A few months ago, when George W. Bush won a historic victory with a campaign that called for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage for all eternity, progressively-minded Americans gazed longingly at the 49th parallel, and many contemplated moving here. Little did they anticipate that Canada’s inferiority complex would drive our Parliament to try to outdo our neighbours on this front: you may be able to campaign on an anti-same-sex-marriage amendment, but WE don’t have fixed election dates, so we can call an electionover this sort of thing! Even after our Supreme Court rules that restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional! Take THAT!
So, off to the polls we’ll go (or not) to vote on whether gay marriage is OK, or whether Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is right in that it will lead to polygamy, like the stuff that we’ve already had for years and years over in Bountiful, but enough about that. (The Conservative MP for Bountiful, Jim Abbott, is among those who are emphatic that gay marriage has nothing to do with the practice of 50-year-old men taking a dozen 15-year-old girls as wives: the other day Abbott called on his party to stop alienating the latter group, while assuring his constituents that he’ll vote against gay marriage when the time comes. You can’t make this stuff up.)
Anyway, this being Canada, Prime Minister Martin’s not going to be defeated over his support of the Supreme Court decision to uphold the rights of gays to marry. He may, on the other hand, be defeated over the fact that he’s been an egregiously spineless, ineffective leader, and – oh, wait. This is Canada, and he’s a Liberal. He’ll be back in the Prime Minister’s office.
Harper’s behaviour on this issue – in particular, his caginess regarding the use of the Notwithstanding Clause* – has been positively loathesome, and yet somehow, of all the criticisms available to him, Martin manages to harangue Harper for bringing his message to the people who are most likely to listen to it:
Prime Minister Paul Martin is accusing his federal Conservative foes of “racial profiling” in their bid to rally opponents of same-sex marriage among Canada’s ethnic and cultural communities.
…He told them a recent wave of Tory ads against same-sex marriage — strategically placed in newspapers catering to new and immigrant Canadians — show Harper discriminates on the basis of race and nationality.
No, Mr. Martin, that’s not racial profiling, that’s PANDERING, and it’s the cornerstone of every successful political campaign, including many of your own party’s. To wit: last June, I attended an all-candidates meeting which took place a few weeks after the Liberals had decided to run with the complete nonissue of abortion, which some noname Tory MP had brought up and which Harper spent the rest of the campaign backpedalling over. “If you vote Conservative,” the Liberal candidate warned us, “you women will be leaving your Right To ChooseTM in the hands of a bunch of MPs, 80% of whom are men.” Yeah, including the vast majority of the Liberal MPs, but who’s keeping track? If Harper’s ads targeted at new immigrants was racial profiling, then I guess this was gender profiling, and pretty crappy gender profiling, since young Canadian women are more divided/apathetic over abortion than new Chinese immigrants are over gay marriage. By the way, Stephen Owen, if you’re reading this – you lost my vote that day.
This basically sums up my frustration with identity politics in general: anyone can play, which allows discourse on all sorts of issues to degenerate into some lame parody of “Some of my best friends are [members of some minority group]!” / “Yeah, well, EVEN MORE of MY best friends are [members of some minority group]!” Which is why multiculturalism needs to be subordinated to, say, principle. I’m just sayin’.
* Brief Canadian law primer for my non-Canadian readers: once the Supreme Court rules that X is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the legislature may invoke the notwithstanding clause to override the ruling and do X anyway. Quebec’s language laws, for instance, violate the Charter’s rights to equality and freedom of expression, and are permitted via this rarely-used loophole.