Thursday, May 13, 2010

On The Christian Right In Canada

Firstly, I should say that I haven't yet read Marci McDonald's The Armageddon Factor, but I have read the original Walrus article upon which it is based, and I've followed many of smartest writers on the intersection of Pulpit and Politics that Canada possesses. Furthermore, over the course of the years I myself have written frequently and extensively on many of the same people that appear in the pages of Ms. McDonald's book.

So, that said, when it comes to her main contention: that the Christian Right is "on the rise" in Canada, I have to conclude with Mr. Brian Lilley. It isn't, really:

While McDonald details the organizations that these two and others work with, she really fails to make the case that they are having an impact on government policy. There is an attempt to link the Universal Child Care Benefit which pays parents $100 per month for each child under six to the religious right by showing that social conservatives supported it. That's hardly a stellar case. She also attempts to show failures such as the Unborn Victims of Crime bill and an attempt to restrict government funding to some films, as victories for these socially conservative Christians.

Yet ask social conservatives what they have been given by this government and they are hard pressed to think of much since the cancellation of the court challenges program in 2006. Even the G8 maternal health initiative, controversial with some for not including abortion has not changed overall government policy, a point made clear by Margaret Biggs when the deputy minister at the Canadian International Development Agency testified before a Commons committee recently.

Yes, Charles McVety gets an inordinate amount of face-time with the current Prime Minister; and yes it is infuriating that whether or not the Toronto Pride celebration gets federal funding depends on bible-waving hill-folk like Saskatoon—Humboldt MP Bradley Trost. But Mr. Lilley is correct in noting that the quality of the Christian Right's "victories" has been very poor, consisting largely of private members' bills that failed or were never voted upon, and tiny sums shaved here and there from organizations that will survive the cuts, and whose funding can be restored at the stroke of a pen when Harper and his gang are finally sent packing.

Let's walk through a concrete example: take the Maternal Health initiative that the Conservative government intends to unveil at June's G-8 summit, and particularly the kerfuffle over their refusal to fund abortion in that initiative.

How big a victory is this for the Christian Right?

Well, as I've explained previously, the Canadian position on the face of it is simply not acceptable to our G-8 allies. Secretary of State Clinton's intervention back in March made that abundantly clear. But there is room for compromise, and the compromise that seems very likely to emerge in June is as follows: Harper will propose a "framework" for action on Maternal Health, with this framework being divided into discreet little pots (as it were) named names like "training health care workers", "contraception" "safe abortions", "micro nutrients", and so forth. G-8 countries will be invited to drop money into one or more of these pots, with Canada assiduously avoiding the one marked "abortions".

But here's the point: abortion will still get funded--it will still be one of items contained within the framework. In fact, you could probably argue that Canada will still fund it, at least indirectly, as who can say where a dollar originally placed within pot labelled "micro-nutrients" will finally wind up? The "victory" here is merely the construction of an elaborate artifice to cover over these two facts, to make the government's capitulation to the G-8 majority a little less obvious to its supporters within the Christian Right , or at least easier for them to swallow.

And that's the kind of victory you get in lieu of something more substantial that your "Christian Friendly" government is politically unable to give you. It is surely not a sign of increasing influence; if anything, it is a sign of the sharp constraints placed upon this government's ability to please its TheoCon supporters.

So I'm afraid I am not as worried as Ms. McDonald.

33 comments:

Holly Stick said...

You are blinded by the legislation, and you missed some there, like ending the gun registry which helps protect women from domestic murder. Instead look at where they have cut funding and at the people they have appointed to boards who decide where the funding will go. Always remember that the Minister of Science is a creationist. They cut the Court Challenges program which helped women and gays. They removed the word "equality" from much Status of Women ppolicy, including funding applications. They cut funding to women's organizations which work for the long-term advancement of women.

They are accomplishing much more than you realize.

bigcitylib said...

Ending of the gun registry has an appeal that extends beyond the Christian Right, I'm afraid.

But the other stuff, where you can fairly definitively say they did this to appease Christian Right...these are all "small bore" acts, including the funding cuts. Not that they aren't a bad thing. They are just basically the small things that the gov. can get away with.

RuralSandi said...

Well, if the movement isn't growing as you think, they certainly have a lot of influence on our government.

You say "small bore" - they are chipping away step by step.

...maybe small but mighty.

wilson said...

Mcdonald accuses the Libs and Dippers of making sure that in a post-Harper era the religious clout remains strong:

''On page 352 of her book the author chastises the Liberals and NDP for reaching out to religious voters who tilt the left politically.
Specifically McDonald takes issue with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff tapping long time MP and Evangelical, John McKay, to reach out to faith groups that used to vote for the Liberals but have left the party.
The NDP's decision to bring about a faith and justice caucus is wrong in McDonald's eyes.

"Rather that creating a riposte to the religious right, they may simply have pre-empted their parties' ability to critique the increasing Christianization of the public square.
If so, they are helping to ensure that religion remains an irrevocable force in Canadian politics, regardless of whether Stephen Harper is tossed out of office."

Gayle said...

Baby steps BCL.

Everything Harper has "accomplished" has been done incrementally.

RuralSandi said...

Well, surprise - Wilson has used her highlighting pen again to try to show negatives about Ignatieff and Layton - LOL

Holly Stick said...

Don Martin:

"...Yet despite attempts to suggest they have all the clout of a visiting high school group, there's little doubt evangelical leaders have a higher profile and more muscle in an Ottawa under Conservative control. Some boast parliamentary passes giving them free rein in MP offices and receive private Harper access that would be a regular lobbyist's dream. But the way McDonald sees it, their policy influence is advancing so incrementally, almost nobody notices...

http://www.calgaryherald.com/columnists/hopes+read+book+Christian+right/3016283/story.html

Gosh, they have more access than Rahim did!

Ian said...

The issues so far are incremental because Harper has a minority and he knows that radical shifts will cost him that minority or any chance at majority territory. The other big thing that McDonald I think is exposing is how almost all of this lobbying (save for the annoying McVety) is done behind the scenes with little media attention. While her writing comes off a bit alarmist, I think she would have had less reason to publish this book if we were debating the merits (or lack thereof) of Christian-inspired legislation publicly in the media.

Jerome Bastien said...

I agree with BCL. Much of what she cites has broad appeal for the conservative base - even the Court Challenges Program, which I despised from an entirely secular point of view.

This vile women just has a bone to pick, she threw a hissy fit, and got her hissy fit published. From what I can gather, her argument boils down to "some people who are not rabidly anti-religious, as *I* am, are happy with Harper, ergo, Harper is evil". So lame and boring and predictable. Its on par with suggesting that because muslims generally vote Liberal, that Liberals are about to implement sharia.

On a related note, the funding of Bible groups and other nonsense is despicable. So is the continued funding of over 400 women's organizations. Call me crazy but when women say they're equal, I actually believe them.

wilson said...

No RuralSandi, I was pointing out what an anti-religion nutjob MaDonald is.
Everyone of faith, in her opinion, has no place in government.

But you can continue the culture war against the Cons and ignore the realities,
even in the face of Lib MPs killing a Lib motion on abortion.
Just 'click your heels' and presto, there are not people of faith in the LPC.

Holly Stick said...

Conservative attackbots are out in force. I wonder if their claims about a "culture war" was a pre-emptive action against the book specifically. After all, they would have known it was coming out in May.

Antonia Z said...

Perhaps if you read the book, all 400+ pages of it, you might form a different opinion. Instead, you appear to judge it on ''evidence'' presented by many others who haven't read it either.

McDonald makes an excellent case for how the religious right -- and not just Christian -- has established itself on Parliament Hill, either physically or in advisory capacity.

That is undeniable.

R.E.A.L. Women, The Institute for Family and Marriage, B'nai Brith ... it goes on and on.

Just look who is in the PMO.

Take off your blinders.

Jerome Bastien said...

HollyStick: "Conservative attackbots are out in force. I wonder if their claims about a "culture war" was a pre-emptive action against the book specifically."

Yes HollyStick and I've just had my software upgraded to HarPerfect(tm) 3.0. My talking points database has been purged of any reference to Gergis and Jaffer.

And yes, you are correct - Frank Graves is actually a conservative mole and he invoked the culture war against us in preparation for the publication of this book.

double nickel said...

wilson, you are so tiring..."culture war"? "Anti-religion nut job"? Really?

I daresay the vast majority of Canadians prefer that religion be kept out of politics. End-of-times Harper has embraced it and integrated it into everything he and his party says and does.

Omar said...

"End-of-times Harper has embraced it and integrated it into everything he and his party says and does."

And too many Liberal bloggers are saying "ho-hum" to the situation.

bigcitylib said...

Zerby, that there are Theocons on the hill is undeniable. I just don't think that, despite that fact, they have managed to "win" anything fundamental. I was actually thinking of a passage from your interview:

Says McDonald: “Harper won’t associate the government with (abortion) by putting forth a government bill. He will test the waters with private members’ bills. That’s where the gradual erosion will take place. You get a restriction here, a restriction there, and pretty soon …”

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/807640--timing-of-book-s-release-downright-divine

Well, all these private members bills have failed. So in fact on this issue there has been NO erosion whatsoever.

Not that this might not change if we get a Harper majority (which is actually less likely the more this kind of stuff is in the news). And not that I don't object to the various funding cuts. I just don't see these as apocalyptic changes, and I don't see them for the time being leading to anything more substantive.

As for what I've read or no, well, I put that up front. I should say that I've written pretty heavily about this segment of the political marketplace pretty heavily over the past couple of years. None of the names that have been mentioned in Ms. McDonald's book (that I've heard so far) are new to me.

double nickel said...

"Well, all these private members bills have failed. So in fact on this issue there has been NO erosion whatsoever."

I disagree. It's like throwing shit on a wall, sooner or later some of it sticks. Over time, the uninformed start to believe the BS thrown about by the neocons.

Gene Rayburn said...

double nickel, wilson's just flustered because she's merely a generic nutjob not a specialized one.

Hanging out, in a trailer with a fax with all of her talking points laying on top of the carrier she uses to collect empties....

If only she knew how to have a bit of fun in life, she may not hang out near her CPoC fax machine so much.

RuralSandi said...

Wilson, calm down. You should know as a Christian that even Christ believed in the separation of church and state.

Paying Taxes & Separation of Church & State: Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the
things that are God's. [Matthew 22:21]

CK said...

BCL, I'm surprised you would give a wingnut like Lilley any credibility whatsoever. I mean, he can't deliver the news without favouring the Harpercons, he tried to merge about 3 or 4 very different polls to come up with the conclusion that most Canadians were Pro-lifers,

I believe in Antonia's article pointed out the analogy of boiling the frog, which is what is happening now.

Do you really want to take a chance to let Steve loose with a majority to find out? I sure don't.

As for those private bills, well, I think those were tests, approved by Steve, oh yeah, they were scrapped, but that was show. Remember, he doesn't have MPs who dare think for themselves: he has potted plants.

Jay said...

YOUR faith has nothing to do with policies that affect me, a person of non belief, as such any MP who cannot separate his beliefs in a god from creating public policy that affects anyone is unfit for office.

Its that simple.

For my christian friends, if a Muslim in Parliament started pushing forward pro-islamic bills and succeeded how would you feel? If thats all he/she did, how would that also make you feel? Even if done incrementally

Exactly. Now ask yourself if you want to go down this path because once you open politics to one faith then in a country as multicultural as Canada all faiths will become politically engaged to save themsleves and their various belief system. Hey, they are all correct, right? So every one has the same rights as Christians to do this.

We are going the wrong way. We need strict secularism with no overt signs of religion (burkas and crosses).

Keep it to yourselves before you create a domestic religious war. I swear religious nutters won't be happy until we are all suffering.

Jim said...

I firmly believe that the state should be completely secular in it's operation. This is especially important to me as an agnostic.

The sad reality is that most faiths have an agenda. Another reality is that there are Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and perhaps other faiths on both sides of the house. How do you legislate against members of the government at any level promoting their religion within halls of power?

Pretty tough.

Perhaps a start would be to outlaw ANY government funding of ANY special interest groups, religious or otherwise.

I just don't know the answers, but rest assured that as a nonreligious Conservative supporter, I watch any moves by the CPC in this regard very closely.

To date I have recieved no literature from the party and have seen no moves by the Prime Minister that have cuased me any concern.

In fact, I would have to say that I feel Harper intentionally tries to avoid any religious overtones in his governing.

He doesn't even say "God bless Canada" anymore, perhaps to the chagrin of a certain element within the party, but honestly, it is a somewhat of a relief to me.

Fred from BC said...

Antonia Z said...

McDonald makes an excellent case for how the religious right -- and not just Christian -- has established itself on Parliament Hill, either physically or in advisory capacity.

That is undeniable.



No. What is actually undeniable is that she built her 'argument' (and I use the term very loosely) based on straw men, extremely tenuous connections between the groups and individuals involved and a complete refusal to acknowledge any facts that ran contrary to her intended narrative.

Today on CTV's Power Play she was exposed for what she really is: a liar and anti-religious bigot out to make money by writing yet another hatchet job that the loony left will eat up (making her richer in the process). She got her ass kicked thoroughly...not just in the segment she was featured in, but in the following one as well.

I'm sure she'll confine any further interviews to the CBC or other Liberal-friendly venues...

Fred from BC said...

Jay said...

YOUR faith has nothing to do with policies that affect me, a person of non belief, as such any MP who cannot separate his beliefs in a god from creating public policy that affects anyone is unfit for office.

Exactly. The Conservatives have been very careful not to allow this, and there is no reason to believe that will ever change. Reading polls and determining public opinion isn't rocket science, and no Canadian political party is dumb enough to think they could get away with reintroducing religious policies into the mainstream political process.

Sure, there are a few (very few) hardcore Christians in the Conservative party (and the Liberals, don't forget). There are no doubt still at least a couple of ex-communists in the NDP, too...so what? They don't control the party, and even if by some miracle extremists of any stripe managed to seize control of one of the mainstream Canadian political parties they would be immediately booted out by the rank-and-file. Extremism doesn't play well in Canada, period.

Oh, and just for the record: Stephen Harper is what is known as a 'small-c' or 'customizing' Christian, no different than the devout Catholics Jean Chretien and Paul Martin who preceded him.

Gene Rayburn said...

No. What is actually undeniable is that Fred build his 'arguments' (and I use the term very loosely) based on straw men, conjecture and hallucinations.

Everyday he is exposed for what he really is: a liar and anti-democratic bigot blindly following any propaganda job that the nutbar right will dictate to him (making him far dumber in the process). He always gets his ass kicked thoroughly...not just in this segment but on any blog he trolls.

Unfortunately I'm sure he won't confine any his garbage to the bottle exchange and back alleys where he collects empties

Gene Rayburn said...

"Oh, and just for the record: Stephen Harper is what is known as a 'small-c' or 'customizing' Christian, no different than the devout Catholics Jean Chretien and Paul Martin who preceded him."

A quick look at what his church teaches quickly disproves that record.

Fred from BC said...

Ian said...

The issues so far are incremental because Harper has a minority and he knows that radical shifts will cost him that minority or any chance at majority territory.


Absolutely. As I just said, he can't do it even if he wanted to (and even if the party would allow it). If he were to win a majority tomorrow, it would be political suicide to even attempt what some Liberal fearmongers here are suggesting he would do. And Stephen Harper, like him or not, can never be accused of being stupid...

Gene Rayburn said...

Sure he can.

ie: when he decided to prorogue a second time.

Stephen Harper was fucking stupid to do that.

Unknown said...

@Holly Stick

"Gosh, they have more access than Rahim did!"

Rahim Jaffer is actually mentioned in the book and in quite an interesting way/role I might add...

Fred from BC said...

RuralSandi said...

Wilson, calm down. You should know as a Christian that even Christ believed in the separation of church and state.


What people seem to forget is that the separation of Church and State was originally intended to protect the church from the state, and not the other way around.

Antonia Z said...

Just checked back in and want to correct the record, BCL.

Bill C-484 did not ''fail.''

It was on its way to passage, passing second reading. It was only on the eve (literally) of the last election, that the Cons KILLED it.


http://thestar.blogs.com/broadsides/2008/08/no-miscarriage.html

Fred from BC said...

Gene Rayburn said...

"Oh, and just for the record: Stephen Harper is what is known as a 'small-c' or 'customizing' Christian, no different than the devout Catholics Jean Chretien and Paul Martin who preceded him."

A quick look at what his church teaches quickly disproves that record.



No it doesn't, since being a 'customizing' Christian isn't about believing everything your church teaches: it's about believing SOME of what they teach, and taking the rest as metaphors and fable.

So what about the famous 'transubstantiation', then? Do you seriously think that Paul Martin, on his weekly visit to a Catholic church, actually believed that the wafer he ate and the wine he sipped were magically transformed into the "body and blood" of Jesus Christ? Really?

Might I suggest a remedial reading class or two? Seriously, now...an awful lot of my posts seem to go right over your head, while others have no trouble at all understanding what I mean...

Fred from BC said...

Gene Rayburn said...

Sure he can.

ie: when he decided to prorogue a second time.

Stephen Harper was fucking stupid to do that.



Why? Did it not serve his purpose at the time?

(not the phony one you attributed to him, but his stated reasons)

Has he (or the party) suffered any long-term damage as a result? Have the Liberals gained by it? Did anyone manage to successfully explain what the difference was when Jean Chretien prorogued as many times as he did (especially the times he used the tactic to avoid the Somalia Inquiry and the Sponsorship scandal)? No?