Canada: Is the Conversation Lurching to the Right?
It’s been a busy time for the Canadian far right, as conservatives and Christian nationalists try to follow the US example of pushing the conversation so far to the right that even Gandhi looks like Josef Stalin. Is it working?
Opposite Gender Day Confuses Parents
Student council at King City Public School thought it would be a fun idea to mark a day set aside to show school spirit by having an “Opposite Gender Day.” This was a voluntary-participation event for students, ranging from kindergarten to Grade 8. From Sun Media:
“They discussed the fun the day might generate, plus how the experience might help boys and girls understand a bit more what it felt like to be a member of the opposite sex… that was the plan,” he said.
A few days after the school’s principal green-lighted the theme day, she canceled it due to complaints from parents, for fear that the event might confuse kids. Inevitably, the Scourge of Toronto, Charles McVety, sees a queer conspiracy, and as is typical, the media dutifully gives him their pulpit:
For his part, Rev. McVety said he found it hard to believe the students came up with the idea on their own and thought the cross-dressing plan reflected a dangerous kind of political correctness that lacks any moral standards in our schools.
He suggested it might have been an attempt by the school to move ahead on its own with Ontario’s proposed sex-education curriculum, which was ultimately quashed by the province.
The curriculum he refers to is a sex education curriculum which the Province of Ontario initially put into place and then rescinded after McVety raised fears that it would teach kids how to be gay, to masturbate or to have oral and anal sex. The curriculum was said to be age-appropriate, but was nevertheless portrayed as explicit and likely to encourage kids to experiment, so Premier McGuinty backtracked. The Hamilton Spectator link no longer works, but from my archived copy of the April 23, 201o “Province Backs Down on Sex Education:”
“I’m totally disappointed … This is management by reflex,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, a national organization committed to advancing rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-identified people. “This is not about teaching kids to have sex. It’s about something bigger than that… It’s about healthy relationships.”
The references to sexual orientation and gender identity in the Grade 3 curriculum, for example, are made in the context of showing respect for people’s differences.
“The Stoning of St. Charles”
McVety is better known lately for having become a cause célèbre after CTS pulled his TV show, Word.ca, off the air, following a reprimand issued by the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council (CBSC). MgS provided an excellent dissection of where McVety violated CBSC standards by blatantly lying. It’s actually not a CBSC violation to be anti-gay, or to voice it — however, it is a violation to repeatedly assert that homosexuality is clinically known to be synonymous with pedophilia, among several other fabrications.
Nevertheless, he was publicly reprimanded in a decision that was made last summer, although it wasn’t announced until last December — just in time for Christmas. And naturally, the two week long “censoring” of Charles McVety turned into probably the most effective publicity campaign he could have wanted. If the annual funds coming in from Focus on the Family and John Hagee weren’t enough, suddenly he emerged on the radar of the rest of the US Fundafringies as the preacher who was beating off the gays in Canada. Well, not literally.
Charles McVety crying censorship is more than a little hypocritical.
Censorship For Nothing?
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) is an independent NGO run by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, intended to be private media companies working together to police themselves, and therefore acting as a buffer between media and the federal government-run Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The CBSC is better known south of the border as the agency which recently banned the Dire Straits song, “Money For Nothing” because of it’s use of an anti-gay expletive that starts with f. The CRTC, ironically, has just asked the CBSC to reconsider this decision.
(I’ve been asked a couple times how I feel about that, and while I lean toward a censure-not-censor approach to most of these kinds of things, it’s also fair to point out that I’m not the person that word is commonly leveled at — or at least, not anymore — so I’m not sure my opinion is entirely relevant. Plus, I have, in fact, used the word once myself, for the benefit of a filmmaker who saw no problem of using the trans equivalent to this f word gratuitously, and exploited real murders of trans people to promote his “camp” movie — and after it raised protest, proceeded to further insult and antagonize by releasing the DVD in time for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. So I also can’t speak to this as someone who is entirely innocent.)
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
In a recent interview with Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Stephen Harper emphasized that he believes in the death penalty and outright bans on abortion, but won’t be enacting legislation to make them possible in Canada if he gets a majority government. Of course, when you’re planning to oppose a trans rights bill, using the Senate to kill another on climate change, selectively axing funding for specifically pro-choice womens’ groups, hurrying to appeal a ruling that would decriminalize sex work, hamstringing or closing Human Rights Commission offices, overriding approvals processes to defund Toronto Pride, using a bit of leverage to try to get a far right “Fox News North” preferred carrier status and the like, it doesn’t hurt to point to a decades past non-issue that wasn’t on anyone’s radar to illustrate to centrists and moderates that you’re not a fringe right lunatic.
The trouble with normal is that it always gets worse. (h/t to Nata for evoking Cockburn)
Something we’ve seen quite dramatically in the US has been the cranking up of the volume from far right conservatives and Christian nationalists to the point where “liberal” and “progressive” have joined “socialist” et al as villainized terms, driving even moderates into the closet. Keith Olbermann departed from MSNBC on the eve of the takeover by right-wing Comcast, and if Rachel Maddow follows, the right-of-centre CNN may become the furthest left of US television media. Some of this is probably also because moderates and left-leaning people have migrated to online media such as The Huffington Post or blogs like DailyKos, but the end result has still been invisiblization of the left from mainstream politics. The systematic shouting down, punting and shaming of progressive views has served to silence the left, causing the entirety of national debate to lurch radically to the right.
In Canada, the right has had a bit more difficulty accomplishing this thus far, although McVety and company seem to be favorite commentators at Sun Media, and conservapundits Ezra Levant and Jonathan Kay have steered The National Post in the same direction. But it’s not for lack of trying, and we can expect more overblown rhetoric, distortions of language (chanelling “death panels?”) and outright lies in the years ahead, regardless of what the election outcome is. The right cannot be moved, will not be moved, and has discovered the power of shouting down opponents with rhetoric and sensationalism. Having tasted power and becoming energized since same-sex marriage was legalized, it will be a mistake going forward for Canadian progressives, moderates and liberals to keep dismissing the fringe right as harmless. What they lack in numbers, they will make up for in volume — and unless progressives are willing to be heard, will be taken seriously. Which is a frightening prospect for Canada.
Unless, of course, you tend to believe that crusades against things like Opposite Gender Day help avert civilization-destroying phenomena that would otherwise be on par with the confusion wrought when Marlene Dietrich started wearing pants.
Added: How the conversation lurched right in the US, and what that means:
(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)