Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ric McIver’s participation in a religious march organized by a Christian group with anti-gay views is drawing some intense criticism.
On June 15, McIver attended the annual March for Jesus in Calgary, a religious march partially organized by the Street Church Ministries group. In 2010, the group had its status as a charity revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency because of its strong condemnation of homosexuality.
“Last year alone, Calgary’s streets were flooded with people of wrong sexual preferences during a homosexual parade… to openly proclaim and manifest that they are not ashamed to declare the name of their master (Satan),” reads part of the group’s online invitation to the march.
McIver defended his attendance in a Facebook post, saying he was celebrating his Roman Catholic faith with other Christians and will “continue to attend events celebrating the diversity of Alberta.”
“I have also attended events with other faith communities, including Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and secular events with many diverse communities from around the world,” wrote McIver, adding he does not share the group’s views on homosexuality.
“I deplore discrimination against all groups and individuals without exception.”
But Dr. Kristopher Wells, Director of the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies at the University of Alberta and co-founder of Camp fYrefly — a national leadership retreat for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-identified, two-spirited, intersexed, queer, questioning, and allied youth — says McIver should resign.
“Supporting extremist and anti-gay ideologies is NOT supporting diversity. It’s condoning hate and has no place for a leader in Alberta,” wrote Wells on Twitter.
In a statement, Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta (PCAA) President Jim McCormick said all candidates are required to follow the party’s statement of principles and “closed mindedness or intolerance have no place in the PCAA.”
Leadership rival Thomas Lukaszuk said the discussion started at a recent PC policy forum when McIver and fellow leadership contender Jim Prentice both came out strongly in favour of section 11.1 of Bill 44, the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Amendment Act, which requires a school jurisdiction to provide notice to a parents where courses of study will include subject matter that deals with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation.
Bill 44 also makes it possible for parents to file human rights complaints against teachers and school districts if they break the rule and opponents say that could create a chill with regard to what is taught in the classroom. Some gay-rights activists have described the section as “state-sanctioned discrimination”.
At the forum, both McIver and Prentice supported the section on the grounds that parents deserve to have a choice in what their children are taught in school. Prentice then joked that the PC’s will have to get MLAs with conflicting views out of the legislature.
While refusing to give his personal view on the section, Lukaszuk said he “would welcome those discussions in the Alberta Legislature.”
“I welcome opposing views and I want to make sure that we focus more on reconciling opposite views as opposed to driving wedge issues into the legislature, simply for political gain,” he said.