… even though I found Ralph Goodale’s attack on Andrew Scheer for his (2005) remarks about gay marriage to be hypocritical in the extreme, given that Mr Goodale, too, voted against legalizing gay marriage at that time, and even though I cited a newer and, in my opinion, more damaging comment by Justin Trudeau, I think the issue is minor.
But John Ibbitson, whose views I respect and who, as a gay man, can be said to have a stake in this issue, unlike me and many others, says, in a column in the Globe and Mail, that those who stand up for “gay rights” should, still, consider voting for a Conservative candidate, because:
- “As Conservative leader, Stephen Harper strongly opposed same-sex marriage. But as prime minister, he upheld the law. Neither did he move to limit abortion rights, as Liberals had warned he would. Conservative governments do not claw back human rights. They never have and there is no reason to believe they ever would.” I agree, 100%, Prime Minister Harper knew, as does Mr Scheer that neither Canadians, generally, nor most Conservatives would stand for rolling back any civil rights, not even those that they might consider are wrongly applied;
- “At the 2016 Conservative policy convention in Vancouver, Mr. Scheer voiced his support for ending the party’s opposition to same-sex marriage. Delegates overwhelmingly agreed.” It sounds like his views have evolved since 2005. Is that so hard to believe?
- “After Mr. Trudeau offered his apology in the House, Mr. Scheer immediately rose to offer his party’s support, calling past discrimination “a terrible and unfair moment in the history of the federal government of Canada.” He went on: “Today’s apology must be an opportunity for all of us to recommit to the defence of human rights, not only here at home but around the world.” Once again, it sounds like Mr Scheer understands that human rights are human rights, regardless of what his own religiously based views might have been 14 years ago;
- “The Conservative coalition consists of social conservatives, who oppose abortion and LGBTQ rights; foreign policy conservatives; pro-West, don’t care about the rest conservatives; and fiscal conservatives, who favour balanced budgets, low taxes and minimal regulation. Fiscal conservativism dominates Mr. Scheer’s agenda. Social conservatism plays no meaningful role.” Agreed … but unlike Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer does not demand conformity from his MPs. There are social conservatives in the CPC, Andrew Scheer is one of them, but the Conservative party is (cautiously) socially moderate;
- “No, Mr. Scheer will not march in a Pride parade. Not many Conservatives do. But if you worry that years of deficits by the Trudeau government have jeopardized Canada’s fiscal health, or that the federal government should take a tougher approach to Communist China, or that the Liberals have lost the moral authority to govern after attempting to interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin, then Mr. Scheer might be your best choice.” All true, and good reasons to vote Conservative, but, in addition, ~
- First, it must be acknowledged that some “pride” parades specifically ban Conservatives, and the police and the military. And now I see that, according to a report from CBC News, that a group of Hong Kong supporters were removed from Montreal’s “pride” parade because pro-Chinese activists made threats and important public figures like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Québec Premier François Legault were due to march and the organizers didn’t want anything to upset them; and
- Second, on Sunday I did not attend the “pride” festivities here in Ottawa; in fact, I stood on Parliament Hill, with a couple of friends, supporting freedom in Hong Kong, where, right now, it needs defending; and
- “As for the scary hidden agenda, there isn’t one. Anything you hear to the contrary is just fear mongering.” Absolutely right!
But it brings me to a bigger issue, one which, in my considered opinion, matters more: fundamental rights.
Way back about the time I started this blog, I said that “I’m an old, retired soldier with an interest in politics. I self describe as a classical, 19th century liberal ~ which means, in 21st century Canada, that I’m a Conservative … [and] … I believe in four fundamental rights for each and every individual: Life, Liberty and Property, as described by John Locke in 17th century England, and Privacy, as defined by Brandeis and Warren in 19th century America, but expanded, to fully include absolute control over one’s body and the “right to be left alone.”“
Nothing has changed. I remain committed to the idea that real rights belong to individuals, to each and every individual regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or anything else, except good conduct. I am suspicious of the very idea of “group rights,” I think individuals must be protected, by our laws and regulations, from collectives like ethnocultural groups, religions and the biggest collective of them all, the state, itself. Thus, while I think that every single person must have the same rights as every other person (except those who have, by their own actions, put themselves outside the law) I do not believe that there should be any special rights for any groups ~ not for groups based on language or religion or sexual orientation. I think Mr Ibbitson and his husband must have exactly the same rights, in every respect, as are available to any other two people … they do not deserve any more rights because they are gay, but they must not have any fewer rights because they are gay, either.
That, to me, is a principled, liberal position, but it is not the position held by Justin Trudeau who seems to believe, very illiberally, that his position on any issue must be held by every Liberal MP and candidate.
Yes, he really did say that, in Winnipeg, in 2015, according to a CTV News report. Prime Minister Trudeau said that ““As soon as you make citizenship for some Canadians conditional on good behaviour, you devalue citizenship for everyone.”” I disagree. I believe that depriving people who place themselves outside of or above the laws of even their most fundamental rights, to life in a few, rare cases,* and even, again in a few cases, of their citizenship actually enhances the value of citizenship for all the rest of us.
But, as an article in the Globe and Mail points out there is considerable room for debate about what Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party and, perhaps, a few individual Conservative candidates intend ~ “When Mr. Scheer campaigned for the Conservative Party leadership in 2017, he said that MPs should be allowed to debate any “matters of conscience” that they wished to … [and, he wrote at that time] … “I believe 100 per cent that members of Parliament have the right to bring forward and debate any legislation of importance to them.”” Personally, I believe that is a correct, principled, liberal position. I hope that Andrew Scheer will be different from Justin Trudeau and will not want his MPs to be puppets who blindly mimic the leader’s positions on issues.
I also think that the Conservative Party is mistaken to try to paper over the cracks between what Mr Scheer said, what he evidently believes to be right, and the Party’s official policy which is that issues like abortion and same-sex marriage and adoption are settled. I believe that Conservative MP Peter Kent came closest to getting it right when he “said a Conservative government led by Mr. Scheer “will not reopen this debate, period,” adding that Conservative private members can speak to their faith and their conscience.” That’s pretty clear: a Conservative government will not reopen those “hot button” issues, and that means that all ministers in the cabinet and all parliamentary secretaries will be expected to follow that policy, resolutely, in both word and deed; but backbench MPs may speak their minds, they may even introduce private members’ bills that they believe best serve the interests of their constituents and Canada. If such a bill is introduced then, regardless of their personal views, Conservative ministers and parliamentary secretaries and most backbench MPs will be expected to vote against it. That is not an overly fine distinction. There are many people in Canada who are social conservatives. There are some people in the Conservative Party who are social conservatives; Andrew Scheer is one of them. Does that make them unqualified to serve? These are matters of belief; they are private matters, in the main, but Canadians are free to hold and to express individual beliefs that are at odds with the mainstream.
The mainstream may not always be right but its views often settle contentious issues. For example, I believe that our courts were wrong, muddle-headed, when they decided, for example, that felons serving prison sentences should be allowed to vote. But that decision, made in 2002, reflected the mainstream positions about civil rights and it is now settled law and I would not advocate changing it, even though I think it’s wrong, just as I am sure that Andrew Scheer does not advocate changing the settled issues of gay marriage or abortion. Rights are rights and they are not to be rolled back without very good reason … neither deeply, sincerely held religious belief nor the popular will are good reasons.
I also believe that many “rights” that many Canadians believe in are rubbish rights, made up by some seriously deluded people, including some Canadians, in the United Nations back in 1948. Does anyone really believe that “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay,” (§24 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.” (§22) belong on the same page as “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” and “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms“? But, today, in Liberal (actually very illiberal) Canada, we seem to pay more attention to the “rubbish rights” than to the fundamental ones. We actually want to give rights to groups, to collectives and to limit the rights of individuals. How else to explain some of the madness that goes on in quasi-judicial bodies misnamed as “human rights commissions?”
So, three issues:
- Mr Ibitson gives a half dozen good reasons why people who feel very strongly about equal rights for everyone, including, especially the rights of those in the LGBTQ (etc) community, can and even should vote for the Conservative candidate in their riding. I think that message needs amplifying;
- What Team Trudeau and others are trying to do bt dragging out a 14 years old speech is, as John Ibbitson says, “just fear mongering;” and
- Rights are rights, but some, a tiny few, are quite fundamental and they relate to individuals and it is the duty of society to protect those rights, for individuals, against any and all collectives, including the government, itself, and its agents. That includes the right of an individual, backbench MP to disagree with and even speak out against the Conservative Party’s and a Conservative government’s positions on some legally settled social issues.
Conservatives need to be brave enough to enunciate the wholly compatible facts that:
- “A Conservative government led by Mr. Scheer “will not reopen this debate, [on either abortion or same-sex marriage] period,” but
- Conservative private members can speak to their faith and their conscience.“
There is nothing inconsistent in those two statements and only a stupid or dishonest person will try to make you believe that there is.
* I still believe, for example, that the death penalty should have been retained, but only in military law, for those, officers, who treasonously surrender their command to an enemy.