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No mention of 'gay tourism' allowed, BC guide warns

A British Columbia government guide for tourism companies hoping to attract Chinese business says they must not promote gay tourism.

"In alignment with the [Canadian Tourism Commission], Tourism BC will also require that any partner operator agrees to . . . prohibit the promotion of casinos, gambling and gay tourism, per the China National Tourism Administration," says the guide How to Market Your Business to China, released last week by the ministry of jobs, tourism and innovation (see page 28).

The Times Colonist's Les Leyne asked the minister responsible, Pat Bell, and Premier Christy Clark about the guide during separate conference calls from China today.

Clark, who often stresses her record on anti-bullying, said she was unaware of the guide.

"Part of the sensitivity in China is making sure we market the appropriate sorts of activities in B.C.," Leyne quoted Bell saying. "Approved Destination Status is a negotiation, making sure we meet the needs of the Chinese consumer and at the same time reflect everything that’s good about B.C., so the details of the actual negotiations I would have to provide when I get back to B.C.."

Noting that homosexuality was illegal in China until 1997, the NDP's tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said the B.C. and Canadian governments are not responsible for what happens in China. However, he said, the guide makes it sound like the Canadian authorities endorse China's prohibition against advertising gay tourism.

"For a guide that's going out to Canadians, it needs to be explicit in support of gay, lesbian, bi and trans Canadians," said. "It is a form of oppression, what China's practicing here."

Canada and B.C. should continue to welcome people from China who would like to visit, he said. "When Chinese visitors come here they'll see we're an open society that supports sexual diversity."

Chandra Herbert noted that Clark skipped the pride parade in Vancouver last summer and that Liberal MLA Marc Dalton from Maple Ridge-Mission recently promoted a church in the legislature whose leader believes homosexuality can be cured.

"I'd expected more from Christy Clark when she was elected premier," he said.

Update, 9:30 a.m. Nov. 8, 2011: Minister Bell left two voice messages last night. The first said the ban on advertising gay tourism was negotiated between the federal government and the China. The second said, "The latest advice I have is that was not the case. It was not part of the ADS agreement."

Bell said the province would be trying to find out how the mistake found its way into the guide. "Certainly not something I would endorse," he said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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