Toronto
3 min

You can change the name but…

Canadian Alliance spouts the same old hate

WHO'LL WIN? Reform Party leader Preston Manning and charismatic Alberta Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day both oppose gay rights and play up their religious roots. Credit: Xtra files

Alberta’s Preston Manning and Stockwell Day may have talked tolerance in the recent weeks of the Canadian Alliance leadership race. But homos don’t have to dig too deep to run up against their bigoted roots. Not to mention the long-established bigotry in their party, born as Reform and given a name-change to appeal to the wary voters of Ontario.



The election for the top leadership spot will be held in Calgary – during Toronto’s Pride weekend. And trashing gay men and lesbians has become the sport of choice.



First off, the religious right (on a website at www.lifesite.net) attacked Alliance candidate Tom Long, an architect of Ontario Tory Premier Mike Harris’s two election victories, for having homos working in his campaign.



Strategists and spokespeople for front-runners Day and Manning acted quickly to distance their candidates from the fanatics.



“According to Preston Manning, mainstream members of the Canadian Alliance have no time for personal attacks. They believe in the equality, tolerance, the right of all Canadians to pursue equality. He was quite upset about those comments,” says Renee Fairweather.



But many mainstream Alliance members – including Manning himself – have made similar comments in a not-too-distant Reform past.



In a now famous statement from 1991, Manning shared his inner

homophobe with the Vancouver Sun. “Homosexuality is destructive to the individual and in the long run to society,” Manning said.



In a 1997 interview with Xtra, Manning was reluctant to admit that he’d ever made the statement, but did agree that queers might have

trouble supporting his party.



“Our definition of family and marriage does not include homosexual

unions. I’ll be really frank with you, I do not think a gay or lesbian

person would be attracted to the Reform Party because of our policy on sexual politics. For one thing, we haven’t hardly done a lot in that

area, or it’s an area where a lot of our members aren’t comfortable

with. If we were judged solely on the basis of sexual politics, to be

honest, I don’t think people would find us attractive.”



Pastor Manning is not the only Alliance candidate whose ties to the religious right and past actions make him unattractive to dykes, fags and queers of all stripes.



Scarier still is staunchly fundamentalist Christian and former assistant pastor Stockwell Day. Day’s backers include a group called Families For Day which, according to the Toronto Star, is urging

evangelical leaders to get out and vote for their candidate.



Families campaign chair Garry Rohr is eager to sign evangelical Christians up for Canadian Alliance memberships. “More than ever before people of faith are learning how we can have an influence and impact on Canadian politics,” Rohr told the Star. “We want to be at the table in this new party.”



Day’s handlers have been scrambling to dissociate their candidate from the more extreme rightwing groups, including Rohr’s.



Says spokesperson Paul Fitzgerald: “He’s a man who’s very open, tolerant and a good listener. We’ve got everyone from gay libertarians to social conservatives supporting this campaign. He’s a man who has values, but doesn’t impose his views on others.



“It’s one thing to criticize someone because of their publicly expressed views, but it is another thing to target their personal behaviour.”



But Day boasts of his pro-family – a clear code for anti-gay – political record.



While his spokesperson may send a tolerant message to an Xtra

reporter, Day changes his tune when talking to a roomful of

conservative supporters.



“The real intolerance in Canadian society is shown by those who would deny people of faith the right to participate in public life,” Day told members of Civitas on Apr 28. “We are heading in a disturbing direction in this country¬Ö. Our social

policies have not adequately supported marriage and have led to an

increase in illegitimacy.”



Heterosexual marriage is very dear to Day’s heart.



His website proudly lists his record in defending this straight institution – a record that includes calling upon his own Alberta government to invoke the Constitution’s notwithstanding cause to prevent sexual orientation from being included in the province’s human rights code. In the now-infamous Delwin Vriend Supreme Court Of Canada case, the instructor was legally fired from his job at a Christian College simply because he is gay.



Spokesperson Fitzgerald describes his candidate’s views: “Marriage is an institution that’s been defined as being between a man and a woman forever – all political parties agree on that.



“If you think about it, marriage is a place to raise young children, it’s a way for the woman to be supported by the man as she takes care of the children, if you go back to caveman days, that’s where it came from.”