I think it was the “God Bless Canada” that caused me to have a double-take.
It pretty much snapped my head right around when I heard Stephen Harper finish off his speech last month with the phrase.
Granted, he was talking to a bunch of tedious holy-rollers who’d gathered on the steps of Parliament to literally pray that marriage remain the domain of the terminally heterosexual. They ranted, they sang along with a sad Christian rock band to the newly penned lyrics, “One man, one womaaaan.”
And their leaders – of multiple faiths – crowed about how this nation was moving from one under God to one inviting the wrath of same.
Ho hum. Same old shit, and in smaller than expected numbers, too. Far fewer religious minorities, visible minorities than organizers had predicted. And after a months-long national campaign trying to drum up coast-to-coast fury against those pushy radical homosexualist activists and their whores in government.
And then came Harper and his all-too-predictable speech about how they can stop the legislation. Yeah, sure they can, muttered some among the small group of gays and lesbians staging a far more playful and colourful counter-protest before peacefully heading off for coffee.
And then Harper brought the blessing of God down upon Canada. And I was smitten.
Well, actually, I was whiplashed.
Such an obvious transgression of the alleged line between Church and State caused me to pirouette right there on the hallowed lawn of Parliament – not a particularly graceful sight for a large grizzly bear like me to impose on anyone nearby.
“God Bless Canada.” He really said that. A Canadian heading the second-largest party in Parliament. The leader of the Opposition. A man who frankly has a better than 50 per-cent chance of leading this country someday soon.
My generation’s not used to this. It seemed so very out of time. My generation tried to grow up living in the Trudeau years. We tried to fight off cynicism growing paunchy in the Chretien years. Those years were better for some than for others. But never would the words “God Bless Canada” escape the lips of those leaders who had fought against the Catholic Church’s stifling authoritarianism in the Quebec prior to 1960.
But now Monsignor Harper waits in the wings.
Weeks, maybe days, perhaps hours from an election call. God at his side. An unmistakable faith in his own unerring correctness in his heart. Ontario-born this man, but more comfortable by far with the intellectual and moral rigidity of a certain kind of Westerner.
Harper told that oh-so-believing crowd that they could stop same-sex marriage. We all laughed. The Liberals had it all under control, so many of us thought.
It’s a done deal, I was told by at least three of Ottawa’s hard-core politicos over separate coffee meetings in the days after I moved to Ottawa for this job. And Harper will never be Prime Minister, two of them added.
But I can smell change in the air. I’ve smelled that smell before. In 1993. People older than me find themselves casting back to 1957 for a closer match. John Diefenbaker taking on the corrupt, tired, autocratic Liberal machine of Louis St Laurent. Sure, Diefenbaker had style and oodles of personality. Harper has merely additional decades of Liberal arrogance and almost daily unproven accusations of mind-boggling arrogance with the public purse. It might just make up for Harper’s yawn-inducing disposition.
In which case, we’d all better get ready for a battle for our rights that our opponents will cast in terms of biblical proportions. When God gets called into Parliament, he’s seldom there to help the outcast.