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CANADIAN RELIGION AND POLITICS:

2000-NOV-27 FEDERAL ELECTION:
"Doris" Day vs. Jean Chrétien

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Overview of the Canadian federal government:

Like the U.S., Canada experienced a major election late in the year 2000. However, there are many differences between the two countries. 

In Canada:

bulletElections are called whenever the political party in power wishes, subject to the requirement that they not exceeding a maximum of five years in office. The actual vote follows the calling of an election by little more than a month.
bulletThe Senate is an appointed body, not elected. However, they rarely have much influence on the passage of legislation.
bulletThe House of Commons is the main legislative body; it is elected. Unless specifically released by their party in a "free vote," each member normally votes along strict party lines. To jump party ranks would endanger one's political future; it rarely happens.
bulletIf the party in power proposes a major bill which is later rejected by the House of Commons, a new election is normally called.
bulletThe Prime Minister is the head of whichever party is in power; he/she is elected by members of their own party, not directly by the public. Subject to its own constitution, a political party can hold a leadership meeting and replace the Prime Minister.
bulletCanada currently has only one major [political party: the Liberal Party of Canada.  It corresponds more or less to the American Democratic party. The Liberals have been in existence since before confederation in 1867. As of 2002-AUG-28, 53.1% of the adult public would vote Liberal if an election were held "tomorrow."
bulletCanada has a number of minor parties who regularly obtain between 10% and 15% of the popular vote and succeed in obtaining some seats in the House of Commons: 
bulletProgressive Conservative party - a middle-of-the-road party with a remarkable history -- often similar in political philosophy to the Liberal party. They have the support of 14.7% of the adult public.
bulletNew Democratic Party (NDP) - a socialist party at 10.6%.
bulletThe Canadian Alliance party, created in the year 2000, corresponds more or less to the American Republican party. Unlike the Republican party, the Alliance does not officially take a stand on social matters such as abortion access. They are at 10.5% of the popular vote.
bulletFinally, there is a small regional party:
bulletBloc Quebecois - a politically liberal party in Quebec dedicated to separating the province from the rest of the country by peaceful means. They are at 8%.
bulletThere are also some very small parties which have nominated candidates: the  Canadian Action Party, Communist Party, Green Party, Marijuana Party, Marxist-Leninist Party and Natural Law. None of these have held a seat in the House of Commons in recent decades or ever. The Christian Heritage party promotes the conversion of Canada into a theocracy; they did not field any candidates in the year 2000.

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Human rights in Canada:

Human rights are guaranteed by the "Canadian charter of rights and freedoms." However, this charter contains a "notwithstanding" clause: Section 33 allows the House of Commons or any legislature to pass an act that takes precedence over any provision of Section 2 of the charter for up to five years. The latter section guarantees basic freedoms: of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, of the press and other media of communication, freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of association. Similarly the provisions of Section 7 to 15 of the charter can be bypassed by governments. They currently guarantee that everyone in Canada has the right: 

bullet"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person..."
bullet"...not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment."
bulletto be considered "...equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."

In essence, any of the important human rights enjoyed by Canadian citizens and residents can be terminated by their provincial or federal government at any time. Theoretically, Canadians don't even have a guaranteed right to life. A government could theoretically pass a law to imprison all redheads, or all gays and lesbians, or all Roman Catholics, or all Native Canadians. There is nothing in place that would prevent the governments from:

bulletForcibly relocating Japanese-Canadians, as happened during World War II.
bulletCriminalizing the performance of some religious rituals, as the federal government did with Native Canadians up to a few decades ago.
bulletDiscriminating against English-speaking persons on the basis of language, as happened in Quebec.
bulletReducing the rights of people who had been forcibly sterilized from freely seeking redress in the courts. This was proposed but not implemented in Alberta.
bulletTerminating specific human rights of gays and lesbians. This was also proposed in Alberta.

Canada can be converted overnight into the world's most oppressive regime -- a country devoid of human rights.

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The religious beliefs of the Prime Minister and other politicians:

The past four prime ministers of Canada have been Roman Catholics. However, they have shown themselves quite willing to ignore the teachings of their church's teaching in controversial matters such as abortion access and equal rights for gays and lesbians. As the current Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, said in a 2000-NOV speech before high school students in Prescott ON, "I am a Catholic. I have my own views on that [abortion]. But I cannot impose my views on others, because I don't want others to impose their views on me." At the time of the election, the leader of the Alliance party was Stockwell Day, a Pentecostal. 

Until mid-November, 2000, the media had only very rarely discussed the personal lives of political leaders. It has been commonly alleged that certain political leaders were alcoholic, or spouse abusers, or child molesters. But these concerns were not revealed publicly. The media does not discuss the sexual orientation of various bisexual and homosexual political leaders, except for those few who are open with their orientation. Religious beliefs of the Prime Minister or of anyone running for that office were also not generally discussed -- except for the occasional mention of Mackenzie King's use of a crystal ball to contact his deceased mother. 

This news blackout on the religious beliefs of political leaders appears to mesh well with the views of Canadians. During the year 2000 election campaign, Ekos Research Associates polled Canadian adults to determine their views on the religious beliefs of politicians. More than 75% of supporters of the Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and NDP parties opposed mixing religion and politics. Only 58% of the Alliance supporters are opposed; 38% actually support the idea. 14

However, on 2000-NOV-16, the media deviated from their previous behavior and ran articles about Stockwell Day's religious beliefs. Pliny Hayes, an instructor in cell biology at Red Deer College in Alberta had recorded Day's remarks about evolution and creationism during Christian Awareness Week there in 1997-JAN. Day was the treasurer of Alberta at the time. At an interview in the middle of the federal election, Hayes reported that Day said that he believed that the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago, that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth together, that Adam and Eve were real people, that creationism is as valid as evolution and should be taught in the schools. Both the media and some political parties heaped ridicule on Day for holding such beliefs. Young-earth creationism is not as widely believed in Canada as it is in the U.S.  Day responded: "I don't think the particular beliefs of an individual [are relevant] in public policy any more than asking a Roman Catholic what their belief is related to the Virgin Mary -- any more than asking somebody who believes that Krishna came down from heaven."

As a result of the election, the people of Canada returned the Liberal Party to power for the third consecutive term with about 170 seats. The Alliance Party continues as the official opposition party, with about 68 seats. The Liberals have an absolute majority in the House of Commons.

Stephen Harper defeated Stockwell Day in a Canadian Alliance leadership campaign in 2002-MAR. During the leadership race Harper criticized Day's reliance on signing up members at churches and allying himself with Evangelical and Catholic pro-life groups.

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Use of petitions and plebiscites:

As of 2002, the opposition party is the Canadian Alliance party. The rest of this essay will compare and contrast the Alliance and Liberal parties.

One major difference between these parties is their policy on plebiscites and referendums. The Liberal party has never encouraged their use. The Alliance party favors their use, and would submit an idea to a national plebiscite if 3% or more of the Canadian population supported it through a petition.  This matter prompted Rick Mercer, comedian on the Canadian TV program "This Hour Has 22 minutes" to place his own petition on line. It demands that Stockwell Day, leader of the Alliance party, change his first name to "Doris." When they launched the petition on NOV-13, they were hoping to obtain 350,000 electronic signatures. By NOV-16, they had already received over 400,000 responses -- many more than the 3% criteria that would force a national referendum under an Alliance government. By NOV-22, the response had topped 1 million -- not bad in a country of about 30 million people. However, there is no guarantee that all of the signatures are legitimate. The web site allows the same name and Email address to be entered repeatedly. We suspect that many Canadians are voting early, and voting often. 3 Day's protestors, including Natives with drums, the "Young Lesbian Cheerleaders," and others dressed as Barney the Dinosaur and Fred Flintstone stopped chanting "Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay; Stockwell Day go away." They replaced it with a simpler serenade "Doris Day, Doris Day.

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Liberal & Alliance views on abortion access:

Canada has been without a law regulating abortions since the Supreme Court declared the previous law to be unconstitutional in 1988. Parliament tried to replace it with a new law, but it was defeated by a tie vote in the Senate. The only current limitations on abortions in Canada are imposed by various provincial medical associations. They typically ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except when most unusual extenuating circumstances are present. The pro-life movement in Canada had been largely moribund until the Alliance party was formed in the year 2000. Some Pro-lifers have tried to influence local ridings to nominate single-issue Alliance candidates who are willing to give a high priority to restricting abortion.

bulletThe Liberal party has had many years to introduce a new law to regulate abortions. It has chosen to not do so. Liberal party policy is to support women's access to abortions.
bulletThe Alliance party has declared that it has no initial plans to introduce legislation to limit abortions. Its previous leader, Stockwell Day is personally opposed to abortion access. He once implied that abortion access leads to child abuse. He allegedly said in 1988 that: "The thinking is that if you can cut a child to pieces or burn them alive with salt solution while they're still in the womb, what's wrong with knocking them around a little when they're outside the womb." 10 While labor minister, he fought hard to have abortion in Alberta partly de-insured under Canada's universal health care system. He would have allowed free abortions only when absolutely required out of medical necessity. He said: "Women who become pregnant through rape or incest should not qualify for government funded abortions unless their pregnancy is life-threatening." 4 Although the party has a policy of not taking sides in social matters, the vast majority of its members are pro-life and probably concurr with Day's beliefs.

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Liberal/Alliance views on the death penalty:

Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976. Since then, there has been a gradual decrease in the homicide rate in the country. This is a phenomenon that has been observed in many other countries which have eliminated capital punishment. Most adults in Canadians favor a return to capital punishment, but by a lower percentage than do Americans.

bulletThe Liberal party has not revisited the matter since 1976.
bulletIn 1994, Stockwell Day allegedly advocated the death penalty for teenagers convicted of first degree murder. In 1997, he referred to the notorious serial-child murderer Clifford Olson, who is held in special custody within a Kingston ON prison. Day advocated that his fellow prisoners be allowed to murder him. Day said: "People like myself say, 'Fix the problem. Put him in the general (prison) population. The moral prisoners will deal with it in a way which we don't have the nerve to do.' '' 11, 12  If exposed to other prisoners, Olson's life expectancy would probably be measured in hours.

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Liberal/Alliance views on equal rights for homosexuals:

The vast majority of Canadians favor equal human rights protection for gays and lesbians. A slight majority favor expanding the definition of marriage to include homosexuals. One poll showed a 53% to 47% split in favor of same-sex marriage. 9 Other polls have given similar results. Canadian governments have not responded willingly to public opinion:

bulletThe Liberal Party had regularly promised homosexual civil rights groups that human rights legislation would be brought forward to give them equal protection. But the Liberals have routinely reneged on their promises, and have only reacted in response from demands by the Canadian Supreme Court.
bulletAgain, the Alliance Party is new and has not had a chance to govern. Its new leader, Stephen Harper, has not been in power for long. But we can evaluate the positions taken by its former leader, Stockwell Day, while he was a provincial politician in Alberta. Day has allegedly said that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be cured by counseling, 13 and that homosexuality "not condoned by God.'' He regards homosexuality as a choice. He rejects the belief by most human sexuality researchers that a homosexual orientation is fixed, unchosen, and is a normal, natural orientation for about 4% of the population. In 1998, the Canadian Supreme Court ordered the province of Alberta to expand its human rights legislation to give equal protection for gays and lesbians. Day campaigned strongly to have Alberta invoke the notwithstanding clause to, in effect, suspend the human rights guarantees of the Canadian constitution as applied to homosexuals. He stated: "The freedom for homosexuals to choose their lifestyle is there. But when I'm asked to legislate, in some way, approval of their choice, then I have a problem... The homosexual issue is a real source of concern because they don't know how far it's going to go. There is a concern, yet to be determined, that it can't be stopped. These type of unknowns have people alarmed." 5 During 1997, he attempted to force the Red Deer Museum return a provincial lottery grant of $10,000. They were using it to conduct a study of the social impact that gays and lesbians have had throughout Alberta history. Day said: "We all make mistakes and they [the museum] made a mistake in pursuing a project which purports to reflect the sexual choices of one per cent of the population.'' 6

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Liberal/Alliance views on Native rights:

The Canadian Constitution guarantees Native Canadians the right of self-government. "The Supreme Court has clearly acknowledged that Canadian governments systematically defrauded aboriginal people, and that the government must sign land claims agreements." 7 The Canadian government has resolved a few land claims; it has yet to engage in significant dialog with other Native groups.

bulletThe policy of the Liberal party appears to be to wear down First Nation people through exhaustion. Some negotiations have been underway for generations without resolution, or even significant progress. 
bulletThe former leader of the Alliance, Stockwell Day stated "explicitly that he will ignore the law that says aboriginal people have the right to self-government...he even questions legally binding Indian Act benefits." 7

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Levels of bigotry in the Liberal & Alliance parties:

The Liberal Party has been relatively free of obvious bigotry. Exceptions include:

bulletThe reluctance of the Liberal party to negotiate sincerely with native groups over land claims.
bulletThe refusal of the party to grant equal rights and protections to gays and lesbians, unless they are first forced to by the courts

The Canadian Alliance has a less enviable reputation:

bulletDuring the current election campaign, Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan accused the Canadian Alliance of harboring racists and bigots. She is not exactly an unbiased observer; she is running for re-election as a Liberal.
bulletInvestigator Murray Dobin studied the Reform Party and its leader Preston Manning. [The Canadian Reform Party is unrelated to the American party with the same name]. This was the political party which was reconstituted in the year 2000 as the Canadian Alliance. Dobin documented the role of the white supremacist Heritage Front in Reform activities during the early 1990s.
bulletBob Altemeyer is a psychologist at the University of Manitoba who has specialized in studying right-wing authoritarians in the U.S. and Canada. He has developed a "right-wing authoritarianism" (RWA) rating scale. During 1994, he surveyed Members of Parliament from Western Canada. He found that Reform MPs scored highest on the RWA scale, with 172.3; Liberal MPs averaged 121.6; MPs from the socialist party, NDP, scored 74.0. He also found that the Reform MPs "scored highest on nearly all of the prejudice items.
bulletAn Ekos Research Associates poll found that 63% of Alliance supporters were opposed to equal rights for gays and lesbians. This compared to 37% for all Canadian adults. 20% felt that there are too many immigrants who are members of a visible minority. This compares to 11% of all Canadian adults.

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References used:

  1. The text of the "Canadian charter of rights and freedoms." is at: http://canada.justice.gc.ca/Loireg/charte/const_en.html 
  2. Tonda Maccharles, "Day says he believes biblical story of creation," Toronto Star, Toronto ON, 2000-OCT-16, Front cover, continued on Page A8
  3. "We demand that the government of Canada force Stockwell Day to change his first name to Doris," petition at: http://www.22minutes.com/
  4. Calgary Herald, 1995-JUN-12 
  5. Don Martin, "Stockwell Day faces personal decision with heavy heart: Deeply held convictions about homosexuality put provincial treasurer at odds with Klein," Calgary Herald, 1998-APR-9
  6. Edmonton Journal, 1997-AUG-16
  7. Murray Dobbin, "The man who shouldn't be prime minister: Stockwell Day shows a basic contempt for democracy and law," National Post, 2000-AUG-1 Online at: http://home.dencity.com/valleycouncil/dobbin.txt 
  8. "Liberal party, Canadian political party," Columbia Encyclopedia, (2000). See: http://www.bartleby.com/65/li/LiberpCan.html
  9. "Canada Online Poll: Same-sex marriages," at: http://www.canadaonline.about.com/aboutcanada/
  10. We don't have a direct source for this quote. It first surfaced in 1988, then re-emerged in 1999, and has been repeated many times in various newspapers since.
  11. "Let 'moral prisoners' punish Clifford Olson, Day urges," Edmonton Journal, 1997-OCT-18.
  12. David Trigueiro, " 'Prison justice' remark blasted: Day accused of subverting justice," Calgary Herald, 1997-OCT-18. 
  13. Lorne Gunter, Alberta Report, 1992-FEB-3. 
  14. Raymond Hébert, "There's evidence of bigotry in Alliance," Toronto Star, 2000-NOV-24

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Additional material can be found at:

bulletThe Canadian Alliance's web site is at: http://www.canadianalliance.ca/ 
bulletThe Liberal Party of Canada's web site is at: http://www.liberal.ca/site/eng/index.html 
bulletGordon Laird, "Hellfire, neo-Nazis and Stockwell Day," ViewWeekly, at:  http://www.vue.ab.ca/archive02.html 

Copyright © 2000 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-NOV-16
Latest update: 2002-AUG-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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