Legal News - Harper's half-truths won't halt equality
February 17, 2005
Harper's half-truths won't halt equality
Yesterday's speech from Prime Minister Paul Martin, in support of equality and gay marriage, was in sharp contrast to the ongoing string of half-truths and half-baked notions coming from Stephen Harper. Harper seems determined, through his lack of leadership, to destroy the chances of the Conservative party ever leading the country. He has tied his party's fortunes to "Christian" extremists, aligning himself with an albatross of discrimination, bigotry and scurrilous prevarication.
"The Prime Minister does not interpret the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada does that," Harper said, ignoring his own responsibility, as a Member of Parliament and lawmaker within a constitutional democracy, to ensure legislation is aligned with the Charter. "He [Martin] asked the Supreme Court of Canada to endorse his interpretation and it just refused."
Harper conveniently ignores the reason why the Supreme Court refused to answer question four of the same-sex marriage reference. He prefers to mislead Canadians into thinking that the refusal was an indicator of hope for those who think the court would say that it is constitutional to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
But the reality is that the Supreme Court of Canada refused to answer the question because it should not have been asked. The fourth question was a delay tactic used by the Liberal party to avoid discussing same-sex marriage during an election. The Supreme Court refused to answer the question because it had already been answered by courts in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and the Yukon (and later by Saskatchewan and Newfoundland/Labrador).
Further, the government had accepted the answers of these courts, couples had proceeded to get married based on those answers, and the Supreme Court of Canada had no need to respond to an already accepted decision, and the court was rightly reluctant to be used as a political tool.
"Aren’t you describing a political role?" asked Supreme Court of Canada Justice Bastarache, in response to the fourth question during the reference hearing. "You are saying basically that parliament wants to introduce and pass this legislation in any case and then you are saying ‘Well, politically it would be better for members of parliament to get a final answer on this question and that it would assist in the deliberation.’ It seems to be a description of a political role for the decision of the court. The legal role is not there. You’re saying the legislation’s going to be passed in any event."
Harper ignores all of this, in denial, as he leads his party and its supporters, like a snake-oil salesmen, down the boulevard of broken dreams.
"In the course of this debate," says Harper, "I am going to be very critical of the government for many of its statements and actions in its attempts to abolish the traditional definition of marriage in Canada."
Actually, the government resisted same-sex marriage until the very end, once the Court of Appeal for Ontario changed the common-law definition of marriage. The Liberal Party, unlike Harper, acknowledged reality, realizing that it had run out of credible options. Harper, however, seems unconcerned about credibility. His is a reality based on faith, rather than the laws that command his world and ours.
"It will come as no surprise to anybody to know that I support the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, as expressed in our traditional common law," says Harper. "I believe that this definition of marriage has served society well, has stood the test of time, and is in fact a foundational institution of society."
Again more half-truths from this sleazy tactician. Harper is only quoting a part of the common law definition of marriage. He ignores a portion of the 1866 Hyde definition that said "in Christendom" and "for life", because he knows that our society is not a Christian theocracy, and divorce is now legal. Harper's definition of marriage has not "stood the test of time", as discussed during our marriage case.
"In my view," says the blind faith of Harper,"the onus is on those who want to overturn such a fundamental social institution to prove that it is absolutely necessary, that there is no other compromise that can respect the rights of same sex couples while still preserving one of the cornerstones of our society and its many cultures."
Well, gays and lesbians have more than fulfilled the "onus" by winning case after case in province after province. We won and opponents of equality like Harper lost, denials notwithstanding.
"In a similar vein," Harper says of his half-truths, "former Supreme Court Justice Gérard La Forest, speaking on behalf of four judges [he fails to mention that there were five other judges with a different view] in the majority [wrong - 4 judges makes a minority in a bench of nine] in the Egan decision, the last case by the way where the Supreme Court addressed the definition of marriage ..."
Our marriage case successfully discredited the bizarre tactic of clinging to a minority court opinion. Harper maintains this approach either because he's intellectually lazy or dishonest. In addition, beside the fact Harper quotes from a non-binding minority decision, he also ignores the fact that M v. H, a subsequent case, more expressly supported the rights of gays and lesbians to be spouses of one another, with all the rights and obligations, goods and goals.
"The hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of the government and some of its members at this point is frankly staggering," says Harper.
If Harper was not blinded by his own denial (or ambitions) this statement would be funny, instead of outrageous and disingenuous. Harper seems to think the voter is a bigger fool than he is.
Harper's suggestion is to set Canada back 50 years to when society was still debating the now-discredited idea (see the 1953 case Brown v. Board of Education) of segregation through a separate-but-equal scheme, by creating a recognition regime, like registered domestic partnerships, for gays and lesbians. He ignores that this is an unacceptable solution, already discredited by the jurisprudence, and he ignores the fact that the definition of marriage has already been changed to include gays and lesbians.
Harper is at the barricades, while gays and lesbians have already been to the alter or city hall, and we're now getting on with our lives as full and equal citizens. He's only playing with himself. What a wanker.