions on our alleged encouragement of people to be gay, notably in Iran, such as: "Don't you consider yourself as encouraging people to be gay?"; and on the putting in danger of these people: "Considering lesbians and gays are a high-risk population for AIDS, – they included lesbians, fully convinced that this situation was true – don't you consider that you put this population in danger in promoting homosexuality?" They, obviously, talked about child welfare; the number of questions on pedophilia was unbelievable. They asked us a lot of questions about religion too, like: "What would we do to bypass religious duties?"
Whereas we introduced ourselves as a national organization with international implications, they tried to prove that we will work at an international level by going directly to sort out the situation in the concerned countries. They made lots of efforts to get our members list, to try to know if we were ever employing foreign citizens on the ground, what they do there, how they work, in particular in Iran and in several African countries. In a word, they wanted to prove that we were not a national organization but an international one and, therefore, that our actions were illegal. They wanted to make sure as well that we were an open-to-cultural-diversity organization, which may have permitted them to get even with us if we were not.
Lastly, I would like to insist on the fact that the atmosphere which prevailed there was probably the worst I have ever had to deal with. I have had to deal with some hostile environments, but never that sort. And, furthermore, not only the Committee members, but all the people who were present created this environment. For instance, I can assure you that the Holy See representative, who spent the whole week seated in the room, was not there to listen to the other presentations, but definitely to attend our examination. I do say "examination," because usually these presentations are opportunities to meet the Committee members and explain to them what we can do - but, in our case, we really feel like it was a trial.
Moreover, Committee members gave us lots of time to express ourselves; but I think they wanted to make sure that we could not say that we have not been heard. We have certainly been heard - but it does not necessarily mean that they listened to us.
Lesbian and Gay Coalition of Quebec