The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Disagreeing with Dalton about Discrimination

Dalton Camp was a descendant of United Empire Loyalists and the son of a preacher. He was born in New Brunswick but spent most of his formative years in the United States, returning to Canada for summer vacations. He ran a successful advertising agency but is most remembered for his roles in Canadian politics, both as a strategist and unsuccessful candidate for the old Conservative Party and as a commentator in the media. Despite his association with the Conservative Party, more often than not his views were ones with which I vehemently disagreed. There were exceptions, of course. He was a supporter of the monarchy and a Canadian nationalist, who opposed free trade, continentalism and globalism. In these areas I agreed with him and occasionally he would take a stand I could applaud. When Prime Minister Chretien went to China in 1994, for example, to negotiate a trade deal, he wrote an excellent column ridiculing the Prime Minister weak stand against the Communist power’s abuse of its own citizens. Most of the time however, I found his views to be wrongheaded, arrogant, and repugnant. The first part of Whose Country Is This Anyway?, a collection of his columns that was published as a book in 1995 (1), is devoted to advancing the idea that running a large national deficit isn’t really a big deal after all but if you don’t like it you should happily agree to pay more taxes for if you prefer the other option, of cutting spending, that means that you are heartless and selfish. Camp called himself a Red Tory, but he was so in the worst possible meaning of the term, i.e., someone who promoted the ideas of the American progressive left from within the Canadian Conservative Party by pretending that these ideas were what made Canada historically distinct from the United States. The best possible meaning of the term Red Tory is the original meaning, i.e., someone like George Grant. The contrast between Grant and Camp could hardly be greater. Grant is most widely remembered for a jeremiad he penned in 1965, lamenting the downfall of the Diefenbaker government which he saw as the end of the Canadian national project. A couple of years later, Camp was responsible for ousting Diefenbaker from the leadership of the Conservative Party. Grant was a socially conservative pro-life activist, who opposed abortion-on-demand and euthanasia. Camp, despite his paternal heritage, ridiculed opposition to abortion as being American and far right, and displayed the kind of intellectual contempt for “fundamentalists” that Grant expressed indignation at in his final collection of essays, Technology and Justice. (2)

Perhaps you are wondering why, twelve years after his death, I am now wasting so many words on a man who is now mostly forgotten. It is because, while recently perusing the columns in his aforementioned book, I was struck by the way in which recent events have demonstrated just how out to lunch one of those columns was. Over the past several months, American states such as Kansas and Arizona, have introduced legislation for the protection of religious liberty. This legislation is designed to protect business owners from discrimination lawsuits brought by same-sex couples. The perceived need for such protection is due to the increasing number of American states that have enacted same-sex “marriage” legislation and the American Supreme Court’s decision last summer to strike down the provision in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act prohibiting such “marriages” from being recognized at the federal level. It appears inevitable that same-sex “marriage” will become universally available in the United States and the freedom of religion laws introduced in Kansas and Arizona were drafted with an eye to a future in which a same-sex couple asks a Christian photographer, baker, caterer, or florist to participate in a gay wedding and then sues if that Christian refuses to do something against the historical and traditional teachings of his faith. The response of the progressive left, to this attempt to protect those who dissent from the ideology of the new Revolution, was to trot out the corpse of their Civil Rights era foe “Jim Crow” and take shots at him.

That the day would come, when American states felt it necessary to pass laws protecting Christians from being forced to participate in events that go against the ancient teachings of their faith and these laws would be condemned as violating somebody else’s “rights” would have been virtually unthinkable twenty years ago. At the time, our Parliament here in Canada was considering a bill, one of several introduced by Svend Robinson, NDP representative of Burnaby, British Columbia, over the years, that would add sexual orientation to the list of prohibited bases for discrimination, in the Canadian Human Rights Act. This time around the bill had a lot of support in the Liberal government of Jean Chretien, who assured everybody that if enacted, such a bill would not threaten the freedom of religious Canadians because such was already protected by the law. By the end of the ‘90s, it would be apparent to those who were paying attention, just how empty this promise of Chretien’s was. In 1996, Scott Brockie, a Christian who owned a printshop in Ontario, was charged with discrimination before the provincial Human Rights Commission for refusing to print stationary for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. The Charter protection of freedom of religion failed to protect Brockie whom the courts consistently ruled against. Cases of this nature were springing up all over Canada during the ‘90s, even before sexual orientation was added to the Canadian Human Rights Act and before the Liberal government enacted same-sex “marriage” legislation early in the new millennium.

Twenty years ago, not everyone in the Liberal Party supported the ideology of the Revolution. Roseanne Skoke, who had been elected to represent the riding of Central Nova in Nova Scotia in 1993, declared her opposition to adding sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act. In a column, presumably originally published in the ultra-left wing Toronto Star on September 30, 1994, (3) Dalton Camp, the Canadian left’s favourite “conservative”, rebuked this member of the left-leaning centrist party, for being too right-wing.

Camp noted that Skoke’s view is “contrary to the legislative intentions of the Liberal government” and that therefore Chretien, asked to comment, took the position that in a free country, Skoke had the right to express her own opinion, an unusually liberal opinion from the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party who had served in the Liberal government which introduced all sorts of restrictions on freedom of speech back in the 1970s. He also remarked that it was “reassuring” that Chretien’s “endorsement of free speech” contained the implicit possibility that “he may have disagreed with Skoke’s opinion”. Then he encapsulated his objection to Skoke’s position by writing:

Skoke’s premise is that homosexuals are demanding “special rights” in seeking protection against discrimination in the human rights act. She is wrong and apparently wilfully so.

Actually, it is Camp who was wrong. Allow me to explain how.

There are rights which all Canadians possess. All Canadians, for example, have the right to be represented by a lawyer when charged with a criminal offense. Suppose that were not the case. Suppose, homosexuals were routinely denied access to counsel when charged with crimes, then a bill that changed that, that extended the right to counsel to homosexuals, would not be granting homosexuals “special rights” and homosexuals would not be demanding “special rights” in lobbying for such a bill but just the same rights that everyone else in the country has. There would, of course, be nothing wrong with such a demand.

The right to protection against discrimination is not such a right. The Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination under certain circumstances and based upon certain grounds. The grounds are defined in Section 3 (1) of the Act which currently reads as follows:

For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

This means that the Act protects you from discrimination if you are discriminated against on the basis of your skin colour but that it does not protect you from discrimination if you are discriminated against on the basis that you smell funny. Furthermore, while the Act is written in such a way that it sounds like it protects you against racial discrimination regardless of what your race actually is, that is not how the Act actually works. The way this law actually works, you are protected against discrimination on the basis of race, if you are any race but Caucasian, you are protected against discrimination on the grounds of colour if you are any colour but white, you are protected against discrimination on the grounds of sex if you are a woman, etc. This is not spelled out in the Act itself – although it is in Section 15 (2) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – but it is obvious in how the Human Rights Commissions and the courts interpret the Act. While progressives may deny that this legislation grants special protection to some rather than protection to all, they affirm it in the justifications they offer for this kind of legislation. “It is needed to protect vulnerable minorities” is the refrain we usually hear from progressives when the need for this kind of legislation is questioned.

It is one thing to say that citizens of a country have the right to protection against discrimination on the part of their government in the administration of law and justice. This would simply be another way of asserting the concept that has been present in the Great Tradition since ancient times in the depiction of justice as wearing a blindfold. This kind of protection is not provided by anti-discrimination laws, like the Canadian Human Rights Act, which forbid private citizens from discriminating in their everyday affairs and business but by non-discriminatory policy on the part of the government. Anti-discrimination laws, like the American Civil Rights Act of 1964 which is the template for all anti-discrimination law elsewhere, and the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, actually work against the ideal that government should be fair and non-discriminatory in the administration of law and justice to all of its citizens. Everywhere these laws have been passed they have been used by non-whites against whites, by non-Christians against Christians, by women against men, and now by homosexuals against those who hold to traditional faiths that from ancient times have affirmed that man is made for woman, and woman for man. These laws by their very nature work against the good of the whole of society, by turning class against class, race against race, sex against sex, they work against harmony, unity, and the good.

The idea that the passing of this kind of anti-discriminatory legislation in the late twentieth century represents a major leap towards moral enlightenment on the part of Western mankind is an idea that has led to a major decay in our ability to conduct moral reasoning. Many people now think of discrimination in simplistic terms – it is always bad. To discriminate, however, means to treat people differently on the basis of a distinction made. It could mean, to refuse to employ a man because he is black. It could also mean to award higher marks to a student who gets more answers correct on a test than to one who gets more answers wrong. We might qualify the idea that discrimination is always bad by saying that discrimination on the basis of race is always bad. This is more correct than the original idea but even it is too simplistic. Racial discrimination might mean the actual mistreatment of people on the basis of their race. It might also refer, however, to the way a shopkeeper in a bad neighborhood, where people from one race commit the vast majority of the crimes, stays extra alert and keeps his finger near the alarm when a youth who belongs to that race enters his shop after dark. Unfair as this may be to the youth if he is a law-abiding young man of good character, it would be unjust to condemn the shopkeeper for allowing the realities of the neighborhood in which he lives to influence his prudence and caution.

“The issue”, Dalton Camp wrote, “is whether to make it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation”. Let us also consider the question of whether it is moral or immoral to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

Are we talking about the factory owner who refuses to hire a man to sweep his floor because he is gay? Or are we talking about the Christian baker who refuses to bake a cake for the celebration of a “wedding” between two women? Or are we talking about the young man who chooses to date a young woman instead of a young man?

If we were merely talking about the first example, I would still oppose legislation that makes this kind of discrimination unlawful, although I would also say that the discrimination in this case is the least morally justifiable of these examples. If we include the second example, however, that of the Christian baker, we are dealing with something that is completely different. For the Christian baker to bake a cake celebrating a Sapphic wedding would require the baker to participate in an event that violates the teachings of his faith. It would be immoral of him to do so. Any law that required him to do so would be immoral. Yet a law that makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation would do precisely that.

As for the third example, perhaps you do not think it belongs with the other two but I disagree. As the late Lawrence Auster pointed out a couple of years ago, the logic of the movement to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians leads inevitably to the requirement that people agree to date members of their own sex. If you do not think it will ever go that far, look at how far we have gone already. Dalton Camp, when he penned his arrogant dismissal of Roseanne Skoke’s opposition to the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act, probably had no idea that twenty years later American states would be contemplating legislation to protect the religious freedom of Christians who would otherwise face discrimination lawsuits for refusing to violate their faith.

Unfortunately, such legislation, even if it passed, and was not struck down by some arrogant court, would just be a Band-Aid solution. Anti-discrimination law is, for the reasons I have explained above, bad law, and it is always better to get rid of bad laws than to keep piling up more laws on top of them, to make up for the damage they have done. Anti-discrimination legislation needs to go. That means, for us here in Canada, that the Canadian Human Rights Act in its entirety must be revoked. The sooner it goes, the better, I say.

(1) Dalton Camp, Whose Country Is This Anyway? (Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre, 1995)

(2) “There are loyal Christians (called by their critics ‘fundamentalists’) who generally say that ‘technology’ is not a paradigm of knowledge but a set of instruments – inventions which come from scientific discoveries. As a whole, they do not much reflect on the ontological implications of the modern paradigm. They therefore live with certainty in the modern. Such people often make crude mistakes in theory; but who does not? Nothing fills me with greater aesthetic annoyance than the scorn which has been heaped on such people by clever journalists and ‘intellectuals’ (whatever that word may mean).” - George Grant, “Faith and the Multiversity”, in Technology and Justice (Toronto: House of Anansi, 1986).

(3) The column is found on pages 193-195 of Whose Country Is This Anyway? where it appears under the title “Is It Okay for Skokes?” The book dates the column to September 30, 1994. Most of the material in this book comes from Camp’s Toronto Star column. A search of the internet for this column brings up several references to it, mostly in comments on Kate McMillan’s “Small Dead Animals” blog, under the title “Skoke-ing the Fires of Anti-Gay Sentiment.” These indicate the Star as the place of origin, with the date of October 2, 1994.

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