Increasingly, the Canadian far right has not merely imported rhetoric from south of the border, it has also refined and exported it as well. This was true of the "freedom of religion" theme picked up by U.S. bishops in response to the contraception mandate in healthcare - a tactic which began following the 2008 Lund v. Boissoin ruling from the Alberta Human Rights Commission (since overturned). Within the past week, a new tactic has emerged to oppose LGBT inclusive anti-bullying education: a drive to have words like "homophobia" banned from the discussion as "hate speech."
Throughout last year and into 2012, anti-bullying education has been a flashpoint on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
When the Burnaby School District passed an anti-bullying policy, it didn't include language affirming LGBTTIQ students, though it did include requirements to support them when needed. This infuriated some parents, who formed a group called Parents Voice, which encouraged parents to pull their kids from classes or schools that might imply that it's okay to be gay or trans. Parents Voice ran a slate of candidates in the school board elections, and placed last in nearly every one, but it hasn't stopped visible activism, which is now focused on attacking Premier Christy Clark.
Parent's Voice was inspired and influenced by Culture Guard, which is led by Kari Simpson, who also does an online podcast - with the former leader of the Christian Heritage Party, Ron Gray - aptly named Roadkill Radio (RKR). In addition to their political lobbying, RKR has run several media efforts (if you can call them that) to oppose anti-bullying efforts, such as hosting a talk by Dr. Helena Guldberg, to claim that "the anti-bullying industry may be doing more harm than good for children, denying them the character-building experiences that help them face the realities of later life" (a.k.a. "bullying builds character," which apparently has value that transcends the fact that kids are killing themselves over it).
Of course, it's all perfectly legal for Simpson and Gray to have those opinions and voice them - I'm not one to support censorship. Especially when it's far more effective to let them speak and reveal their bigotry in all its naked glory. Here's Simpson and Gray on the human rights complaint Simpson filed against the Vancouver School District over the use of the words "homophobia," "heterosexism" et al (full video at link):
Kari Simpson: Through our involvement in this endeavor, we became very concerned about the language of this debate. Well, it really isn't a debate because part of the language used includes relying on slurs. Those slurs include words like...
Ron Gray: Homophobe, homophobia, heterosexist... I don't know, a whole bunch of invented words that have no actual meaning -- they're not in any medical dictionary...
KS: But they have a purpose.
RG: Ah, they have a purpose. They're propaganda words.
KS: Sure, and they are used to demean...
RG: That's it. They demean, diminish, marginalize people who have a different opinion. Any different opinion from the sex activists.
KS: Well, and a valid opinion because now remember anybody who opposes the celebration of sexual diversity -- and again, people, remember the term sexual orientation isn't limited to homosexuality. That includes pedophilia. That includes bestiality. That includes necrophilia. That includes a whole list of "ilias" and sexual practices, including illegal sexual practices, under the guise of sexual orientation. So the whole language of this discussion has to be, we believe, refined to produce a healthy discussion and debate on this. And certainly that's not happening now, because sex activists don't want the debate. They don't want you talking about this. They don't want you talking about the medical costs to our health care system. They don't want to talk about the human carnage associated with sexual promiscuity and all the rest of it. So they create these words, and anybody who says "hey, wait a minute..." you are marginalized, you are demeaned, you are homophobic, you know...
RG: You are called a bigot.
KS: ... bigot... all those other terms.
KS: And what concerns me, and this is not limited to the Vancouver School Board, but also to our Minister of Education, is how so many of the policies being developed nowadays are designed to create discourse -- you know, uncivil discourse. Nasty, mean-spirited discourse. And certainly when you see these terms -- homophobia, homophobic -- what you are saying is we are going to give license to one group of people to be targeted, and that's anyone who might raise issues of concern around the promotion of sexual practices that are not in the interest of this nation from an economic point of view and on a number of ...
RG: And certainly not in the interests of those students who are being targeted with this kind of propaganda.
KS: Well, and lied to. You know, if you're going to talk about homosexuality and other sexual practices, then let's be honest about it. Let's be forthright. Let's say, you know, if you want to want to go screw somebody in areas that's not meant for screwing, there's going to be medical and health problems, people...
Simpson and Gray's "30 sexual orientations" rhetoric derives from spin generated by the Traditional Values Coalition and similar far-right organizations in the U.S. in 2009 to oppose the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. According to this tactic, all of the paraphilias categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders are "sexual orientations" and would be legally sanctioned and legitimized by human rights inclusion for gays and lesbians.
It's remarkable that RKR tries to resurrect that rhetoric (which failed in the U.S.) in a country where gays and lesbians already have explicit human rights inclusion, where no attempt has ever been made to use that legislation to protect things like pedophilia, and where we realize that it's highly unlikely that such an argument would ever fly in a Canadian court of law.
But then, Simpson and Gray are far from typical of the Canadian far right, because even when the likes of Ezra Levant, LifeSiteNews, Sun News Network and Charles McVety are careful to qualify their support for right-wing pariah Bill "anal warts" Whatcott's "free speech" campaign by cautiously noting that he "may not be all that likable," Roadkill Radio is right in there unqualifyingly cheering him on as a martyr and a champion and lauding him with accolades in interviews.
Similarly, Scott Lively - the inspiration for the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda - is an RKR hero, with Kari Simpson calling him a "human rights consultant" and Ron Gray referring to Lively as one of his favourite writers and referring positively to The Pink Swastika (in which Lively claims that homosexuals were instrumental and central to the founding and administration of Nazi fascism and genocide) several times in one interview.
Kari Simpson's BC Human Rights Tribunal complaint stems from a police complaint she filed (or didn't? That saga is a little confusing) against the Vancouver School Board's anti-homophobia program Out in Schools, claiming that there were "serious and possibly criminal activities involved with this program." There was an allegation of exposing kids to porn, which turned out to be rooted in the fact that the OiS website linked to the website for the annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival (QFF), which is a program sponsor. Simpson calls this an "intellectual sexual assault," borrowing directly from ramped-up rhetoric taking place in California claiming that LGBT positive education is "molesting the minds of young impressionable youth" and is a clear attempt to rhetorically resurrect a conflation between homosexuality and pedophilia. The Out In Schools program is the focus of the complaint, with Simpson claiming that it - and words like "homophobia" and such - promotes bigotry and hate.
They also plan to subpoena students who've complained about RKR on Twitter and other electronic media, and erroneously affirm to their listeners that anti-bullying programs are "subject matter, by the way, that's costing us billions and billions of dollars."
But they are fueling the Canadian far right nevertheless, and fomenting some of the anti-anti-bullying reaction taking place, particularly in British Columbia. Last Tuesday, their "homophobia is an anti-Christian slur" meme was repeated in Ontario by Campaign Life Catholics' Jack Fonseca, who is hardly a lightweight on the Canadian far-right landscape.
Of course, Canada's far right anti-anti-bullying effort does not stem from Simpson and Gray alone, but rather a multipronged effort from several among the far right, in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario, where the fights have been the most heated. The position of all of these groups is that anything that affirms, supports or even acknowledges LGBT people in schools is unnecessary, controversial, contravenes parents' rights to determine what their kids are taught, and should not be spoken.
Meanwhile, the battles go on. In Altona, Manitoba, after parent protest, two teachers who had displayed rainbow ally cards in their classrooms were ordered to remove the accompanying text and leave only the word "ally" in a rainbow flag. This was still unacceptable, and with the assistance of Culture Guard / Roadkill Radio's Kari Simpson, parents penned a letter threatening to sue, threatening to post photos and personal information of the teachers who were displaying the signs (and possibly the school board?) to some sort of "report a teacher" website. Says Manitoba parent Wes Martens of the Ally signs:
"...Then they replaced it with a statement that... it's pretty good, it's not perfect, but it says 'As a teacher I am your ally and I support all the children in this classroom' or something like that it said. We don't like the word 'ally' in there and we're gonna try and get that removed, but at least this is a major victory to get this, the flag and the ally card are down."
Because even the slightest silent implication of support for LGBT kids continues to offend.
(This post is part of an extended series on anti-bullying education battles in Canada and how even the Day of Silence is seen to offend - Part 1 and Part 2 of three have already been posted)
(Bullying graphic via Bigstock)