In Part I of The Interim’s look at the testimony presented to the equality rights hearings, I showed how they were dominated by the views of feminist, homosexual and pro-abortion groups. (See “Equality hearings – soapbox for Sodomites,” October issue.)
The public hearings conducted by the parliamentary sub-committee on equal rights have now ended. They had been extended past their first August deadline and more cities were visited at the end of September. The committee is currently working on its report which is expected to be tabled in the House of Commons some time in October.
The committee was consistently told that the interpretation of Section 15 of the Charter is of crucial importance to society. But many groups complained that the time allotted for public input was too short and that volunteer groups were handicapped because such groups are not so active during the summer months. Also, advance publicity was minimal, thus preventing many people from appearing in person or submitting a written brief.
In fact, only the organized feminist groups such as National Action Committee (NAC), the Provincial Status of Women, and the Legal Education and Action Fund; the Human Rights Commissions, the homosexual rights and the pro-abortion groups seemed to have received enough advance warning to prepare.
Many of these groups are government-funded, to a greater or lesser extent, and the necessary resources to prepare briefs, network with other sympathetic groups and to travel to hearings. Indeed, NAC obtained a special grant to send an observer to each city the committee visited.
A feminist agenda
A clear trend quickly developed as to the major lobbies. These hearings were used as a soapbox to promote the radical reshaping of Canadian society to conform with feminist and homosexual goals.
In all, approximately 70 groups supported a feminist agenda appeared before the committee. They advocated mandatory affirmative action and equal-pay-for-equal-work-of-equal-value programmes, both for the public and private sectors. More job training and retraining programmes for women, with an emphasis on “non-traditional” jobs, were demanded.
They requested that maternity benefits should be extended and renamed “parental leave.” This, in order “to reverse the discriminatory assumption that only women are intended or wish to be the primary caretakers of infants.” Family allowance benefits should be paid to the spouse with the lower income instead of to the mother. In addition, universal day-care is essential, they said, to achieve “employment equity.”
These feminist-oriented groups generally supported the demands put forward by the more than 25 homosexual activist groups. Some of them claimed that sexual orientation is already prohibited, although not named, under Section 15 of the Charter. Others argued that Section 15 should be amended to explicitly prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. Many demanded that committee member Svend Robinson’s Bill 225 on sexual orientation be adopted and that the RCMP and the Department of National Defence be prohibited from discriminating against homosexuals when hiring.
The feminist groups also joined with more than 11 pro-abortion groups in demanding that abortion be removed from the Criminal Code and that free-standing abortion clinics be established. Feminist, homosexual and pro-abortion groups received a sympathetic reception from committee members.
The clearest indication of where certain committee members stand on the two major issues before the committee, homosexuality and abortion, came during the question period allotted to each presentation. (See also Part I, October Interim.) Those who raised points of view, or asked questions that differed from major lobby positions were grilled by the MPs.
In Regina, John Zimmer, solicitor for the City of Moose Jaw, was attacked for his suggestion that Section 15 may require that pedophiles be hired as policemen. In Toronto, Pastor Fred Vaughn, a Baptist, found himself in the hot seat for suggesting that the unborn have rights.
When Mr. Zimmer asked whether municipalities would “be required to hire as police officers pedophiles who have openly expressed their desire for small children,” Svend Robinson called such a suggestion “degrading and offensive nonsense.” Protection on the grounds of sexual orientation Robinson said, does not include pedophiles, “It is quite obvious,” he said, “that sexual orientation deals with preference for a particular sex, not a particular age.” He suggested that “if an individual openly expresses a desire for small children and seeks a position as a police officer that would not be acceptable as an operational requirement.” However, he did not say how those hiding their sexual preferences could be refused certain employment.
Pastor Fred Vaughn, who gave an individual presentation at the public hearing in Toronto, championed rights for the unborn. “The time for concern and choice and for the prevention of any inconvenience should be before conception takes place,” he said.
“The developing human being should not be discriminated against on the basis of age. [he continued] “Interpreting the Charter as giving women the benefit of abortion on demand will only erode our strength as a nation. I speak of its moral strength as well as its numerical strength. Seeing we have already killed one million of our future citizens, we cannot be proud of this record. Surely there are some twinges of shame. If we are killing as many babies as there are live births in some cases, by making abortion more readily available and by interpreting the Charter as giving the right to abortion, this imbalance will only continue and increase.”
While Pastor Vaughn was received courteously by Chairman Patrick Boyer and congratulated for his “very clear and also very courageous” presentation by Maurice Tremblay (who, however, thought that abortion was no longer a matter of debate), he was attacked by Sheila Finestone. “I respect your right to hold your opinion,” she said. “However, I do not respect your right to impose your opinions on me.” She criticized Pastor Vaughn’s presentation as “non productive” and as containing “inflammatory language,” referring to the Pastor’s [legally correct] point that children “may be legally aborted five minutes before their natural birth.” Not so, she said, “not if you wish the woman to survive.” Stated Finestone,
“I do not consider a foetus in the womb, which is 12 to 14 weeks old, to be an unborn child. It is a foetus developing to become a child, when it can put its two little feet on God’s earth. As the mother of four children and three wards, I am extremely proud of and happy to have been a mother by choice. That was my decision as an adult; that is what I wanted. Those who want children should be allowed to have children if they are blessed enough to be able to have them. If they do not want children, I object strenuously to your imposing your values on them.”
After reading the Minutes carefully, I did not find a single comment from any committee member which indicated support for pro-life. The committee may well be seen to be balanced in its mix of male and female MPs; it certainly is not on the abortion issue.
Not all of those who urged for protection for the unborn were treated disdainfully by the committee. After hearing from Women for Life, Faith and the Family in Toronto, Pauline Browes observed that “the viewpoint that you bring forth to this committee today has probably been expressed less than the opposite view.”
Bette Hamon, Toronto co-ordinator for Women for Life, Faith and the Family, a Catholic women’s organization, summed up her group’s recommendations as follows:
“We recommend that babies in utero from the moment of conception be granted legal personality so that any form of parental abuse can be prevented. We recommend that minor children be protected by recognizing parental responsibility for consent to medical and surgical procedures. We recommend that fathers of unborn babies be granted rights equal to those of the mother. We recommend that Parliament retain its right to legislate on the matter of abortion. No right to abortion exists under Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,…
“Government funding of women’s groups must be fair and unbiased… homosexual and lesbian Canadians have the same rights under the Charter of Rights as every other individual; no special right should be added.”
Representatives from R.E.A.L. Women of Canada were not received so politely. Svend Robinson found their name “offensive” and said that he disagreed “fundamentally” with the group’s positions.
He wanted a definite statement on where R.E.A.L. Women stands on homosexuality. This led to the following lively exchange with Gwen Landolt, lawyer for R.E.A.L. Women,
Robinson: I asked you about your views with respect to protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Landolt: First of all, I might mention discrimination. In order to get any government grants out of the Secretary of State, we have to become closet heterosexuals, because only the lesbians seem to be getting the funding out of there. That is one thing. It seems that anyone who is…
Robinson: Are you suggesting that NAC is a lesbian organization?
Landolt: I am suggesting that is one of their priorities. In their last meeting in Ottawa, they had two priorities; one is reproductive rights and the other was that sexual orientation should be the priority, and they have adopted a motion in favour of that. They have two priorities, and those are the two priorities they adopted this year.
Paying to be attacked
R.E.A.L. Women got another opportunity to appear before the committee in Vancouver, B.C. Peggy Steacy, B.C. president, told the committee that R.E.A.L. Women “are probably the most discriminated-against group in Canada” having been denied funding by both Liberal and Conservative governments. “It is also a very strange situation to find yourself in,” she noted, “where you see your taxes going to fund groups which attack you.” Mrs. Steacy referred to a North Shore feminist newspaper which received $40,000 funding last year. The newspaper urged its readers to write to the government demanding no funding for R.E.A.L. Women.
Mrs. Steacy put on record where some of the government funding goes:
“… the Status of Women receives upwards of $12 million a year… NAC get[s] $300,000 a year. The Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, which has only 650 members, got $295,000 this year. The Canadian Congress of Learning Opportunities got $189,000: they have 500 members.”
The national headquarters of R.E.A.L.Women in Toronto, its B.C. chapter and the Alberta Federation of Women United for the Family (AFWUF), its affiliate, presented the only alternative view to the feminist agenda to the committee.
The main points are as follows.
- Abortion is “the most unjust discrimination practices in Canada on the basis of age… The abortion law is also discriminatory on the basis of sex.” (AFWUF)
- Affirmative action: “we do not think we should get jobs ahead of men if they are better qualified than we are just because you have to have a token woman here and there.” (B.C.) “AFWUF opposes gender quotas.” “To appoint a woman on the basis of her gender only would appear to be reverse discrimination not only against males, but also against minority groups such as natives and ethnics.” (Toronto)
- Equal pay for work of equal value “may well benefit 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent of women only and it may discriminate as well against the least qualified women. Highly educated or skilled women have the skills to compete with men; the least educated or unskilled women do not, and will lose in equal value since employers will almost certainly hire an unskilled male rather than an unskilled woman for whom they must pay the same wage.” (Toronto) “The costs, therefore, of equal value may well be borne mainly by women; that is, women in the traditional female fields and women who are unskilled.” (Toronto)
- Day care: “Parents must remain responsible for the care of their children. Only families in need – single parent families, families below the poverty line – should receive government-subsidized day care. Universal day care would result in discrimination against families where one parent earns the family wage while the other parent, usually the mother, cares for the children full time.
“All taxpayers would be forced to support universal day care but not all parents would be using the system. Double-income families earning $50,000 per year and more would get the benefit of government-financed day care while single-income families earning less would have to help pay for something the $50,000-per-year family could afford to pay for itself.” (AFWUF)
- Income tax: “At present there are several forms of discrimination against families who choose to have one parent, usually the mother, remain home full time with the children. For example, the exemption available to working women is $400 more than the personal exemption allowed for full-time mothers. Also, two-income families, no matter what their income, can claim up to $8,000 in child care deductions for day-care costs. There is no comparable deduction available for families where one parent stays home to care for the children, even though many of these families have a lower income than two-income families.” (AFWUF)
- “We would like to see a homemaker’s credit, rather than the marriage exemption, and also a tax credit for dependent children.” (B.C.)
- Families with an at-home mother: “At the present time, government policies are directed to supporting only the option of the women working outside the home.” (Toronto)
“There are 3.5 million women in Canada who are full-time homemakers… We need legal and social policies to protect the homemaker at home.” (B.C.)
- Marital or family status: “People who are living together without marriage must not be given the same rights as people who are married. Equality regarding marital status must not be interpreted as including so-called common-law relationships. In fact, true common-law relationships, where men and women hold themselves out as being married, are rare today. Living together without marriage is a more accurate description of the arrangement.” (AFWUF)
- Sexual orientation must not become a prohibited grounds for discrimination. Religious groups, for example, must retain the right to prevent homosexuals and adulterers and those living together without marriage from teaching in religious schools and other institutions. Public schools must be free to follow the wishes of local parents regarding the type of role models the parents want for their children. Making sexual orientation a prohibited ground for discrimination would require, presumably, that homosexuals be allowed to marry. Such a possibility goes against the biological and moral order.” (AFWUF)
- Mortgages “could be financed at a lower rate for the first years, and then at a higher rate when the family is better established, when the father’s salary is higher, when the children are getting older.” (B.C.)
Women for Free Enterprise
One further alternative view was presented in Vancouver. Alternative, that is, in the sense that it was strikingly different to that presented by the mainstream feminist groups. Margot Furk appeared on behalf of an ad hoc group called Canadian Women for Free Enterprise. She describes the group as “professional people who are very busy working in order to make ends meet … we do not have the benefit of a lot of time and a lot of funds from the Government of Canada to allow us to produce briefs and to attend public meetings on a regular basis.”
Mrs. Furk made the following points.
- Affirmative action: “When you institute an affirmative-action programme you rip away from me and from all other successful women, and for that matter all other successful so-called minorities, the personal satisfaction that comes with success, because it is no longer earned; it has been given, provided by a magnanimous big brother – the government.”
- Government funding for legal charter challenges: “There has been a suggestion that there should be public moneys available so that anybody who wishes to can challenge the Charter of Rights. If money grew on trees or if, once more, the government started printing it, then I suppose it could be available for everybody. We would all be reduced to one low level of economic poverty but, boy, we would sure have a lot of equality.”
- Equal pay for work of equal value: “I am convinced the general public and in fact a majority of our elected representatives do not understand the difference between equal pay for work of equal value and equal pay for equal work…
“Equal pay for work of equal value is a socialist concept. It has nothing to do with the free market that is determining the value, but rather, once again, the politicians and the bureaucrats.”
- Government: “Individual Canadians elected a majority Conservative government to redress the socialist and centrist tendencies of 16 years of the Trudeau government. I for one did not vote for the Conservative government, expecting it would not only continue a lot of these socialist philosophies but actually promote them.”
The Chairman, Patrick Boyer, called Mrs. Furk’s presentation “as refreshing as a cold shower.” Svend Robinson, not surprisingly, viewed it differently, saying “I suppose it is a little easier to make statements such as you have made from a position of relative comfort.”
However, Mrs. Furk was able to hold her own.
“As for my comfortable position, Mr. Robinson,” she replied, “I got here with a lot of hard work, and I suspect you got where you are because of a lot of hard work. Nobody has given me anything in my lifetime. I do not come from a wealthy family. I am comfortable to the extent that I am not physically disabled, and I am very thankful for that. But any of my successes, few that they are, I have earned, Mr. Robinson. So please do not in any way demean either me or my successes, just as I would not begin to suggest that your obvious comfort in any way influences the legitimacy of your ability to make fair and equitable judgments.”
Is there a consensus?
Different as the testimony is from the above women’s groups, it seems little enough to give balance to the point of view expressed by the more than 70 feminist groups that appeared. This imbalance between “traditional” and “radical” points of view appears even more marked when reviewing anti-abortion testimony, which will be discussed next month.
The committee’s report is expected to contain recommendations on how Section 15 of the Charter should be interpreted. It is to be hoped that committee members do not look upon the “radical” views expressed as indicative of a consensus in Canadian society.
Copies of the brief presented by the Alberta Federation of Women United for the Family may be ordained by writing to Lorna La Grange, R.R. #2, Red Deer, Alberta T4N 5E2. Please enclose $1 to cover Xerox and postage costs.
Those interested in learning more about Canadian Women for Free Enterprise should write to Margot Furk at 3770 Southridge Avenue, West Vancouver, B.C. V7V 3J1.
R.E.A.L. Women of Canada’s mailing address is P.O, Box 335, Thornhill, Ontario L3T 4A2.
Women for Life, Faith and Family can be contacted at 4038 Livingstone Avenue, Victoria, B.C. V8N 3A6. Women in the Toronto area should contact the Toronto chapter at 96 Flora Drive, Scarborough, Ontario M1P 1A6.