Friday, February 27, 2004

Two Allowable Irreconcilable Views?

Apologies for yet another “blog” on the issue that will not go away (for the moment) - - the debate about the nature of marriage. Since it raises in a clear way the question I want to address, let me return to it again (and it likely won’t be the last time either).

Some say that marriage is all about love between "any two people" and should be open to couples of the same-sex. Others say that marriage in itself exists largely for the care and nurture of children, is exclusively about male/femaleness and cannot be valid if it involves two people of the same-sex. Neither of these two viewpoints understands the other or, if they do, they do not agree.

People from the first group cannot convince those of the other group and vice versa. The arguments pass like ships in the night because of the different starting assumptions. So, the question (for me and others concerned with the nature of contemporary society) is: "O.K. so on this issue (as on many others as well) we have citizens who don't believe the same things. Since both sets of beliefs can be made publicly, when we fundamentally disagree about something, how do we live together?

Before moving on to make a point about public schools, we need to look quickly at the underlying point about “both sets of beliefs being acceptable.” There are some in the “same-sex community” who are waging a holy war (for they are fundamentalists) against those who disagree with them. They are pushing their campaign for “welcome” (see earlier blogs on that term) in court case after court case after court case in which institutions (Trinity Western University), elected officials (Mayor Haskett of London, Ontario, the elected Trustees of Surrey School Board etc.), individuals (Printer Scott Brockie of Toronto and lately teacher Chris Kempling of BC) have been sued for not supporting “same-sex visibility” (to use the most general sort of claim) in one form or another.

So it is not so clear that the "traditional viewpoint," even if respectfully put forward, is considered by one side an acceptable viewpoint. The “traditionalists”, if we wish to call them that, are not suing to shut down the “same-sex” viewpoints. The litigation is all one way at the moment, fuelled, not just by the Zeitgeist, but also by the funds that are available only to those on the “new” side of the “new equality challenges.”

Tradition, by definition, is not “new” and so is always at a disadvantage when the funding is looking only to further change. Printer Scott Brockie, by the way, as was made abundantly clear in court when he succesfully got the over-reach of the Ontario Human Rights Commission struck down, had not lacked in respect or courtesy when he simply refused to print materials for a Gay and Lesbian group. No one considered Mayor Diane Hasket of London “disrespectful” in how she conducted herself as mayor when she refused to proclaim “gay pride day” in London a few years ago and was found in breach of Human Rights legislation as a result of it. The same with those at Trinity Western University. They had not acted in obnoxious ways, it was just that their viewpoints, perfectly (now) legal viewpoints, were detested by the “new” challengers who sought to shut them down and drive them from a full role in our society.

Respectful opposition is being stigmatized increasingly as "homophobic" "heterosexist" "hateful" etc. and lumping in perfectly acceptable viewpoints (with which they vehemently disagree) with the kind of genuinely nasty and unacceptable actions of a few people who are lacking in the respect and tolerance appropriate to other citizens. It is the lumping together of the two things that is so dangerous.

Hate is an emotion or feeling and crimes are actions. It is actions we rightfully seek to repress by law. When law seeks to suppress feelings or valid (if disputed) expressions then we have gone beyond what the law should cover. This will be the subject of another blog. The point is this: we should not weaken our concern about criminal conduct by calling acceptable opposition (with which we might not agree) “hate crimes.” Remember the little boy who called “wolf?” By calling things that are not crimes - - crimes, we will weaken the respect we have for law so as to better to respond to genuine crimes when they do occur. In addition, by creating laws that are wide open to abuse we risk giving a hammer-hand to those who might wish to abuse ill-founded laws by bringing challenges just to “chill” the opposition. Can an objective observer of Canada’s litigation history over the past few years say that such challenges are not already amongst us? Hardly.

Just how do we accommodate divergent beliefs? That is what it is really all about and what we at the Centre are interested in. Court experiences on the "same-sex marriage cases" have shown that neither side can convince the other, that litigation is a win/loss game that nobody actually wins (society is the loser) and that we have to move to arguments about "how we live together and on what principles.”

On marriage that means re-thinking the public dimension of marriage (see our last newsletter Centrepoints 11 for a discussion about whether Canada should consider “civil unions”). These questions need to be addressed much more than they are at the moment - - by all sides of the issue. On education that means re-thinking the content of public education in light of divergent beliefs (with sex as with religion - - see a recent Blog on the point); again, both sides need to rethink this.

CENTREBLOG Volume 18
Iain T. Benson©

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Constitutional Questions:

It appears http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30326-2004Feb10.html as if President Bush is supportive of an amendment to the US Constitution so as to preserve marriage as between one man and one woman. Whatever one thinks of his reasoning, he is showing leadership on a hot issue of the day. How very American.

Why don't Canadians begin asking what the Canadian Government will do if the Supreme Court rules, as did the Massachusetts Court recently, that "same-sex marriage" is required by the Constitution?

We have democratic options that keep the debate alive and don't write it in stone, as does a Constitutional amendment. The Supreme Court, in Canada, unlike the US Supreme Court need not have the last word. Canadians have another option: Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which allows a law (or laws) to continue in effect "notwithstanding" a judicial decision to the contrary.

Such a declaration has requirements for it to be passed properly and must be renewed from time to time meaning that the "debate" remains on the political stove-top.

And, by the way, on the question of the nature of marriage, a Section 33 declaration could go in either direction.

For example, if the Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian Constitution does NOT require same-sex marriage, the Federal Government (by a narrow margin a majority of currently sitting M.P.'s, with a large number of abstentions, indicated they do not support traditional marriage) could invoke Section 33 to allow same-sex marriages anyway.

They could also, if the Supreme Court decides that the Canadian Constitution DOES require same-sex marriage, invoke Section 33 to keep same-sex marriage illegal anyway.

The last word is not the Courts. That is reassuring and allows for matters that are as fundamentally contested as the nature of marriage to be kept alive for debate and analysis. In a country as massively avoidist and apathetic as Canada that might be a good thing eh? Mind you, if we don't care then the final word will be the Courts and Canadians will just have to consider then who does run the country.

CENTREBLOG Volume 17
Iain T. Benson©



Friday, February 20, 2004

On (not) Meeting With Conrad Black

Conrad Black and his relationship with various emanations of Hollinger Corp. are everywhere in the British papers and journals these days. It reminded me of the time I once phoned Conrad Black from Riyadh about five years ago after I had given some lectures there and was about to fly to London. I thought that phoning his London office from an exotic location might prove the key to tweaking his interest in a meeting - - I had tried, unsuccessfully to arrange meetings before from both Vancouver and Toronto. That attempt, alas, failed.

It is tough not being on the A list or perhaps even the B or C list (one doesn't know how many lists these very, very rich folks have) of such a person.

A few years earlier the Centre had tried to contact Jimmy Pattison, another one of these billionaire tycoons to try and arrange a meeting with him in Vancouver. We had the same resounding lack of success with him, or, rather, his gatekeeper, as I had with Lord Black. Perhaps if the Centre was Pentecostal and had projects related to trumpet playing (or other brass instruments) we might have had a chance with Pattison?

In both cases those employed to "gate keep" did a complete job and the drawbridges remained up. To this day neither I nor any of the Centre's fund-raising people have met Jimmy Pattison.

Only once did I meet Conrad Black - - after a talk he gave in Vancouver a few years ago.

During that witty and intelligent lunchtime address - - far and away the best lunchtime talk I have heard in many years, he spoke of his reasons for starting the National Post.

One phrase from that talk was particularly memorable (the quotation is from memory). Lord Black said that he had wanted "to introduce some other sounds into the hermetically-sealed echo chamber that was Canadian journalism." Brilliant and bang on. Jean Chretien's pettiness in refusing to allow Conrad Black the honours he was offered in the UK is just another example of the small-mindedness of Canadian politics and the centralized and unaccountable power of the Chretien PMO's office. Time will tell whether anything has changed under the new administration.

Once the National Post was launched, for a few years Canadians did not have to read every day the same kind of predictable one-sided commentary that dominated the Globe and Mail and have dominated so much of the CBC. It has been wisely noted that, as a general rule, when the Globe and Mail carries some conservative article you can just about guarantee that it is a lousy article. The number of friends of mine who have written excellent pieces that the Globe would not touch are legion. Not so the National Post, it gave a real voice to many who were, for years in the frozen wastes of Canada, voiceless. For that Lord Black has earned all our thanks.

Now it appears that Conrad Black is on the ropes. Many of the British papers are carrying stories about his business troubles and his wife, Barbara Amiel's, spending habits. Some stories suggest that her extravagance (over 100 pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes for example - - at over $1,000 per pair and around 20 of the "Martha Stewart" Hermes bags at about $7,000 each - - and homes in all the expensive centres - - New York, Palm Beach -- the latter of which is on the market for 36 million) and his removal of large amounts of cash from his companies, led to his current problems. Who can say?

But one thing is clear. None of his money came to the Centre for Cultural Renewal in exchange for a tax receipt. I think, in part, this is because there is a real problem with being very, very rich. One never knows whether those who approach one are doing so for genuine reasons or for reasons only relating to ones' wealth. Like celebrity, wealth can be a tremendous disaster for the self and cuts one off from normal human exchange. Just look at the many rich and famous people whose lives implode because they cannot handle being themselves in a world where their images are larger than life.

Rich and famous people come, too readily, to believe their own propaganda or reputations and that can be a tremendous disability. Lord Black's wife, Barbara, is quoted as saying "my extravagance knows no bounds". Just as kings used to go about dressed as commoners many of today's rich and famous ought to spend more time doing their own research about what matters in the world and rely less on those "gate-keepers" who screen out the worthy things from their attention. Lord Black is reputed to have asked "since when is greed a crime?" He may have to find out the hard way.

Our fundraising has more or less given up on tycoons of the A list. Those on the B and C list have proven the most faithful in supporting the Centre and many other projects that rely on the generous and charitable support of individuals. One wonders how many charities, like us, depend on those less famous folks because the more famous ones are giving to the "safe bets?" and the less famous ones are the only ones with time to actually do the necessary research? I know that Banks, for example, will never give unless one represents Breast Cancer or some AIDS charity - -yawn.

It is a pity that so many of the very, very rich have become so very, very inaccessible.

CENTREBLOG Volume 16
Iain T. Benson©

Cheers for the Catholics and EFC

Here is a copy of a Press Release we just received.

The OCCB [Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops] calls on the Ontario Government to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code

The Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops supports the appeal of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada for support by the Ontario government for the rights of faith groups and their clergy concerning the solemnization of marriage. The solemnization of marriage is a matter of provincial jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution.

“For Roman Catholics, it is the right of the Church as a whole, not just individual priests or deacons, to ensure that Catholic marriages are between partners of the opposite sex. We expect the Ontario Government to support this religious right,” said Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe, President of OCCB. “We, therefore, call upon the Ontario government to amend the Human Rights Code accordingly,” he added.

The OCCB also expects protection for the right of churches and religious organizations to control the use of facilities and services for only those purposes which conform to doctrine and established practice. This is a simple matter of freedom of religion.

The Bishops and the EFC are absolutely correct. At a time when the juggernaut of “beyond tolerance” is driving towards the massive intolerance of its new sexual dogmatism, the Catholics and the EFC are absolutely correct to seek legislative protection.

Lets hope that the Ontario government has sufficient courage to do what is required by the principles of justice.

The new anti-democratic and anti-religious forces are abroad in the land and it is necessary to start building the stockade……

CENTREBLOG Volume 15
Iain T. Benson©

Tolerance to Transformative Change

The Juggernaut of “Beyond Tolerance” Hosts a Conference: Let’s hear it for “Transformative Change”

Those interested in the phenomenon of the “beyond tolerance” movement (see also earlier Blog: January 21, 2004 “The Difference Between Tolerance and Welcome") might be interested in the following online call for papers issued by a Canadian Journal for Queer Studies by two professors from the University of Toronto.

It was just sent to us by an alert reader in England and more or less speaks for itself. It is interesting to note that from the list of “other forms of oppression” – anti – religion is not mentioned! It was Huey Long (1893-1935) Louisiana governor and U.S. senator who said, “When fascism comes to America it will come in the name of democracy.” Here is the online advert for the conference….

Canadian Online Journal of Queer Studies in Education

Call for Papers
Issue 1: Inventing the Queer Classroom

The first issue of the Canadian Online Journal of Queer Studies in Education welcomes all submissions related to the theme, 'Inventing the Queer Classroom'. From primary to graduate education, we want to hear about the experiences of students, professors, teachers, and staff challenging homophobic and heterosexist theory and practice in academia. In particular, we invite submissions examining queer discourse in various disciplines, methods of teaching queer topics in different educational contexts, and ideas for shifting from a discourse of tolerance to one of transformative change. [Emphasis added] In your work, we challenge you to consider how queer oppression intersects with other forms of oppression (i.e., sexism, racism, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism, etc.) and how we can form alliances with others who are committed to eliminating oppression from education. Together, we can strategize to create queer-positive classroom environments and anti-oppressive discourse in every discipline at all levels of education.

Some will welcome, some will fear but how very, very queer to the democratic ear!

CENTREBLOG Volume 14
Iain T. Benson©

Thursday, February 19, 2004

First Things and Second Rate Things

Reading this month’s issue of the journal First Things, I could not but help but marvel afresh at the level of writing, the coverage of topics, the breadth of scholarship and the sheer wit it contains. It is, far and away, the finest religion and public life journal available anywhere today in the English language - - nothing even comes close.

It is surprising how many religious adherents consider themselves fairly well informed on contemporary issues related to religion and culture when, on investigation, all they seem to read is the thin gruel of some of the more popular publications that flood the market. Garbage in, sadly, equals, all too often, garbage out and for those interested enough to still read (a shrinking group so we are told) it is a shame how much good time is spent reading inadequate materials.

A sense of delicacy precludes mentioning these thin potations by name yet they seem to be widely read despite their commercialism and (usually) lack of depth. We in our house have cancelled our subscriptions to one after another of these journals over the years finding that they simply didn’t justify the time to read them or the cost of subscriptions.

Many of these magazines seem to try to make up for a lack of insightful content by sentimentally sweet longing for “the good old days” with a significant amount of glitzy advertizing to boot. They give the impression that they are getting at the issues of the day when, in fact, they are not: they serve, really, only to distract from distraction by distraction (to use T.S. Eliot’s memorable phrase).

Here, readily available on the net if not elsewhere, we have a superb journal that raises many of the key cultural questions of our day on a wide and honest basis - - yet there are still many who can’t be bothered to check it out. I know leaders in various Christian organizations in Canada, for example, who, when asked if they read First Things, still haven’t heard of it yet much less read it!

For a person who claims to be interested in the important connections between religion and culture not to have heard of First Things (much less read it) is a sign of a serious problem of cultural disconnection.

Of course, it isn’t a requirement to be a thinking Christian or Jew that one read a particular book or journal but the kind of sub-cultural insulation that permits this kind of ignorance (for there is no other word for it when what we are discussing is the best available journal of its type) is a depressing and worrying sign of the times. If we are not aware of the intellectual resources that ought to inform the very debates within which we are involved, how useful, accurate and well-informed can our work really be? Yes, time is limited, yes subscriptions cost but neither of these excuse leaders being uninformed.

Ask your favourite leader if they read First Things? If they don’t, ask him/her why not and then ask them what he/she does read. The answers might be illuminating.

For our part at the Centre we have always sought to push the important fact that is First Things. To be sure, its focus is generally on things American but not entirely so and the themes it raises in relation to issues within the US of A are usually relevant above the 49th as well and the editor, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who was born in the Ottawa valley, has never lost his interest in what is going on in Canada and not infrequently comments on things up here. The journal contains commentary from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and other writers and has, not infrequently, invited opponents of religion (such as Stanley Fish) to write as well.

Sadly, there is not (and never will be) a Canadian equivalent to First Things. We do not have the kind of vibrant cultural debate up here (nor the money) to generate and support such a journal. When such ventures have been started, they have failed for lack of financial viability (and here one can only point to the late, lamented Idler, as an example of something similar in Canada though that wasn’t devoted, as First Things is, to religion and culture).

Fr. Neuhaus’ own contribution to each issue of First Things - - “The Public Square” contains about the most insightful, amusing and consistently intelligent commentaries on matters pertaining to religion and culture that can be found anywhere and many people buy the journal for that alone. Twice people have said to me that they don’t read First Things because it is a “neo-con” journal. Neither have been able to define for me what they mean by a neo-conservative much less why they consider the journal the organ of such a movement. It isn’t. Conservative yes, orthodox, yes. But make up your own mind.

I am not being rosy-glassed here. There are things about it that drive me crazy - - such as their continual misuse of the term “secular” when they use the phrase “religion AND the secular” and I have been unable to get any letters on this point into the Journal so far (I’ve sent two). I shall keep trying.

The people at First Things send out free issues and have a favourable student rate. Have a look at past issues on their website: www.firstthings.com and, subscribe! It is good to see that there are ROFTERS (readers of First Things) groups starting up across the States. Not long ago I got a note asking if I knew of any ROFTERS in Winnipeg (I didn’t).

So lets hope that the readership grows in Canada too. And, no, I wasn’t asked to write any of this but do so out of a sense of indebtedness for all I have gleaned from its pages over the years and no doubt will in the future.

CENTREBLOG Volume 13
Iain T. Benson©

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

French Lunicity Watch

February 10, 2004 the French Parliament voted 494 to 36 to bring in a law (effective September 2004) that will ban “ostensible” religious symbols in public schools. Gone will be (or so they think) all those nasty intolerant signs of beliefs such as Jewish yarmulkes, Christian medallions and crosses and, above all, offensive Muslim veils. Leaving in place all those signs of unbelief such as Nike t-shirts etc. (you’ve read the argument: see earlier blogs).

Today the French television carried yet another interesting bit of news; the resurgence of (wait for it) “Republican Baptisms.” Yes, its true, children being taken before the Mairies (mayors) and actually “baptized” (that is the term they use) into the State!

How wonderful. What was, following the Revolution, set up expressly as an attack on Catholicism, is now making a comeback as an affirmation of how much one loves ones’ State.

Now there is nothing wrong with love of ones’ country. A certain amount of devotion to where one lives is a good thing as long as it is part of a greater and more balanced devotion necessary to seeing the benefits and limits of ones’ own land.

But the French idea, that the State is something Divine such that one can be, as with Christianity, “baptized into” it is, frankly, bizarre! What’s next; marrying the State? “Do you, Pierre, take the Pyrenees Atlantique to be your bride from this day forth…?” Just imagine consummation! Who said “gay marriage” was troublesome!

Watch this spot as things unfold. Me I’m off for a hot date with a saucy little village down the road.

CENTREBLOG Volume 12
Iain T. Benson©

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Faithful Claude Ryan

News came this weekend of the recent death of Claude Ryan. Other obituaries will note his many contributions to the public life of Canada. Here I would like to note a few observations about the man for the record.

Apart from his encouragement to the Centre, which meant a great deal to us, he was a wonderful example of what is sorely needed in Western Countries today - - people who know how to link their religious faiths with their public actions.

Mr. Ryan spoke twice for the Centre in recent years. First as a responder to Professor Marvin Olasky the Centre's first Hill Lecturer in 2001 and more recently, in October 2002 at the Centre/McGill Conference where he was on a panel "Religion in Canada Today" with Preston Manning and Paul Reed.

He was a wise and knowledgeable Catholic layman. At home with the works of John Henry Cardinal Newman or various Encyclicals on Catholic Social thought, he was the embodiment of one who spent his time doing and trying to contribute to both his Church and the society within which he lived. He did a great deal for Quebec and for Canada. On the personal level those of us who knew him will never forget him.

On one occasion, hilarious as I recall, he drove me to the airport in Montreal and we laughed all the way there as he told me story after story of those in high office he had known over the years. One story dealt with when he was editor of Le Devoir and was visited by a hopeful "young man" who said to M. Ryan that he was "considering going into politics".

Mr. Ryan chuckled his deep chuckle and told me that after speaking with the man for about 45 minutes, he considered that the person had no particularly outstanding traits but that he told him "well, go into politics, I don't think you will go far, but it cannot do any great harm".

That man was Jean Chretien! Oh, how Claude Ryan laughed as he recounted that story. Ironically the airport he drove me to, we missed the turnoff as I recall, eliciting another laugh from M. Ryan, is now called Pierre Trudeau airport. In my view it would have been more fitting had it been named after Claude Ryan- - a more worthy representative of his Church and society.

Perhaps I will be forgiven for relating a very personal reminiscence. At Mass at McGill's superb Newman Centre some years ago, Mr. Ryan and I sat side by side. It is the custom of that student Mass that, at the recital of the Lord's Prayer, those at the Mass join hands.

Mr. Ryan and I held hands and I was struck by his hand for it was strong, as befits a person who has worked hard all his life. He betrayed no embarrassment at this new and affectionate addition to the liturgy. Of him it can be said that his life was lived to the full and in his death he will, if what he and many of us believe is true, go to join his late wife of whom he could never speak without his own eyes misting.

May he rest in peace. I was told that after his diagnosis - - when he was told his cancer was inoperable, he matter-of-factly got about the business of seeing that his work continued. His name shall certainly be remembered when we reflect on those who gave us examples of how to use our time well.

CENTREBLOG Volume 11
Iain T. Benson©

Monday, February 02, 2004

Government Inconsistent on Marriage

Never comfortable with defending "traditional" heterosexual-only marriage, the Federal Government has shown its ambivalence in a most extraordinary series of manoeuvres in the last year or so. It is important for those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the marriage challenge cases to realize that we are in the process of witnessing the most monumental change in strategy by that government and its legal advisors. The Federal Government was the main Respondent in the various marriage cases that came through the courts in BC, Ontario and Quebec over the last few years.

In the litigation that challenged the traditional definition of marriage, the Provincial Attorneys General generally tried to avoid taking any position either way. The Federal Government, on the other hand, assembled a huge "record" of Affidavit materials from many leading scholars in law, anthropology, history and sociology.

The position that the Federal Government lawyers originally took was that marriage should stay male and female. When they lost at trial in Ontario they appealed. When they won in British Columbia they again took the position on appeal that marriage should remain male and female.

Then the two Courts of Appeal (BC then Ontario) determined that the common law recognition of marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman was unconstitutional. Rather than appeal, the Federal government essentially "threw in the towel" and chose not to appeal. It decided, illogically, to pose a Marriage Reference that while it looked like another way of getting at the same issues, was actually a complete reversal of its earlier position defending male and female marriage.

By so doing, the Federal Attorney General, acting under instructions from the Government, decided that the Supreme Court of Canada would not hear its arguments on heterosexual marriage. They decided that the vast and expensive body of evidence assembled, would not be before the Supreme Court of Canada.

What they then did was to decide that they would ask a few questions to the Supreme Court of Canada about "same-sex marriage". Not whether "same-sex marriage" was permissible, but assuming it was required and whether and to what extent is was a matter of federal or provincial jurisdiction and whether religious officials could refuse to perform same-sex marriages because of their rights to religious freedom in the Charter.

So what happened, in effect, was that the Attorney General deliberately forestalled the normal court process. The careful and expensive affidavits would be buried forever and the Supreme Court of Canada would be asked to bless "same-sex marriage" without the highest court being asked about other alternatives (heterosexual only marriage and/or civil unions to name two). That is what has occurred.

Recently, the new Justice Minister has decided to add a question dealing with the substance of the original court application - - the Court will now be asked an additional question: could a "heterosexual only" marriage standard survive Charter scrutiny is now a question that will be put before the Court. This is a good thing.

But note what will be missing from the litigation before the Supreme Court - - unless an application is made to enable materials to be used from the earlier litigation (such applications happen in the courts to enable affidavits from one proceeding to be used in another proceeding) the extensive record from the earlier proceedings will be missing and there is no discussion of a "third way" such as whether the State should be in the marriage business at all.

Note that the notion of "civil marriage", such as that before the Supreme Court, drives a wedge between "religious marriages" and the State -- as if there is some sort of State marriage that is a higher value than those of religions.

Some think that "civil unions" which do not focus on sexual behaviour might be the more "neutral" way of approaching the whole question but the same-sex advocates and some religious people oppose this.

Time will show whose approach would have been best but it is interesting that the Government does not want to put this question before the Supreme Court despite its claim to have all the options discussed by Canadians.

A recent (January 30th) in-house question and answer document prepared for the Liberals says that a "civil unions" model would "deprive all Canadians of marriage recognition". What nonsense! It would only mean that State recognition would not turn on "marriage" and for most religious people the State's recognition is irrelevant in any case! Again, it is the same-sex community that wishes to insist on State recognition.

Civil unions would allow a State not to focus on "marriage" for Federal benefits and the category of "civil unions" could be extended to all citizens in dependent relations and need not focus on sexual relationships only or at all. Same-sex advocates do not like "civil unions" as they consider that they do not recognize same-sex sexuality which is what that group wishes to have publicly recognized.

In short, Canada is not approaching the marriage question fairly and openly so as to get the matter properly dealt with. The question recently added by the new Justice Minister, while a step in the right direction, does not deal either with the question of "civil unions" nor the missing record of affidavits used by the lawyers before the BC, Ontario and Quebec courts. All Canadians should note the following.

What will the Federal lawyers say about the new question (heterosexual marriage only)? Will they "shoot it from behind" and say that a heterosexual only definition of marriage is unconstitutional? Somehow they decided that their original position (defending male/female marriage) was wrong! What changed?

Did they stumble upon some new metaphysics in the night? Perhaps it was left unseen under one of their lawyers' own desks having been lost in the months of preparation and perhaps millions of dollars spent getting expert opinions from around the world? Or perhaps it was the sheer brilliance of the Ontario and BC Court of Appeal decisions that convinced the Federal lawyers and their Government handlers? Hardly.

The change of view that will now be put before the Supreme Court of Canada by the Federal lawyers will represent perhaps the most stunning "about face" in recent litigation history and gives further evidence, if such evidence were needed, about how Canada's ship of State is not being steered by any proper tiller of principle but by the direction in which the bow happens to be pointing at the moment. Political expediency, c'est nous.

Not the best form of navigation but the one we seem to be using in Canada. When the case finally gets heard before the Supreme Court of Canada there will be a lot of arguments to be sure but one wonders what it will have to do with law as we used to know it.

CENTREBLOG 10
Iain T. Benson©