Advocacy News - Paul Martin: "Progress ... will not be denied"
November 30, 2006
Paul Martin: "Progress ... will not be denied"
By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell
"We protected the rights of Canadians by bringing into law the Civil Marriage Act, another step in our proud history of defending and advancing equality for all the people of our great country," former Prime Minister Paul Martin boasted at the Liberal Party leadership convention tonight, in a speech that highlighted his career.
Martin's words were clearly aimed at Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative party, in power with a minority government in Canada. The divisive Harper will revisit same-sex marriage in Parliament in December, pandering to religious extremists within his party. Harper is obligated to pander to this power base, but he has ambitions of winning a majority in the next election and he will have to put his fight against gay marriage behind him if he hopes to attract moderate Canadians.
Martin made a pitch for the same audience, a natural source of the party's support.
"Modern Liberalism was born from the belief that the institutions of society exist to ensure individual freedom and individual rights that the role of government is not to favour the advantaged but to pursue progress for the many," Martin said to his Montreal audience.
"Day after day, we advanced our belief that we are stronger acting together than we are alone.
"Now, there are some who reject this vision. The current government rejects it. At a time when the need is real, the Conservatives have targeted some of the most vulnerable in our society. The Conservative agenda seeks only to satisfy those who agree with their cold ideology.
"As Liberals we have always defended the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We believe, that we are all lessened when any one of us is denied their rights. We are a nation of minorities. When we protect minority rights, we protect the most fundamental freedoms of us all. That is why Canada is such a beacon of hope for so many around the globe. "
As a couple who had to take the Liberal government to court in order to gain recognition of our marriage, we disagree that the Liberals have always defended our Charter Rights. Time after time, gays and lesbians have had to take Liberal governments to court in order to obtain our rights.
But the Liberals did give us the Charter, and they did surrender after we won our case at the Ontario Court of Appeal. Further, the Liberal government supported a program that helped fund Charter court cases like ours, and for that we are grateful!
"Two months ago," Martin said, "the Conservatives cancelled the program that enables Canadians to defend their rights regardless of whether they have the money to do so. Well, we are the party of the Charter and under a Liberal government, your rights will never depend upon the state of your pocketbook.
"I look at this Conservative government. I see its methods, I watch its manner, and let me tell you: it makes me proud to be a Liberal. Proud to be a member of a party so much more progressive than one that gives people $4 a day and calls it a child care program, that turns its back on Aboriginal Canadians and calls it fair, that turns its back on Canada's word to the world and calls it an environmental plan.
"A country is not made greater when those who have the least are forced to sacrifice the most. A country does not come together when its government fosters division. And a country does not achieve big things with small thinking.
"Canada is a big country, not only in geography but in ambition. And yet at a time when Canada needs to be tackling the challenges that the future will bring, the Conservatives look not forward but backwards revisiting old debates, dismantling programs, settling scores, tearing down rather than building up.
"Let us resolve here this weekend to send a message to the Conservatives: our goals for a progressive society will not disappear, nor will our resolve to see them through; progress and fairness may be delayed but they will not be denied."
A new leader for the Liberal Party, and potential replacement for Stephen Harper's Conservative government, will be selected on Saturday.
Parliament is expected to debate a motion to revisit marriage legislation next week.