Now that Stephen Harper has adopted former PM Jean Chrétién as his role model — we all worried Harper would be a socially conservative ideologue when it turns out he’d rather be a Machiavellian powermonger — let’s look more closely at Canada’s new Justice Minister Vic Toews.
Toews’ political life has been so focussed on sex, you have to wonder what private wound he’s trying to balm with his public pronouncements. The man seems prepared to use his cabinet position — the one entrusted with protecting the human rights of Canadians — as personal therapy. Name an aspect of sexuality that attracts paranoia and you’ll find that Toews has made narrow-minded public statements about it.
As Manitoba justice minister, Toews introduced legislation in 1998 that allowed police to seize vehicles used in connection with prostitution. “Prostitution is a blight on our neighbourhoods and exploits young people and children,” Toews said, as he pushed sex work out of cars and into alleyways. So beneficial for exploited children! For the past couple of years a parliamentary committee has been examining how sex laws can be reformed to make things safer for prostitutes. I can imagine Toews’ first meeting with its members: “Thanks for all your work on sex-law reform, my dear MP Libby Davies — now get your woman-lovin’ ass out of here!”
It was no surprise that one of Toews’ first statements as federal justice minister was his intention to raise the age of consent to 16 from 14. It’s long been a fantasy of his to criminalize sexually active youth. “We’re becoming a sex tourism destination for Americans because of our low age-of-consent laws,” Toews said in 2005. Uh, what about our new exploitation law that’s worded with such vagueness that any relationship with a minor could be considered by a judge to be exploitative?
Toews has also been a big advocate of sex offender registries, some of which are open-ended enough to include gay men who are charged for committing indecent acts while having consensual adult sex.
When Parliament passed Bill C-250 in 2004, adding sexual orientation to the list of characteristics protected from hate speech, Toews was the most vocal opponent, the one who railed about how religious speech would be targeted. During the debate he directed personal attacks against openly gay, former MP Svend Robinson, saying Robinson “puts the jackboot of fascism on the necks of our people…. His ideology is fascism and not free speech.”
I needn’t quote Toews on his opposition to same-sex marriage — he’s really, really, really against it. Probably on principle, but also probably because most courts say equal marriage is mandated in the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms and, for Toews, whatever the courts say is bad.
As a keynote speaker at a national pro-life conference in Winnipeg in 2004 (yes, you read that right), Toews quoted a Focus On The Family poll (yes, you read that right, too) while speaking out against the Charter.
“We all acknowledge that the Charter was going to restrict the operation of government in some way,” Toews is quoted as saying. “However the extent to which the courts have, on their own accord, stretched the cloth of their own policy initiatives suggests apparent policy agenda of their own. In consequence some of the decisions the courts are making have taken on a decidedly political tone.”
The Charter restricts government operations? Which ones? Operations to discriminate against minorities? To target them? To round them up in trucks and drive them to the far north?
You could argue that Toews is so out to lunch, he’ll do more damage to the Harper minority government than any opposition and will play a big part in ensuring the short life of this Conservative government.
But this is a justice minister who wouldn’t know justice if it spat in his face. With his homophobic baggage coupled with his ignorance of the law and effective social policy, he’s an embarrassment of perhaps international proportions.
Toews should be stripped of his portfolio immediately. He’s not fit to be justice minister.