Editorial Pages

A couple of weeks ago I wrote my member of parliament and Stephen Harper because I was outraged by how my party representative has used public funding and his political office to push for hate-based legislation. My resentment has grown as publicly funded newsletters and postcards have been sent to my home, urging me to support these discriminatory laws. Just as important, though, is the underlying message that the most important role of the government is to control the family life and values of Canadians–a role that for the Conservative party seems to supercede the one which would provide Canadians with national security, good jobs, health care, accessible education, and a stable economy. My letter follows… Whether you agree or disagree, let me know. (also see the “Letters” section)

Conservatives’ Priorities Dangerously Out of Touch

To: The Conservative Party of Canada and Deepak Obhrai (Riding, Calgary East).

Dear Conservative Leaders and Mr. Obhrai,

Recently I received a flyer from your party which asked about the issues I feel are the most important. I’m glad you asked, because once again I am appalled by the focus of your party and I want to make you aware that you do not represent me or my family.

The only issue I can broach is gay marriage. Because this is a fundamental human rights issue, and because members of your party hold such hateful and inappropriate views on this matter, I cannot even consider other issues. You see, as long as a government is unable to provide basic human rights and equality to all members of this country, then no other issue matters much. When the government thinks that family and personal issues are appropriate subjects for the federal government to legislate, I fear for the future of our country.

I want to know what right the Conservative party feels it has to invade the bedrooms and personal lives of its constituents. Are you attempting to become the next government of Canada, or the next authoritarian church of Canada?

I believe that you are trying to legislate religious views, and therefore are in direct violation of the freedom of religion that is assured to all Canadians. I believe that you wish to legislate morality, ignoring the right of Canadians to choose their own morality. I am appalled, offended, and very frightened by your regressive views on this issue, and your willingness to use your government positions to try to force Canadians to conform to your views. I think you are well aware that polls have shown that a growing majority of Canadians support the rights of gays to marry, so you cannot claim to be speaking on behalf of the people you represent. It is also clear that Canadians do not want the government to be involved in such personal and moral decisions.

Mr. Obhrai, you have offended me more deeply than any politician. Last year you sent one communication to my home–a post-card seeking my support in opposing gay marriage. You did not ask me an open-ended question regarding how I feel about gay marriage–no, you asked for my support in your goal of defining marriage as applying only to a man and a woman. No other issue was mentioned on this post-card. In my opinion, you have used your position to send hate literature into the homes of your constituents. With all of the other very important concerns affecting Canadians today (prohibitively high post-secondary tuition; rampant poverty and homelessness; the frequency of child and animal abuse; high taxes; environmental concerns; air quality and food quality concerns… the list goes on), you chose to focus instead on this one moral issue, and make it the forefront of your campaign. Tell me, is the threat of gay marriage so heinous that it supersedes all other issues affecting Canadians today? Most importantly, why does this bother you so, Mr. Obhrai? How can you insist that gay marriage is more of a threat to Canadians than terrorism, ecological contamination, and crime?

In the flyer I just received [from the Conservative Party of Canada], you have again placed the issue of “Marriage and Family” on a list between “Defence” and “National Security”, suggesting that I need to be as concerned with two men having a wedding as with terrorist bombings and violent crimes. Aside from making the Conservatives look foolish and out of touch, this shows a frightening lack of perspective regarding what should concern the federal government of Canada.

I want to know, Mr. Obhrai, and the Conservative party, what gives you the right to invade the bedrooms of Canadians and impose your personal views on the country? What gives you the right to use your political office to push for legislation that has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with people’s intimate lives and your own morality? When did the Conservative party start to lean toward fascism, in other words?

Most importantly, I want to know how [Canadians] will benefit from legislation that prevents any two caring people from becoming legally married and establishing a stable family unit.

I’m angry about the focus of the Conservative government today, but more than that, I’m deeply saddened. I’m ashamed to be a member of Mr. Obhrai’s constituency, and afraid for the future of Canada if our next government is at risk of being formed by a group who are willing to administer human rights selectively, to legislate hatred, and to even consider legislation that will control who Canadians may love and marry. The Conservative party is no longer a political body, but an oppressive moral force whose morals, in my opinion, are decidedly amoral. I, for one, think that marriage is always a very moral and healthy option, no matter who is choosing to become married, and that marriage, in general, is good for our country and all people. I would think that this should be a no-brainer.

Mr. Obhrai, you have spoken out (rightly) about “the evils of” (May 4, 2004) racial discrimination, but you do so with astonishing hypocrisy as you practice discrimination against other groups. Do you believe that you can direct focus away from racial discrimination by bringing together all races against a new common enemy, the homosexual? It’s an old ploy, but a dangerous one, for who will be next?

If you have your way and bring the issue of gay marriage into the political arena, will you next entertain the goals of those who wish to outlaw interracial marriage? If you feel that this is a ridiculous suggestion, and do not see the similarity between [prohibiting] racial mixing and [prohibiting] gay marriage, then you really need to take the time to look at this issue with a perspective that is not coloured by your own moral principles. After all, you are supposed to be representing all of your constituents, not only those who share your prejudice, and you must realize that you cannot use governmental controls to affect one group and not have those controls employed against other groups. You are simply taking the first step toward allowing the government unprecedented control over the personal lives of Canadians, and opening the door for oppressive legislation affecting other minority groups.

Let me be clear, Mr. Obhrai–I am not homosexual or bisexual. I am a married heterosexual, business owner, university student and home owner in your constituency and I am appalled at your direction. As a woman working in the technical field, I have experienced many instances of discrimination, and easily relate to the issues of homosexuals. Why is the same not true for you?

Until you are able to speak for all Canadians and call for an end to discrimination in all forms (not just the kind that affects you, personally), you have no right to speak out against it at all. Discrimination affects gays, women, the disabled, and the elderly as much as it does those who are of non-white races. You must include all in your fight for equality, or you effectively include none… When you use legislation to attack one of these groups, you open the door for attacking all minority groups. If you hate one of us, you effectively hate us all.

If you have difficulty accepting the existence of homosexuals, then you must come to terms with that on your own and not allow it to affect how you do your job. The poem below is so well known it’s practically a cliché, but it is so profound and meaningful that it bears repeating:

First They Came for the Jews
First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left, to speak out for me.
–Pastor Martin Niemöller

Tamra Ross Low