Friday, February 18, 2005

Gaffe-stepping

Smooth political operator, eloquent orator, and man about town Stephen Harper is at it again. First it was poisoning the well with the "same-sex marriages will ultimately lead to polygamous marriages will ultimately lead to inter-species marriages" argument—which, I think, if unnecessarily, shifted the burden back onto progressives, a silly ploy since its primary intention was to muddle the debate.

(Conservatives don't actually care or aren't really worried about polygamy—in fact, I'd contend, especially with a peculiar evangelist strain of the western genus, that polygamy isn't all to ideologically disagreeable to Conservatives. These particular Conservatives just don't do the Same-Sex Liberal Cosmopolitan dance.)

This time Harper reached into the progressive grab-bag to use the Punitive Liberalism anvil. Naturally, he dropped it on his foot. In a speech to “kickoff” the coming PR tornado surrounding the same-sex debate, Harper criticized the Liberal’s government’s history on human rights, using the examples of the internment of Japanese and the turning away of Jews fleeing from Germany and Eastern Europe.

Mr. Harper said during the kickoff of the same-sex debate that the Liberals are hardly lily-white when it comes [sic] the protection of rights, noting that Liberal administrations were responsible for interning Japanese Canadians and for closing the borders to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany.

"Let us not forget, it is the Liberal Party that said 'None is too many,' when it came to Jews fleeing from Hitler. It is the Liberal Party that interned Japanese Canadians in camps on Canada's West Coast, an act which [former prime minister] Pierre Trudeau refused to apologize or make restitution for."

Understandably, a few people were less than pleased by Harper's comments.

"I don't think that the memory of six million should be exploited to political advantage today," said Harold Troper, a historian at the University of Toronto.

"And I don't think that human-rights [violations] of the past should be used to justify human-rights [violations] today."
Prof. Troper noted that Conservatives at the time did not speak against the policy.

"One could argue that if the Liberals were bad, the Conservatives at that time were either just as bad or worse.


Exactly what point is Stephen Harper attempting to make? That the loyal opposition was mute during these times of deplorable regard for human rights says as much of the Conservatives as it does of the Liberals—if not more. And now, when the debate turns to the extension of civil and legal equality rights to same-sex couples, the Conservatives aren’t mute. The Conservatives are sounding a clarion call for the restriction of civil and legal rights.

One must remember that the issue of religious marriage or ceremony isn’t at issue; religious institutions have never been and will not be compelled to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples: that issue is of their own discretion. The issue is whether couples of the same-sex are constitutionally deserving of the civil and legal benefits that flow from civil marriage—rights that they have been denied thus far.

Via. The Globe and Mail

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