By Lorne Gunter ,QMI Agency June 18, 2014
Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ric McIver arrives with his wife Christine McIver at the PC Leadership Launch at the Ramada hotel in Edmonton, Alta., on Monday, June 2, 2014. (Ian Kucerak/QMI Agency)
Everyone in Canada has the right to freedom of expression, even those who have odious and obnoxious views. That’s because what is considered odious and obnoxious changes from time to time.
So governments and human rights organizations shouldn’t be empowered to decide what is and isn’t “acceptable speech.” (Ooo, how those words send a chill down my spine – “acceptable speech.”)
It’s tough standing up for those who have repugnant views or views that are out of favour with politicians, bureaucrats and special interest groups. But caving in to the forces of political correctness is even more dangerous.
Political correctness seeks not just to control what people say, but what they think as well.
Having said that, while governments shouldn’t persecute you for your unfashionable beliefs, other people have every right to have nothing to do with you if they disagree with your odious and obnoxious ideas.
In other words, human rights tribunals should leave you alone, but your fellow citizens, as individuals, are under no similar obligation. As free people, they can shun you for any reason they choose.
So it is with Ric McIver, one of three candidates for the Progressive Conservative party leadership in Alberta.
On Father’s Day, McIver participated in the March for Jesus in downtown Calgary. It was his fourth MfJ parade.
Nothing wrong with that, per se, except that the march website shows it is a clear, anti-gay reaction to Calgary’s annual gay pride parade.
Marchforjesus.ca exclaimed: “Last year alone, Calgary’s streets were flooded with people of wrong sexual preferences during a homosexual parade of over 30,000 attendees …”
OK, controversial, but still defensible to some on theological grounds.
But organizers went further insisting pride parade participants “are not ashamed to declare the name of their master (Satan) and in the same way not concerned with provoking greatly the wrath of the Living God.”
That, too, (despite being unhinged) should be protected speech from the government’s point of view, but it is not something individual Albertans need to shrug off if it offends them.
So associating with groups that have such extreme views is very risky for a politician like McIver.
He shouldn’t fear a knock on the door from Alberta’s human rights police, but he shouldn’t be surprised if a lot of voters exercise their right to freedom of association by slamming their doors in his face when he comes campaigning. And he shouldn’t be shocked if he gets punted from the Tory caucus once the leadership race has ended.
Particularly contentious among the march organizers is Calgary Street Church, a group that has disrupted public events such as the Calgary Stampede parade with its anti-gay preaching. Street Church has also had its charitable status revoked for its biased stance.
Bravely (if wrongheadedly) and despite official condemnations, Street Church soldiers on for its cause.
But defending the church’s right to have its say, is not the same as agreeing with them. Marching together with them, as McIver did, is an endorsement of their stance.
And McIver cannot dodge behind the excuse he didn’t know what he was signing up for.
In January, when he was still a minister in the Alberta government, McIver filmed a video on behalf of Street Church inviting the public to come to a showing of a documentary made by the organization. And in February, he appeared at the premiere and co-introduced the film.
If McIver doesn’t know of Street Church’s controversial beliefs, he should. He’s had plenty of chance to inform himself.
If McIver wants to continue to own Street Church and its positions, fine. That’s his right.
But he should expect the church’s views will limit his chances of replacing Alison Redford.