James Egan and John Norris Nesbit, were a gay couple who had been in a conjugal relationship since 1948. Their challenge to the courts over the definition of a spouse would pave the way for not only gay rights but equal marriage.
The Old Age Security Act in Canada, provides that a spouse of a pensioner may receive a spousal allowance should their combined income fall below a certain amount. So when Nesbit reached 65, fitting the definition, he applied to the Department of National Health and Welfare for a spousal allowance. However, he was refused on the basis that spouse, defined in section 2 of Old Age Security Act, did not include a member of the same sex.
So Egan and Nesbit delivered a motion for a declaration of unconstitutionality to the Federal Court of Canada alleging that the definition of "spouse" under the Old Age Security Act constituted an infringement of their right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law, entrenched in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Though they were refused by the trial judge and their case was turned down for an appeal, they took the matter to the Supreme Court, who in 1995 agreed, and the two men were granted the supplement. (1)
As a result of this decision, the Canadian Parliament voted to amend* the Canadian Human Rights Act to explicitly include sexual orientation as one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination.
This inclusion of sexual orientation in the Act was an express declaration by Parliament that gay and lesbian Canadians are entitled to "an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives they are able and wish to have..." (Section 2). The Canadian Human Rights Commission , which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Act, provides further information about human rights and sexual orientation. (2)This decision angered many fundamentalist Christians, who feared that legitimizing same-sex marriage would be the next step. Two of them were Brian Rushfeldt and Roy Beyer, pastors of Victory church. Since neither were ordained ministers, they decided to take a correspondence course at Charles McVety's Canada Christian College, but the change in the Constitution to include gay rights, changed their priorities, and they decided to:
... drop everything and build a grassroots political force to demand the restoration of biblical principles to government. At Victory headquarters, their boss arranged for them to fly to Washington for a tutorial from the reigning expert on evangelical organizing, Ralph Reed, the Georgia wunderkind whom Pat Robertson had chosen to build the Christian Coalition. (3)Also in attendance were Jason Kenney and Don Spratt, the man who would create the Canadian Christian Coalition, based on the techniques used by Reed.
Years earlier, Reed had confided to a reporter that stealth was essential** to his modus operandi. "I want to be invisible," he said. "I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night." Warming to the metaphor, he boasted, "You don't know it's over until you're in a body You don't know until election night." Nobody had paid much attention until 1994 when Reed realized that scenario on a national scale. The mainstream media woke up on election night to discover that the Christian Coalition had been instrumental in engineering a Republican takeover of both houses of Congress for the first time in forty-two years. (3)Beyer and Rushfeldt were also inspired by Reed and they too started a Christian grassroots movement: the Canada Family Action Coalition.
They immediately went into action, when Alberta premier Ralph Klein, called an election, and
Canada Family Action (CFA) was founded in early 1997 with a vision to see Christian principles applied in Canadian law, politics and society. We provide strategies, networking, training and tools to enable ordinary Canadians to influence government, education, media, and culture.
We work with individuals, churches, other like-minded groups, and businesses to provide a unified thrust in promoting the Christian worldview in government, the media and society. Presently we have over 40,000 individuals who are active supporters, plus hundreds of thousands of others who participate in various major campaigns through phone calls to MPs , petitions, brochure distribution and letters to editors of newspapers. Some even host meetings in their area on issues and invite speakers. Our Mission: To mobilize, train and activate Canadians in defending and promoting Christian principles in Canadian society. (4)
... scrambled to put together a homegrown version of a tool that Reed had developed for churches, a political report card aimed at pinpointing acceptable social-conservative candidates without taking a partisan stand that would jeopardize their charitable tax status. Those voters' guides graded lawmakers on how they had cast their ballots on bills close to theo-con hearts. Beyer and Rushfeldt sent out their first edition to ninety thousand Alberta households in what turned out to be a dry run for the federal election that was called months later.(The Canadian Christian Coalition fared much better for the Reform Party).
In a burst of enthusiasm, they ordered half a million copies of their new national guides, confident that evangelical corporate leaders would leap at the opportunity to underwrite such an innovative scheme, but Beyer came back from his first fundraising tour empty-handed. "Up here," Rushfeldt says, "the Christian community had bought into this idea that politics and religion don't mix." (3)
Jason Kenney and Don Spratt
Reproductive rights rights in Canada took a giant step backward in January when a provincial court judge gutted the British Columbia's government's new Access to Abortion Services Act, which had established protest-free "bubble zones" around abortion clinics and doctors' homes and offices. The ruling came at a time when the previously disorganized Religious Right in this province was congealing into a B.C. wing of the newly formed Christian Coalition of Canada, inspired by the politically influential Christian Coalition in the U.S. ... a formidable lobbying force in American politics, installing its anti-choice, anti-gay agenda and candidates at all levels of government, from school boards to Congress.
The B.C. chapter is headed up by Operation Rescue activist Don Spratt ... "Advisors" to the new CCC reportedly include Ted and Link Byfield (owners of the ultra-conservative B.C. Report and Alberta Report magazines), Jason Kenny (head of the Canadian Taxpayers Association), and Alex Parachin (head of the Christian Broadcasting Associates in Toronto, the Canadian branch plant of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network). (5)
As mentioned, Don Spratt was then the leader of Rescue Canada (also known as Operation Rescue), a position he held in "the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, for which he was repeatedly jailed for “contempt of court” for obeying God rather than man ... "(6)His group fared better than Canada Family Action, perhaps because of the connections of people like Bill Vander Zalm, Jason Kenney and the Reform Party.
They would build up such a network of think-tanks and non-profit groups, that I'm beginning to feel the way that Lucy did in the following clip. You start off slow, tracking the money and the players, and then they speed up the conveyor belt and you're stuffing names in your hat so they don't fall off your radar.
The Christian Coalition has established roots in British Columbia, Canada ... Bill Vander Zalm, a former British Columbia premier and one of the more than 20 directors ... announced that the group plans to distribute "voter guides" in churches around the province in any upcoming election.
Vander Zalm notes that the group is already organized in the Okanagan, the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland. Vander Zalm has associated in the past with the right-wing Reform Party and the Family Coalition Party of B.C. The B.C. chapter formed after several dozen Canadians attended the fall 1995 Christian Coalition convention in the U.S.
Don Spratt, a member of Operation Rescue, leads the B.C. chapter. Other advisors to the group include Ted and Link Byfield of the right-wing Alberta Report and B.C. Report magazines, Alex Parachin, head of the Canadian branch of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network and Jason Kenny, head of the Canadian Taxpayers Association.
Jim Garrow, the Ontario-based leader of the Christian Coalition of Canada told reporters that the group will seek allies in organizations such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, REAL Women and the Canadian branch of James Dobson's Focus on the Family. (7)
I'm going to do a list and the end of this chapter, of which, mostly faith-based groups, promoted which candidates for the 1997 election, as well as future ones; but it's pretty clear that this party has been taken over by the Religious Right. I don't think Stephen Harper could stop them now even if he wanted to.
So why should this matter? Well, as Canadian author and activist, Maude Barlow explains:
Sincerely held religious beliefs accompanied by strict morality are obviously not a bad thing, and any Church is entitled to make its own rules about who, for example, it will choose to marry under Church auspices. (Some may deplore a lack of tolerance for alternative lifestyles displayed by particular denominations, but the freedom of religion means that people are free to make such choices.) Civil rights are another matter. Increasingly, however, the sometimes narrow convictions of Christian sects are being exploited by politicians in both Canada and the, United States (where the tendency is highly developed) to introduce into the political realm a degree of inflexibility, passion, and rancour that tend to undermine the spirit of accommodation and tolerance that is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. Our civil liberties are threatened as a result. The point is that people are free to believe what they want privately, but if they enter politics to inflict those beliefs on others, then their religious concerns become fair game.
Intolerance for gays, passionate opposition to abortion and a handful of other "hot-button" issues are pushing a number of born-again Canadians to identity with the evangelical, right-wing views of American fundamentalist groups such as Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition, two of the groups that helped put George W Bush in the White House. (7)
Less than 11% of Canadians are evangelical, and of that probably less than half are of the extreme variety. Yet they now make up more than half of the Harper caucus. But what's worse, they have also been infiltrated into all levels of the public sphere, and are now in the courts, the senate and even the civil service.
If this government is in power much longer, the majority of Canadians risk losing their voice, and all decisions made will be contrary to Canadian beliefs and Canadian values.***
* Stephen Harper voted against amending the Canadian Human Rights
**Stephen Harper would later also adopt Reed's strategy: "The state should take a more activist role in policing social norms and values ... To achieve this goal, social and economic conservatives must reunite as they have in the U.S., where evangelical Christians and business rule in an unholy alliance. Red Tories must be jettisoned from the party ... Movement towards the goal must be "incremental, so the public won't be spooked." Stephen Harper (8)
*** "Westerners, but especially Albertans, founded the Reform/Alliance to get "in" to Canada. The rest of the country has responded by telling us in no uncertain terms that we do not share their 'Canadian values.' Fine. Let us build a society on Alberta values." Stephen Harper
1. Egan v. Canada,  2 S.C.R. 513, May 25, 1995
2. Sexual Orientation and Human Rights, Canadian Heritage, Government of Canada
3. The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada, By: Marci McDonald, Random House Canada, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-307-35646-8 3, Pg. 69-70
4. Canada Family Action, Mission/Vision Statement, Accessed June 25, 2010
5. The Christian Coalition Comes to Canada, by Kim Goldberg, The Albion Monitor, May 5, 1996
6. For Truth, Life and Liberty, DonSpratt.org
7. Too Close for Comfort: Canada's Future Within Fortress North America, By Maude Barlow, McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2005, ISBN: 0-7710-1088-5, Pg. 24
8. Harper, Bush Share Roots in Controversial Philosophy: Close advisers schooled in 'the noble lie' and 'regime change', By Donald Gutstein, The Tyee, November 29, 2005