Thursday, June 30, 2005

Alberta's Moment of Truth

To much of Canada, Alberta is not seen as a very nice place.

In fact, there are those in Canada who consider Alberta to be everything that is wrong with Canada. They consider Alberta to be a bastion of lassaiz-faire economics, bigotry, and that most despised of c-words, ‘conservatism’.

While this obviously overlooks how complex Alberta actually is, there is no question that many Canadians (many of them residing in Quebec) perceive Alberta this way. Now, to some, it might seem like a good idea to attempt to dispel these myths.
But apparently not to the Alberta government. Because even two days after the passing of Bill C-38, the government of Alberta still clings to a fight it acknowledges it cannot win – and does this simply for the principle of the fight.
Today’s tale takes us to the Provincial Legislature Building in Edmonton, where Alberta justice minister has promised (of course) to fight Canada’s new same-sex marriage law – even if the fighting is all for naught.

"The fact is that the definition of marriage appears en route to be changed in two weeks' time," acknowledged Justice Minister Ron Stevens. "It will then become law in Alberta. "There's no doubt in my view that the federal legislation is paramount."
However, this does not mean that the fight is over for those struggling for equal recognition before the law. The government of Alberta has come up with a truly insidious method of resisting the move toward equality for homosexuals.

In the name of protecting religious freedom, the government of Alberta is allegedly willing to cease performing civil marriages, leaving marriage as the exclusive domain of religious institutions. Which may almost seem all right. But there is a problem. If the only place to marry in Alberta will now be within the walls of a church, where will, say… atheists get married, should they choose? I guess they can’t.

So, then, in the name of protecting religious freedom, the government of Alberta is limiting religious freedom?

Doesn’t really make sense, does it?

Two days ago I wrote that the passage or failure of the same-sex marriage bill represented a moment of truth for Canada. Today, I believe that the tactics the government of Alberta is willing to resort to in order to oppose same sex marriage represent the same moment of truth.

Can Alberta honestly deny charges of bigotry so long as it continues to feed the homophobic hysteria? The answer is, simply, no. Because if the passing of Bill C-38 represents a triumph for equality in Canada, then the Alberta government certainly seems like a thief in the night, ready to snatch it away.

Political Scientist Kieth Brownsey suggests that the move is purely political in nature. "The Focus on the Family groups, the religious right, the fundamentalists of one sort or another, certainly need to see that this government is acting in what they perceive to be their best interests," he says.

However, there is hope. Out of 61 MPs expected to meet to discuss blocking same-sex marriage in Alberta, only eight actually showed, suggesting that perhaps there are those within the Alberta Progressive Conservative party who possess the courage to tread forward, instead of regressing into the past.

But perhaps most disturbing are the words of Alberta Alliance justice critic Marilyn Burns: “Alberta has the constitutional authority to legislate that unions only between a man and a woman be ... issued marriage licenses.”

Alberta’s moment of truth may turn out to be an ugly one yet.

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