Lawyer who compared pride flags to swastikas to speak about GSAs at Calgary conference

A lawyer who apologized last year after comparing LGBTQ pride flags to Nazi swastikas is set to speak about gay-straight alliances at an upcoming Calgary conference.

'I think it's really terrifying that he's been given more of a platform,' says LGBTQ advocate

John Carpay is one of the founders of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, based in Alberta. (Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms)

A lawyer who apologized last year after comparing LGBTQ pride flags to Nazi swastikas is set to speak about gay-straight alliances at an upcoming Calgary conference.

John Carpay, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, is scheduled to give a talk titled "parental rights in the GSA era" at the Economic Education Association of Alberta's annual conference on Feb. 9.

Danny Hozack, the non-profit's chairman and organizer of the event, said Carpay is a dear friend he has a lot of respect for and he wouldn't comment on a remark he says Carpay has already apologized for. 

Carpay made the comment in November at a conference organized by Rebel Media, a far-right media organization that has been criticized for sympathetic coverage of white supremacy.

"How do we defeat today's totalitarianism? You've got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn't matter whether it's a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it's the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it's a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility to individual freedoms," Carpay said.  

He later told CBC News that the comparison was unintentional, and apologized for those who interpreted his remarks as broadly equating "the rainbow flag with the evils of Communism and Nazism." 

Carpay is the lawyer behind a lawsuit challenging Alberta's Bill 24. In arguments before the court, he alleged that gay-straight alliances — peer-support groups that are meant to tackle bullying and provide supportive environments for LGBTQ students — are "ideological sexual clubs."

"I think it's really terrifying that he's been given more of a platform considering what he said," said Pam Rocker, the director of Affirming Connections in Calgary, a group that supports inclusive ministries and faith organizations.

"I don't think that the LGBTQ community has accepted his apology because it's not a real apology. So what I would say for the conference organizers is you're setting a precedent that we are watching, to say that you're again giving prominence and a platform to somebody who has openly used hate speech and compared us to one of the most disastrous atrocities in in the world."

Michelle Robinson, one of the co-founders of YYC voices, a group of trans, queer and straight people of colour, said she was appalled to hear Carpay would be speaking at a Calgary event.

"We have to remember Hitler and the Nazi regime actually purposefully went after the LGBTQ+ community … we should be educating folks on the Holocaust," she said.

Hozack said the Economic Education Association of Alberta's conference is intended to address the province's precarious economic position by tackling topics like "fiscal sanity," "renewing Canada" and "education not indoctrination."

"Alberta is in a very serious situation," he said. 

Other speakers include former Alberta energy minister Ted Morton, National Post columnist John Robson and Donna Trimble of advocacy group Parents for Choice in Education. The conference runs Feb. 8 and 9 and the Best Western Port O'Call Hotel in northeast Calgary.

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