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Christian right leader comes inside

Focus On The Family's Darrel Reid gets plum job

The former head of an ideologically anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-abortion group with connections to the leaders of the US Christian right is the new chief advisor to Canada’s environment minister.

Darrel Reid, head of Focus on the Family Canada from 1998 to 2004 became chief of staff to environment minister Rona Ambrose, the Richmond, BC News reported Sep 29.

Focus on the Family Canada is headquartered in Langley, BC and founded in 1983. It is affiliated with the leading US evangelical Christian group, Focus On The Family headed by James Dobson. Both the Canadian and US chapters are vigorous opponents of gay rights, same-sex marriage, abortion rights and feminism. They advocate for legal recognition of parents spanking their children.

Though the Canadian organization has traditionally enjoyed little influence outside of rural enclaves and evangelical churches, the US parent is seen as a major influence on the Republican Party and politics generally.

The federal Liberal Party and gay activists are unimpressed by Reid’s appointment by the Harper government. In an Oct 3 statement, interim leader Bill Graham called Reid’s appointment an “affront to our democracy.”

In 2003, Reid compared Canada to Nazi Germany for including gays as a protected group under hate crimes laws. In an interview with a Focus Canada publication, Reid voiced disapproval of Canada following Quebec’s “social radicalism.”

“When it comes to marriage, sexual mores and abortion, that’s not reassuring,” Reid is quoted saying.

Graham called on Harper to ask for Reid’s resignation “in the best interests of his government and the best interests of our parliamentary system.”

Gilles Marchildon, executive director of Egale Canada, says Reid “is a man clearly opposed to any kind of social reality outside of the nuclear family. Mr Reid’s appointment is just one more dot that we need to connect and make sure all Canadians know the agenda that’s at play.”

That agenda, says Marchildon, is “to impose the values of the religious right on Canadian society, and it’s too snuff out diversity. [Gays and lesbians, bisexuals and trans] are one of the first targets because we’re among the most easily identifiable groups. But we need to work with other communities that will also be targeted.

The social conservatives in Harper’s government want to establish a clear pecking order in Canada,” says Marchildon. “If you’re the same as them, you get the same rights. If you’re different in any number of ways, you get no protection, or go to the back of the bus.”

Longtime gay-rights activist Tom Warner is writing a book on the Christian right in Canada and their connections to political parties.

“It’s a good thing [Reid] was appointed to the environment ministry and not one where he could implement the Focus on the Family, like Justice,” says Warner. “He’s quite a scary person in terms of what he stands for and the positions he’s staked out.”

Reid spoke at and presented a paper to a conference of the World Congress Of Families several years ago, says Warner. The congress is an international coalition of the most socially conservative churches and aims to take apart the secular state and re-unite the church and state, he says.

After leaving Focus on the Family in 2004, Reid ran as the Conservative candidate in Richmond riding for the 2005 federal election. Defend Marriage (BC) supported his nomination bid. Reid’s campaign focussed on attracting votes from the Chinese and Sikh families by emphasizing opposition to same-sex marriage and promises to get tough on crime, as well as apologize for the head tax put on Chinese immigrants early in the last century. He lost to Liberal candidate Raymond Chan.

During the campaign, Chan accused Reid of using evangelical Chinese ministers to lobby their congregations on his behalf.

“They are organizing the churches,” Chan told the Vancouver Sun Jan 16. “Some of my friends called me last Sunday, saying they are [a] little uneasy about seeing church elders handing out Darrel Reid flyers.

“Someone told me they (the pastors) are urging them to support Reid.”

Reid shut himself off from media access during the campaign. Some charged that the Harper campaign team was hiding him and other social conservatives so that they would not make comments that could hurt the party in more liberal ridings in the country.

Reid was one of four BC candidates in the 2005 election given media scrutiny for their ties to social conservative and religious groups. The others were Cindy Silver, a North Vancouver candidate and former legal staff member for Focus On The Family; Marc Dalton, running in Burnaby, who was a former pastor at a local church; and John Weston, the candidate in the suburban West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, a lawyer who made a name opposing the Nisga’a land claims treaty.

After the election, Reid’s former campaign manager made headlines when he blamed the loss on Jewish-owned media. “The CanWest Global media empire is controlled by a Jewish family (The Aspers of Winnipeg) and they have been the most aggressive family to attack Christians, especially Conservative Christians,” said Robbie Robertson. Reid immediately distanced himself from Robertson and condemned the comments.

Reid was seeking the nomination again for the next federal election when he decided instead to take the Ottawa job. Considering a run at the riding nomination for the Conservatives in Richmond is Brian Rodnick, chair of Concerned Parents of British Columbia, a rightwing lobby group that recently opposed government plans to teach about homosexuality in that province’s public school system.