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CANADA: We are sleep-walking on the brink of disaster

We are sleep-walking on the brink of disaster

By Douglas Farrow

CANADA is sleep-walking to disaster. Its religious communities seem nearly as comatose as the rest of the country. It's time to wake up, gather our wits, and act.

To review the situation: The government is about to table legislation changing the definition of marriage to "a union of two persons," thus eliminating any formal link between marriage and procreation. The one institution society has that guarantees the child's right to its own natural parents, and vice versa, will be gone.

This legislation will alter fundamentally our most basic social institution and have the most far-reaching legal, cultural, and political consequences of any legislation ever enacted in Canada. But the Supreme Court has given it a green light.


To the first reference question, it answered that the government does have the authority to change the definition. It denied the fact (though fact it is) that the institution of marriage precedes and exceeds the power of the state. At the same time it appears to have confirmed the federal government's view that the provinces cannot use the 'notwithstanding clause' to reject the new legislation.

To the second question, it answered that same-sex marriage reflects Charter values very nicely and is eminently constitutional. Conflicts with religious freedom may arise, but will be adjudicated under the Charter.

To the third question, it offered a qualified Yes. It thinks that any compulsion of clergy to perform ceremonies contrary to their religious beliefs is likely to be deemed a violation of religious freedom. But it pointed out that religious freedom is a complex issue, and an area over which the federal government does not have full jurisdiction. The court did not point out that even to ask such a question is to presuppose conditions under which what is hardly thinkable even in totalitarian regimes is now thinkable in Canada.

The fourth question it refused to answer. Provincial courts have declared the traditional definition ('one man and one woman') unconstitutional. The Supreme Court implicitly agreed, but left it to Parliament to complete the process of imposing same-sex marriage on the country.

That is good news for democracy, and for law too, since the lie that same-sex marriage is an equality right has not received the formal imprimatur of our highest court. But if the Martin government gets its way, this good news will bring little cheer.

Will the government get its way? I don't know. If it does, is that the end of the matter? Certainly not. Efforts must and will be made to reverse the legislation. Meanwhile arguments will begin in earnest, inside and outside the courts, about polygamy and polyamory, social programs and sex education, tax exemptions and hate crimes, etc.

Hostile to children

The line the courts have taken leaves no room for doubt about the direction we are headed. In a few years Canada will be a hostile environment in which to raise our children.

What can be done by those who are waking up to the disaster that is same-sex marriage? Here's my answer.

First, educate yourself so that you can engage in the debates. Divorcing Marriage is a good place to start, since it examines the history of same-sex marriage and considers some of its consequences, while exposing its faulty logic.

Second, call your MP right away and ask for an appointment. Make clear in your visit, and/or letter, that nothing less than unyielding resistance to the legislation will do. Demand a plebiscite. Copy your letter to Paul Martin and Stephen Harper. Encourage your neighbours to act similarly, especially if you think your MP is wavering.

Third, support political organizations like Enshrine Marriage Canada (www.enshrinemarriage.ca) that are developing long-term strategies. Don't fulminate; participate. Support religious organizations also, in their efforts to restore to public discourse the vital contribution that the majority tradition ­ the Judeo-Christian tradition ­ can make.

Fourth, never has it been more urgent to pray for Canada and its citizens, present and future. Participation without prayer is as much a mistake as prayer without participation.

Fifth, specifically to the bishops and other religious leaders: Declare now that the authority of your own office, which does not derive from the state, compels you to deny the state's power to alter the definition of marriage. Say clearly that you do not and will not recognize civil marriage, defined as a union as two persons, as anything more than a misguided legal fiction. And say that you will no longer perform civil marriages, so understood, nor encourage your people to enter them.

Let the laity, and all Canadians of good will, join you in saying that the Constitution belongs to the people, and that the Court Party's same-sex marriage dogma will not be received by the people.

Douglas Farrow, who teaches at McGill University, is co-editor of Divorcing Marriage.

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