CANADIAN RELIGION AND POLITICS:
2000-NOV-27 FEDERAL ELECTION:
"Doris" Day vs. Jean Chrétien
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.
||Elections 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.|
||The Senate is an appointed body, not elected. However, they rarely have
much influence on the passage of legislation.|
||The 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.|
||If the party in power proposes a major bill which is later rejected
by the House of Commons, a new election
is normally called.|
||The 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.|
||Canada 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."|
||Canada 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:
||Progressive 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.
||New Democratic Party (NDP) - a socialist party at 10.6%.
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.
||Finally, there is a small regional party:|
||Bloc 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%.
||There 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.|
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:
||"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the
||"...not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or
||to 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
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:
||Forcibly relocating Japanese-Canadians, as happened during World War II.
||Criminalizing the performance of some religious rituals, as the
federal government did with Native Canadians up to a few decades ago.
||Discriminating against English-speaking persons on the basis of language,
as happened in Quebec.
||Reducing the rights of people who had been forcibly sterilized from
freely seeking redress in the courts. This was proposed but not implemented in
||Terminating specific human rights of gays and lesbians. This was also proposed in
Canada can be converted overnight into the world's most oppressive regime --
a country devoid of human rights.
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.
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
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."
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
||The 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.
||The 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
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.
||The Liberal party has not revisited the matter since 1976.
||In 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.
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:
||The 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.
||Again, 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
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.
||The 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
||The 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
Levels of bigotry in the Liberal & Alliance parties:
The Liberal Party has been relatively free of obvious bigotry.
||The reluctance of the Liberal party to negotiate sincerely with
native groups over land claims.
||The 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:
||During 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.
||Investigator 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.
||Bob 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."
||An 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.
The text of the "Canadian charter of rights and freedoms." is
Tonda Maccharles, "Day says he believes biblical story of
creation," Toronto Star, Toronto ON, 2000-OCT-16, Front cover,
continued on Page A8
"We demand that the government of Canada force Stockwell Day to
change his first name to Doris," petition at: http://www.22minutes.com/
- Calgary Herald, 1995-JUN-12
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
- Edmonton Journal, 1997-AUG-16
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
"Liberal party, Canadian political party," Columbia
Encyclopedia, (2000). See: http://www.bartleby.com/65/li/LiberpCan.html
"Canada Online Poll: Same-sex marriages," at: http://www.canadaonline.about.com/aboutcanada/
- 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
"Let 'moral prisoners' punish Clifford Olson, Day urges,"
Edmonton Journal, 1997-OCT-18.
David Trigueiro, " 'Prison justice' remark blasted: Day accused of
subverting justice," Calgary Herald, 1997-OCT-18.
- Lorne Gunter, Alberta Report, 1992-FEB-3.
Raymond Hébert, "There's evidence of bigotry in Alliance,"
Toronto Star, 2000-NOV-24
Additional material can be found at:
Copyright © 2000 & 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-NOV-16
Latest update: 2002-AUG-28
Author: B.A. Robinson