Sunday, September 20, 2009

Roots of Reform and More Than a Few Bad Apples

I used the photograph on the right in another posting, but wanted to give you a visual for this one. The man with the gun is Gary Mauser, a friend of Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz, and a member of the party's firearm advisory committee.

This past week we saw Stephen Harper unplugged, going back to his roots, referring to women as 'left-wing fringe groups' and promising to get rid of the gun registry.

I have embarked on a journey of discovery, in an attempt to ask the question, how did a party rooted in bigotry, end up running our country? It's mind boggling.

However, I came across a letter from 13 years ago that I thought I'd share, because it helps to sum up just who this Reform Party is, now calling themselves the Conservative Party of Canada. It was written not long after it was discovered that the Reform party had been infiltrated by neo-Nazis and in response to a letter Mauser above wrote, trying to defend them.

They may not have been white supremacists themselves, but their ideology was a natural draw to people with similar views, but a different way of expressing them.

Reform apple basket rotting
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia
by Bradley Hughes
September 9, 1996

Gary Mauser writes in your last issue that he is surprised that "the Reform Party was made out to be an ogre." He suggests that all groups have some bad apples, and that the Reform Party is no exception and should not be judged by a few bad apples. I would agree. The party should be judged by the comments of its MPs and executives, people who are chosen by the party to represent the party.

Let's start with the comments of Reform MP's Bob Ringma and Dave Chatters this spring on the subject of the Reform Party's belief "in the equality of all citizens."

MP Dave Chatters on CFOK radio in Alberta said, "And when you go into the issue of homosexuals and lesbians I think it's in the interest of society to have the right to discriminate against that group in areas of...schools is the one that comes to mind." He justified this as being similar to discriminating against young people by not issuing drivers licenses to those under sixteen years of age.

Around the same time Reform MP Bob Ringma remarked that gays and "ethnics" could be fired or "moved to the back of the shop," if the employer thought that would help business. His remarks were initially defended by himself and Reform Party leader Preston Manning. Later Manning and other MP's denounced these remarks, leading to the temporary suspension of these two from caucus.

Also suspended was MP Jan Brown for pointing out that there was a problem with these attitudes in the Reform Party. She quit the party. Dave Chatters response was, "I expected to be attacked by the media and special interest groups, but was quite shocked that my party took the stand it did."

As another example of their commitment to equality, the Reform Party at its convention in Vancouver in June voted 93% in favour of defining marriage as a heterosexual union and the family as people who are related by blood ties or adoption. This definition would deny gay and lesbian couples equal access to spousal and family benefits, including adoption.

Gary Mauser writes, referring to a family that immigrated to Canada from Uganda in the 1960's, that "Reformers are proud that such people chose to come to Canada." If that is so, then Reformers have changed their opinions in the last few years. In 1990, Rex Welbourne, vice-president of the party's interim executive in Peterborough, told the Toronto Star, "a larger number of blacks and asians are entering Canada; for the first generation, their birth rate is higher and you don't have to be an expert to understand what could happen. Canada as we know it could disappear."

Herb Grubel, Reform MP for Capilano-Howe Sound in The Immigration Dilemma published by the business-financed Fraser Institute in 1992 wrote that Canada is likely to "regret" taking in large numbers of third world immigrants because they prove "harder to integrate." "Policies which maintain the traditional [European] composition of immigrants, on the other hand, avoid the risk of having to face the longer run costs."

Mauser pointed out that "not all NDPers are communists."

It is also true that not all Reformers are Nazis. They have kicked out at least five of them all ready. When Wolfgang Droege, leader of the Heritage Front (a Neo-Nazi hate group whose members and leaders have been convicted on a variety of violent offenses) was kicked out of the Reform Party he had this to say, "It was quite obvious who I was and what I stood for because of the conversations that we had and that sort of thing. It was only when the newspaper articles came out that they booted us out."

In 1994 Max French ran for mayor in Scarborough on a combined Reform Party-Heritage Front platform. Only after the connection was identified in the media did the Reform party expel French. According to him, the Reform Party and the Heritage Front "share many philosophical positions and ideologies and a sizable number of people are members in both groups."

Let me repeat that I am not accusing the Reform Party of being Nazis, the point I want to make is that members of Neo- Nazi groups, who were open about their beliefs were able to join and participate, while their allegiances were known.

Reform MPs also have strong opinions on family values. Deborah Grey MP for Beaver River: "Women are just trying to lift themselves up to the detriment and expense of men." Herb Grubel, MP for Capilano-Howe Sound has said, "Having programs in support of single mothers causes mothers to be single and need support."

Given the wide variety of racist, homo-phobic, and sexist remarks that Reformers have made and continue to make, anyone who wishes to defend this party has to be able to come up with a defense of policies that attract such people. If MPs and executives are the "bad apples" of the party, why are all the good apples still supporting them?

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