05.30.2016 07:11 AM

About that Tory convention, and marriage

It looked like they had a good one – a great one, even.  Even CBC says so.

I have a column about them, and their convention, in today’s Hill Times.  I will have it up on The War Room tomorrow.

In the meantime, allow me to dissent from the joyful chorus about this – the overwhelming vote of CPC delegates to accept equal marriage.

They had to pass a vote about that, you see, because their official policy book actually defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.  To be precise, the party said marriage was, quote: “union between one man and one woman.”

That’s what it said, as recently as 2016 A.D.  Since 2004 A.D., however, marriage has actually been defined differently.  No less than our highest court said so, right here.  After a bunch of provincial Courts of Appeal radically embraced the proposition that that everyone is equal, the feds made a reference to the Supreme Court.  Among other things, the Supremes said:

The mere recognition of the equality rights of one group cannot, in itself, constitute a violation of the rights of another. The promotion of Charter rights and values enriches our society as a whole and the furtherance of those rights cannot undermine the very principles the Charter was meant to foster.

See? Equal means equal.  No one gets hurt.  Gay people are entitled to have free and frequent access to messy divorce actions and custody squabbles, and unrelenting misery, just like the rest of us.

The Conservative Party of Canada – who were the government for most of the years that followed 2004 – refused to go along with that, however.  They continued to say marriage was the union of one guy and one gal. That’s it.  They stubbornly, wilfully refused to accept the change that had been, er, mandated (pun intended) by several Courts of Appeal and one Supreme Court.

They refused to accept the law of the land.

Anyway, this past weekend, they finally did.  Great. I’m happy about that, I guess, but I would have been a lot happier if they had done so, say, a decade ago.  When it was, you know, constitutionalized.

You will forgive me, therefore, for declining to heap praise on the Conservative Party’s weekend decision to go along with the law and the Constitution.  I don’t think anyone should ever get awards for obeying good laws or respecting the Constitution.

Especially, you know, the people who are supposedly lawmakers.





  1. Art says:

    Can’t say I was all that impressed with Michele Remple gushing about how proud she was of her party. She spoke of how they are the party of inclusion and equal rights. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming into these positions for gawds sake. Having said that, I do feel she is one of the more enlightened Conservatives. It will still be some time, I think, before they represent something other than the far right.

  2. albertaD says:

    Well said, Warren.

  3. dean sherratt says:

    Three thoughts…it took the United Church to about 1960 to abandon prohibition. Of course now, it adopts most emerging social policies within minutes of their becoming at all current. Second, it is always difficult to see an issue through another’ eyes. SSM won but also the thinking that went with it which was to describe it in terms of equal rights. I know of very fine people of great compassion who were not in favour of SSM…their opposition was not based on an application of a rights doctrine but other values. It is a fine and enjoyable thing to deride these people for their faulty indeed wicked opposition but taking that approach is simply to ignore the reasons for their opposition. Lastly, the Harper government went 9 years without raising opposition to SSM even if it was CPC Party philosophy. This was part of a much larger desire by the government not to raise issues of the social conservative movement.

    • MgS says:

      1) “is simply to ignore the reasons for their opposition”

      What absolute balderdash. Every reason and objection to SSM was addressed clearly and fully during the 1990s, and it was all based on either ignorance or bigotry on the part of the SoCon crowd. They don’t get my respect because they have used a minority population as a target for as long as I can remember.

      2) “Lastly, the Harper government went 9 years without raising opposition to SSM even if it was CPC Party philosophy. This was part of a much larger desire by the government not to raise issues of the social conservative movement.”

      No, again, I have to challenge that. In terms of official government bills, no, the Harper government did not table any explicitly anti-gay legislation. BUT, and it is a big “but”, there was a steady stream of SoCon legislation and motions tabled from Conservative back-benchers which got a lot of support from the front benches. Further, Harper government policy at various times explicitly attacked policies and programs which have historically been beneficial to LGBT Canadians. This started with the abolition of the Court Challenges Program in 2006, and was reflected time and again during the next 9 years. Whether we are talking about anti-abortion clauses in foreign aid funding, or an explicitly anti-Transgender ID policy for air travel. The government MPs on the Bill C-279 debates (transgender rights) were straight up SoCon talking points – every last one of them, including Rob Anders pandering to the “bathroom panic” BS.

      Harper kept as much of a lid on the SoCon thing as he could because he knew if he acted directly on it, Canadians would rebel. Instead, he chose to throw “the base” red meat through indirect means which most Canadians wouldn’t notice. Time and again it happened over their time in power.

      All that the CPC did on the weekend was catch up to the WildRose Party in Alberta. Instead of explicitly opposing LGBT rights, they just won’t talk about it. Welcome to 1995, CPC. (and that’s being kind given some of the other motions they did adopt – they’re still the party of values circa 1950 for me)

      • dean sherratt says:

        Your response is an excellent example of what I was describing. Managing to ascribe a very diverse demographic or approach to argument and values as entirely ignorance or bigotry is magnificent simplicity.

        Your second point rather challenges itself…One the one hand you confess that the government didn’t table any anti-gay legislation. Well without that any motions, speeches or any number of inwardly evil thoughts are for naught.

        I take most exception to your categorization of the Court Challenges Program which can be even more easily described as a government subsidizing litigation against itself. The government has a duty to respect the constitution…that incudes the BNA Act and the Charter. I have in my career seen the required assessment of legislation presented by this and other governments as rigorous and non-partisan, carried out by quite expert lawyers in the Department of Justice who served the Harper government just as they serve the Trudeau government. That effort properly done is a complete answer to tossing money to groups unable, unwilling or uninterested in funding their own private litigation.

        • MgS says:


          Respectfully, that “diversity of views and values” you are claiming doesn’t look very diverse from where I sit (on the receiving end of the vitriol). I have not yet seen a reasonable objection to SSM that is not rooted in some combination of ignorance and bigotry regarding homosexuality. If you know of one, I’m happy to look at it, but in my entire adult life, I have not seen such an argument made.

          My second point does not “challenge itself”. I have cited a series of actions that took place under Harper which are to one degree or another overtly hostile to LGBT, women and other minority groups. Given that under Harper, nobody in caucus so much as sneezed without his permission, you can’t tell me that he was unaware of those various bills and motions. More to the point, a review of the front bench votes on those items makes it abundantly clear that cabinet directly supported them in most cases. Harper allowed them to go until they became a political liability.

          I would like to refresh your memory regarding the Court Challenges Program. Pierre Trudeau specifically created that program to enable people adversely affected by legislation to challenge it before the supreme court. It was not done out of a “lack of desire” on the part of the affected peoples to raise funds for their case, but out of a recognition that there are people who simply do not have the economic power to raise the kind of money required to pursue a challenge all the way to the SCoC. If you will, it reflected a recognition that the government affects all of Canada’s citizens, not merely those who have the economic means to pursue justice.

          Yes, you are correct that the Department of Justice has a team of legal advisors who should be guiding the creation of legislation with respect to the constitution. As so many of Harper’s laws which have been challenged have demonstrated, the politicians don’t necessarily follow that advice. Further, the court challenges program also reflected the need to recognize that when the current Constitution was enacted in 1983, we brought with us a large amount of existing law which predated the constitution and would be in conflict with it. (e.g. The prostitution laws which were struck down during the Harper years).

          Did the cancelling of the CCP have a detrimental effect on access to justice? I would argue it absolutely did. The peoples most affected are often those with the least economic means in the first place. I would point out to you that it is virtually impossible for the Transgender population to successfully pursue litigation against the government without such a program simply because most transgender people are grossly under-employed (due to discrimination), and the population as a whole is so small that raising the millions of dollars required to pursue a case to the SCoC is impossible. A lack of resources is not the same thing as being unwilling or uninterested – people should not be silenced simply because they lack wealth.

          • The Doctor says:

            A couple of points about the Court Challenges Program:

            1. One thing that its hard-core fans systematically fail to mention is that the CCP, when first proposed, was intended to be a finite program, not an infinite one. Specifically the original rationale for the CCP was that when the Charter came in in 1982-85, Canada did not have a body of Charter jurisprudence. The CCP was intended to essentially pollinate our jurisprudence with initial Charter test cases. Well, it’s been well over 30 years now. We have a perfectly adequate body of basic Charter jurisprudence and precedent covering every aspect of the Charter. So seen in that light, those who argue that we can’t possibly get rid of the CCP are like those Bloc Quebecois MPs who originally said that BQ was just going to be a “temporary” party — but then they got to Ottawa, kind of liked the job and the pensions, and never brought up that “temporary” thing again. I note that the BQ has still not disbanded, some 25+ years later.

            2. As a taxpayer, I pay for my government. I fund it. That means every time somebody sues the government, I fund the government side of that litigation. Under the CCP, we the taxpayers also fund the party suing the government. That means that CCP has us taxpayers funding both sides of government litigation. And this is on top of the legal aid programs that were, and are, already in place, and which I fully support. Legal aid is not funding plaintiff-created litigation. The CCP typically is, and that’s an important difference. So seen in that proper context, there is a very legitimate issue out there as to whether the CCP, some 30+ years on, is something that taxpayers should still be involuntarily funding.

            3. It’s hardly shocking that some of the most vociferous proponents of the CCP are the organizations who get to dip into the fund and the lawyers who get their bills paid by the taxpayers while they get to do prestigious Charter challenge cases. If I were in their shoes, I too would probably think it’s a fabulous program that’s absolutely fundamental the the proper functioning of our democracy, etc.

  4. Peter says:

    They refused to accept the law of the land

    Imagine, a political party resolving to change the law of the land. The horror!

    They made the right decision and got rid of an albatross, but can we please stop talking about the Supreme Court as if they were a font of eternal divine law we little people must genuflect before? The Charter does some great stuff, but too much reverence for the courts ends up deifying one exclusive, very powerful profession.

    • The Doctor says:

      Exactly. Many of these same progressive people who seem to believe in the divine infallibility of the SCC and any decision it makes would turn around on a dime and denounce the USSC’s Citizens United decision as an abomination (which I happen to think it is).

      As far back as the 1980s I remember certain perceptive Canadian legal academics marveling at how certain left-leaning Canadians seem to prefer that we be ruled by 9 enlightened despots rather than the people that Canadians actually vote for. I’m not one of those congenital court or Charter-bashers, but I find it disturbing that a lot of people just seem to check their critical faculties at the door when it comes to our courts and especially Charter decisions.

      • Cory says:

        Well said.

        Those who think the SCC is infallible seem to forget about the Chaoulli decision which pretty much states that the Canadian health care system is contrary to the charter.

        I also find it disturbing that a court could rule that banning assisted suicide is allowable but then 20 years later say it violates the charter because social views have changed. Charter rights aren’t dependent on what is socially popular. Either they existed 20 years ago or they didn’t.

    • Maps Onburt says:

      Well said!

  5. Vancouverois says:

    Whatever the Conservative party platform said, the Conservatives did NOT “refuse to go along with” the new definition of marriage. They held a single vote on whether to re-open the issue – as promised during the campaign – which failed. And then they dropped it.

    And let’s not forget, the Liberal party spent years fighting tooth and nail against all the lower court decisions before 2004 that the 2004 decision merely restated. But I suppose they get a free pass?

    • Warren says:

      Are you actually suggesting this web site gives the Liberals a free pass? Really?

      • Vancouverois says:

        In this case, at least, it appears so.

        Or do you actually condemn the Liberals for having opposed same-sex marriage before 2004, under your boss? Because I don’t see any mention of it in your post above. And if you’re going to criticize the Conservatives on this issue, it should be mentioned.

        The only party that was in favour of same-sex marriage from the beginning was the NDP.

        • smelter rat says:

          Warren, clearly you MUST criticize all parties equally all the time, forever and ever. At least one reader demands it.

          • Vancouverois says:

            Wow. What a pathetic attempt to obfuscate the Liberal Party’s full record on this issue.

            I guess the truth gets in the way of your self-righteous bloviating against the Conservatives, eh? How inconvenient for you.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:


          Fair point. I remember prime minister Paul Martin’s evolution in 2005. It was about then that I also changed my mind, thankfully so.

          • Art says:

            You and many others evolved around then. Many including myself evolved somewhat earlier. The Liberal government was the fourth country in the world to legalize ssm. It is all about evolution. The Conservatives evolve at a much slower rate than most people. Its not a fair point to impugn the Liberals for not evolving faster than the general population as Vancouverois suggested.

  6. julian says:

    god bless you, warren.

    i hope this trend discontinues. getting cookies for denying peoples’ rights and only coming around to reality when it’s unavoidable is sickening.

    climate change deniers under 40 years old will have a tough time late in life not only with extreme weather, but with the long memories of their peers. unfortunately, that too will be too late to redress.

    i wasn’t paying attention, but has the CPC evolved to the point of admitting being wrong all that time?

    • billg says:

      No one’s rights were denied, but, it is a bit embarrassing that it took this long. And, pretty impressive how Stephen Harper kept that wing of the party suppressed for so long.
      As far as climate denying goes, well, you wrote that comment on an oil based product, you ate food today via oil based transportation, and, thanks to the fossil fuels your life is pretty easy, so, either your a hypocrite or climate change denier.
      And, we’re not wrong all the time, we got Free Trade right, and the HST, we just screwed up bad on Gay Marriage.

  7. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Federal parties have a charter don’t they? Doesn’t it fall under Federal Court jurisdiction? And yet, those seeing a clear Charter violation have failed to take it to court. Ball dropping…

  8. Matt says:

    “See? Equal means equal. No one gets hurt. Gay people are entitled to have free and frequent access to messy divorce actions and custody squabbles, and unrelenting misery, just like the rest of us.”


    And none of this small simple marriage ceremony at City Hall bullshit either.

    They should have to stress over finding a church, reception hall, the disappointment of not being able to book them for the day they want and all the other crap straight couples have to go through!

  9. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Caught Kevin O’Leary on BNN. Said he took out a CPC membership and was at the convention. However, he won’t be running for the leadership.

  10. Jon Evan says:

    “This resolution is not about inclusiveness or the value of individuals,” Manitoba MP Ted Falk warned. “This motion is an attack on our values and principles.”
    What is interesting to me about this is I suspect the “values and principles” MP Falk speaks of is the Christian value of marriage as “what God has joined together” as being a man and a woman. This is the Biblical law but very soon God permitted Moses to issue certificates of divorce because marriages invariable broke down. And so mercy supplanted judgement.
    Regarding our gay and lesbian folk our culture is showing itself as more merciful than those professing to follow the God of the Bible who is Himself merciful. Many of the latter decry gay marriage but have no right to decry anything because they themselves require the very mercy they withhold from others. Sad that.

  11. Scotian says:

    These days I do not often agree with you entirely Warren, Kinsella, but here is one of those cases where not only do I, I heartily endorse your comments without reservation and with great enthusiasm! Enough so that I feel no need to add more to it, which given my rather verbose tendencies should in itself underscore the point…*chuckle*.

  12. Cory says:

    I was surprised it was still in there honestly. After the 2006 vote to reopen the issue, which failed, it was pretty much a non-issue for the party.

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