Christian marriage commissioner faces rights tribunal

REGINA – In response to a complaint made against him before the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal, Orville Nichols, a marriage commissioner in that province, has said his faith “takes first place” in his life and therefore, he cannot in good conscience officiate over the “marriage” for two homosexual men. He added: “I couldn’t sleep or live with myself if I were to perform same-sex ‘marriages.’” When two men contacted Nichols in 2003 to request he marry them, he said he could not do that, because they were a same-sex couple. But he did refer the pair to another commissioner who agreed to perform the “marriage.” The homosexual couple claim Nichols’ refusal to marry them personally amounts to illegal discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Saskatchewan Justice ministry has said it will remove all marriage commissioners from office who will not perform the civil ceremony for homosexual partners and is awaiting the outcome of this Human Rights Tribunal case to decide whether to remove Nichols from the list. In 2004, Nichols filed a complaint to the HRT that claimed requiring existing marriage commissioners to perform same-sex ceremonies, even if it violated their religiously informed consciences, was discriminatory, but the tribunal rejected the compliant. A decision on the complaint against Nichols is expected later this year.

Status of Women hearings a farce

OTTAWA – The House of Commons standing committee on the Status of Women conducted four days of televised hearings on the topic of the potential impact of the funding cuts at Status of Women Canada. The committee, the majority of which is composed of opposition party MPs, selected the groups that were to testify before it. REAL Women noted that of the 30 groups that testified, 27 opposed the funding cuts to the Status of Women Secretariat and only three (including REAL Women) supported the government’s policy of a 25 per cent cut in the secretariat’s administrative budget. Furthermore, nearly all of the 27 groups opposed to the cuts are funded by the Status of Women. While they described the cuts as anti-women and regarded the federal funding as their “entitlements,” REAL Women, which receives no taxpayer funding, said the feminist groups were more interested in keeping their funding than advancing the cause of women. Furthermore, it criticized the feminist organizations for failing to acknowledge the diversity in women’s views regarding a range of issues and charged them with an ideologically narrow vision of women’s issues. REAL Women said in a press release that, “The cuts are only offensive to the special interest group of feminists whose extremist views are not supported by mainstream women.” It also questioned the necessity and expense of the hearings, in which a committee heard from organizations that by and large shared the same view as a majority of its members.

Pro-family leader seeks Tory nomination

SURREY – After initially rejecting her nomination bid in Newton-North Delta (B.C.), the Conservative Party of Canada relented and permitted Heather Stilwell, a prominent social conservative, to run for the party’s nomination. Stilwell, a former leader of the Christian Heritage Party and an elected Surrey school board trustee who has done battle with gay activists in local schools, was informed by party headquarters that she would not be allowed to contest the riding nomination. First elected to the Surrey School Board in 1990, Stilwell would have been a high-profile candidate with extensive local government and campaign experience. But party brass appeared frightened by the pro-life and pro-family views of the mother of eight. However, after broke the story on Feb. 9, the party relented. Back in the race, Stilwell credits LifeSite with getting her campaign rejuvenated: the story “moved something forward here, because I’ve had a call and they are going to let me run,” she said.