Monday, September 14, 2009

Roots of Reform, Stephen Harper and the Stepford Wives

From the days of the Social Credit Party, to Reform, to Alliance, and finally the Conservative Party of Canada; there has been a common theme: A woman's place.

When Reform Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz was quoted as saying: "We should try to keep our mothers in the home and that is where the whole Reform platform hangs together", it was not an isolated comment and only a very small glimpse at their ideology and the roles of women.

Yes I know that Harper stacked his cabinet with females, but he'll do anything to keep his job, so it's irrelevant. Most of his caucus are mere window dressing anyway, since they are not allowed to talk without a script from the PMO.

But the roots of this patriarchal belief run deep, and begin with the Manning family. Ernest, the long-time Social Credit premier of Alberta and his son Preston, leader of the Reform Party.

In his book, Preston Manning and the Reform Party of Canada, Murray Dobbin discusses this.

"Preston Manning's church, the First Alliance in Calgary, is a member church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada. (Stephen Harper's Church). The 1990 edition of it's manual sets out it's constitution, bylaws, policies, regulations, and statements on marriage and divorce, and the role of women. As an evangelical church, it adheres to the doctrine of "enerrancy - that is, the Bible is correct in all details and cannot be deviated from.

"Two other areas of church doctrine are worth noting. The role of women in the church is subordinate to men and is dictated by the Bible: 'Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of every woman and God is the head of Christ' In the church and elsewhere, 'It is recognized that equality and submission can be compatible as seen in Jesus Christ. There is no inferiority implied in submission ... in the man-woman relationship.' (Preston Manning and the Reform Party. Author: Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 11)

Reform Conservative David Sweet and his group, the Promise Keepers, use the same flawed logic. PK is a male dominated, testosterone driven organization that tells it's followers not to ask for leadership in the family, but to take it.

Once in interview with Christian Week, David Sweet himself said, "Men are natural influencers, whether we like it or not. There's a particular reason why Jesus called men only."

They held a 'Living a Legacy' campaign across North America, and one woman made the following observations about the Promise Keepers:

1. They were Evangelical Christians "who believed the Bible to be the inerrant literal word of God". (Just like Preston Manning and Stephen Harper's Church as mentioned)
2. They were men who "believed in well defined gender roles..."
3. There were no gray areas, only what they perceived as absolute truths. (You can hear Reform Party mentor William Gairdner discuss absolutes in this video)
4. They were men uncomfortable with their sexuality and needed their "maleness" affirmed.
5. They were card carrying members of the anti-Christian Religious Right movement.
6. Each speaker at the rally had to "sign a pledge that the Bible is the inerrant literal word of God".

One speaker said "I am the head of the family, my wife is the neck." Another said, "Don't be spiritual cross-dressers, wearing the pants one day and the skirt the next."

"Throughout the entire event, I kept hearing about what it meant to be a 'man's man', a 'godly man', or a 'real man', and it certainly had nothing to do with equality of the genders or acceptance of sexual minorities."

Murray Dobbin goes into a bit more detail in a section entitled 'Women's Issues'.

"In November, 1990 a task force on women's issues headed by Sandra Manning, wife of the party leader, concluded that there were no distinctly women's issues. Diane Ablonczy, at the time national chairperson of the Reform Party, was quoted in Alberta Report as saying 'the work group came to the consensus that women's issues should subsequently be considered social and family issues'.

"Reform leaders have shown considerable hostility to the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC), an umbrella group that works on women's issues. Stan Waters repeatedly singled out the organization as typical of interest groups whose government funding should be cut. (One of the first things Stephen Harper did when elected was to cut their funding and remove the word "equality" from their mandate) Deborah Grey, answered a request from NAC for the party's position on women's issues by saying that the Reform Party refuses to appeal to interest groups so 'we will not be responding to the question'.

"The issues that NAC sought a position on included violence against women, equal pay for work of equal value, and provisions to prevent discrimination against women. Although these issues have implications for society in general, they obviously do have a more direct impact on the lives of women. In coming to the conclusion that there were no issues that are specifically women's issues, the Reform Party's women's work group made a political statement on the significance of the concerns raised by groups like the National Action Committee. (Preston Manning and the Reform Party. Author: Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 165-166)

Author Trevor Harrison describes it a little differently:

"In November 1990 Reform assembled a 'women's work group' to examine such issues as employment and pay equity, family violence, and women's health care. Shortly thereafter, however, a number of party supporters, including several with strong ties to REAL Women, declared their objection to both study materials being used for discussion and what they viewed as a typically feminist construction of specifically "women's problems.' Stated Mary Lamont, a founding member of both REAL women and the Reform Party:

"'I've been involved in the Reform Party from the start and I've always thought of it as a strong conservative party. I thought it stood for a different approach. I expected it to do more on these family issues than give us feminist slogans, attitudes and agendas. The feminists get enough attention from other parties.'

Under pressure, the controversial women's group folded." (Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada. Author: Trevor Harrison Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-8020-7204-6, pg. 213)

And then of course there's William Gairdner, another Reform Party mentor. Donna L. Lillian, Assistant Professor of Discourse and Linguistics East Carolina University, wrote a paper entitled: A thorn by any other name: sexist discourse as hate speech, which centered around Gairdner. Ms Lillian spent several years "...analyzing Canadian neoconservative discourse as racist, sexist, and homophobic." Murray Dobbin also discusses this:

"Gairdner (speaking at the 1991 Reform Party's Assembly) went on to attack the whole concept of human rights and the funding of advocacy groups that 'compete for government funding to get these rights.' The attack on the 'rights illusion' brought applause, but his attack on feminists brought a roar of approval: 'Furthermore ... we fund ... radical feminist groups all over the country .... (extended applause) ... that publicly support social revolution ... of the most Utopian kind and they vow to abolish the traditional family.'

"Again, going after women and women's rights, Gairdner suggested to more loud applause, that Canada 'throw the Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) out and return to our common law heritage. ... Women get special treatment but men do not (loud boos)" (Preston Manning and the Reform Party. Author: Murray Dobbin Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing 1992 ISBN: 0-88780-161-7, pg. 165-166)

Harper's disdain for women's rights run deep through his Church and Reform Party roots. This gives us some idea of what to expect from a Harper Majority.

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