Who’s Influencing Policy Decisions In Stephen Harper’s Government?

In the wake Marci McDonald’s newly released book The Armageddon Factor: The Rise Of Christian Nationalism In Canada, a political firestorm has erupted on Parliament Hill, igniting debate about just who’s influencing the policy decisions made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The release of McDonald’s book comes amid the brewing tension of apparent ideological moves made by the Harper government, including the ‘Mexico City Policy’ for the upcoming G8 maternal and child health initiative, the rescinding of funds of women’s organizations who promote a full range of family planning options, and the denial of federal tourism funds for Pride Toronto.

With public focus being drawn to the back rooms of the PMO, the Harper governmentlashed out following a CBC segment featuring an interview with McDonald and a glimpse at some of the people discussed in the book. The Conservatives accused the public broadcaster of “fomenting religious division” and waging a “faith war” in an “ongoing campaign against the Conservative Party.” (Take note, this is just the latest in a string of baseless allegations made by the Conservative Party and Right Wing pundits against the CBC.)

The desperation exhibited by Conservative strategists in a fervent attempt to discredit McDonald, gives proof to explosive information contained between the covers of The Armageddon Factor; connections the Harper government would rather Canadians not be aware of. Try as they might to downplay the influence of Right Wing religious figures on policy decisions made by Harper, Conservatives cannot deny the presence of one prominent Christian activist and senior advisor in the PMO, who recently moved from his position as director of policy to become Harper’s new deputy chief of staff.

The prominent Christian activist is none other than Darrel Reid, former president of Focus On The Family Canada; Canada’s own James Dobson.

Reid served as Director of Policy and Research for the Reform Party of Canada, and in 1996 became chief of staff to then leader of the Reform Party, Preston Manning. In 1997 Reid won the Reform nomination for the Ottawa riding of Lanark-Carleton, but was ultimately defeated by the Liberal Party’s Ian Murray. The following year Reid became president of Focus On The Family Canada, an evangelical Christian organization which views homosexuality as a ‘curable condition,’ seeks to repeal gay rights legislation, equates the pro-choice movement to ‘systemic genocide,’ and believes ‘activist judges’ on the Supreme Court of Canada are a threat to democracy.

As president of Focus On The Family Canada, Reid described his role as mobilizing Christians in Canada to infuse their religion with their political beliefs, stating in a 2002 op-ed “it would be great to see social conservatives from all our parties and traditions begin to reinsert their most deeply-held convictions into our nation’s political discourse.” Reid later asserted that “every Christian is under an obligation to change law to reflect biblical values.”

Reid’s organization lobbied hard against same sex marriage legislation, later arguing Section 33 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for use of a ‘notwithstanding clause’ to overturn the right for gays to marry. He argued against the inclusion of sexual orientation to the list of minorities protected against hate crimes, and promoted ‘conversion therapy’ for those ‘afflicted’ by homosexuality. Conversion therapy, referred to by many as ‘Pray Away The Gay,’ stems from the belief that homosexuality is a choice and an inherent weakness. By praying for forgiveness and seeking divine guidance ,God will ultimately ‘relieve’ the ‘sufferer’ of their homosexual urges. It goes without saying that what Reid and Focus On The Family refer to as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality, is better known as living in denial.

During his time At Focus On The Family Canada, Reid worked closely with Dobson’s American organization, and between 2000 – 2003 Focus On The Family Canada received$1.6 Million from its U.S. counterpart to assist in the fight against same sex marriage legislation. Dobson’s influence through Focus on The Family Canada continues to this day, most recently through a misleading publication appearing in Today’s Family News – a publication of Focus On The Family Canada. The article, entitled Pediatricians Reject Teens Same Sex Attraction As ‘Normal’, states

“The American College of Pediatricians is cautioning ‘well-intentioned but misinformed’ high school teachers and staff across the US against being too quick to affirm students who say they are attracted to people of the same sex. ‘Adolescents experience confusion about many things, including sexual orientation and gender identity, and they are particularly vulnerable to environmental influences,’ the Florida-based ACP wrote in a letter to every school superintendent in the country. ‘Rigorous studies demonstrate that most adolescents who initially experience same-sex attraction, or are sexually confused, no longer experience such attractions by age 25.’ Such ‘premature labelling,’ the doctors warn, could encourage some teens to engage in harmful behaviours ‘that they otherwise would not pursue.’ And while schools have a ‘legitimate role to provide a safe environment for respectful self-expression for all students,’ it is not for them to ‘affirm’ a student’s perceived same-sex attraction.”

The letter referenced by Today’s Family News, and sent by The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) to the 14,800 American high school superintendents, reads in part:

“In dealing with adolescents experiencing same sex attraction, it’s essential to understand there is no scientific evidence that an individual is born ‘gay’ or ‘transgender’ … it is also critical to understand that these conditions can respond well to therapy.”

The problem? The American College Of Pediatrics (ACP), though it sounds like an official organization, is actually an American Right Wing ‘cure the gays’ group. The the REAL medical association is the American Academy Of Pediatricians (AAP), who clearly state:

“You Are Normal. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder. All of the major medical organizations, including The American Psychiatric Association, The American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that homosexuality is not an illness or disorder, but a form of sexual expression. No one knows what causes a person to be gay, bisexual, or straight. There probably are a number of factors. Some may be biological. Others may be psychological. The reasons can vary from one person to another. The fact is, you do not choose to be gay, bisexual, or straight.”

In a 2001 interview with Dobson’s Focus On The Family Magazine, which noted ‘Focus Canada was active in the debate over a recent parliamentary bill, introduced by the government, that sought to rewrite 68 federal laws to give same-sex couples virtually all the same rights as heterosexual couples,’ Reid said he “called on Canadians to challenge the proposed law, demanding Parliament respect the distinct heterosexual nature of marriage, the benefits it brings and its biblical worldview.” He added that “Dr. Dobson … fears the United States could follow Canada’s lead in social radicalism. The rest of Canada, it appears, could be following Quebec’s lead. When it comes to marriage, sexual mores and abortion, that’s not reassuring.”

Commenting on the Canadian Charter Of Rights And Freedoms, Reid told the magazine that “since the Charter came in, we’ve seen a huge shift in influence from our legislatures and elected representatives to the courts … this represents a worryingly anti-democratic trend, especially when it comes to marriage, family and sanctity of life issues in Canada.”

Regarding the United Nations and Canada’s contributions, Reid asserted “left-wing activists have been using the United Nations for nearly 20 years to impose their kind of anti-life, anti-family agenda … Among the leading agitators in that process are Canadians. The problem is that we send delegates to the U.N. who represent small interest groups.”

Reid is mentioned in a number of American Conservative religious publications, including a2009 newsletter from The World Congress Of Families – a worldwide coalition of Right Wing religious groups – listing the “Top Ten Best And Worst Developments Impacting on the Family in 2008.”

Among the ‘Best’ developments:

Sarah Palin
“Pro-Life Woman Is Vice-Presidential Nominee – For only the second time in U.S. history, a woman was the vice-presidential nominee of a major party. For the first time, that woman was staunchly pro-life and pro-family. The mother of five children, including one with Down Syndrome, Sarah Palin exemplifies family values. She drew larger and more enthusiastic crowds than the head of the ticket.”

Rescinding gay rights in California
“Despite massive opposition by the governor, legislature, courts and media, in November, voters in the largest state in the U.S. passed an amendment to the California constitution limiting marriage to ‘a man and a woman’.”

Reid’s appointment to the PMO
“Family Advocate Becomes Senior Advisor To Canadian Prime Minister – In July, Darrell Reid became director of policy for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Reid, who served as president of Focus On The Family, Canada (1998 to 2004), told World Congress of Families II (Geneva, 1999) ‘It is nothing less than a bald-faced lie to say it harms no one to bestow the privileges bestowed on legally married couples to other relationships’.”

Among the worst developments:

President Barack Obama
“The Election of Barack Obama – Along with Secretary of State Designate Hillary Clinton, expect a sea-change in U.S. policy regarding the family, both at home and internationally. The U.S. delegation to the United Nations, which has been resolutely pro- life and pro-family under Bush, is expected to turn 180 degrees under Obama and Clinton (both dogmatically pro-abortion and anti-traditional marriage). Obama’s judicial appointments are expected to mirror his anti-family mentality.”

Access to safe abortion
“UNFPA Nigeria Meeting Pushes Abortion In the Guise of Women’s Health – At a meeting in Sokoto, Nigeria (July 16-27) for 270 of the continent’s tribal and religious leaders, the United Nations Population Fund sought to enlist African leaders in its drive for universal abortion on demand. Under the deceptive slogan “No One Should Die Giving Life,” UNFPA equated pregnancy with a disease – in an effort to co-opt medical science for a political cause and foreclose a debate on the moral dimensions of abortion.”

Governor General Michaelle Jean
“Queen’s Representative In Canada Celebrates Androgyny – Canada’s Governor General Michaelle Jean has hung a 20-ft. mural in Rideau Hall (where Canada’s prime minister and cabinet members are sworn in) celebrating androgyny — the condition of having both male and female organs or characteristics. The mural supposedly represents the Okanagan tribe. According to the Governor General’s website, “In many native tribes, the order of life learning is that you are born without sex as a child; through learning, you move toward full capacity as either a male or female.” The Canadian gay lobbying group Eagle has pledged to fight “the discriminatory practice of labeling children male or female at birth.” Jean isn’t just another gender deconstructionist, but a gender deconstructionist who is the British monarch’s representative in Canada, as well as head of state and commander of the armed forces.”

As noted above by The World Congress Of Families, Reid was a keynote speaker at their 1999 convention in Geneva, Switzerland. In his lengthy address, Reid advocates to:

“Define Marriage in Legislation … A Definition of Marriage Act would signal that marriage is a foundational aspect of our society and should not be easily redefined. Such legislation has already been introduced throughout the U.S. and we at Focus on the Family Canada are calling for similar legislation to be introduced in our country … The key aspects of Definition of Marriage Act are:
Marriage is clearly defined as a relationship between one man and one woman.
Spouse is clearly defined as either a man or woman who are married to each other.
Marriage is established as a unique legal relationship deserving of special status before the law.”

“Promote Abstinence Education: Governments need abandon safe sex education and begin promoting abstinence education. Decades of sex education programs have done nothing to lower teen pregnancies … abstinence education works whereas “safer-sex” programs do not … Abstinence education leads to fewer teen pregnancies, fewer abortions and fewer children in single parent homes.”

“Reform Welfare and Other Social Programs: Social programs should not take the place of a spouse nor should they encourage irresponsible parenting. Yet this is exactly what many of our current welfare programs do. Single moms are rewarded not for getting married, but rather for having another child. Not only has welfare become more lucrative than getting a low-paying job, it is also more lucrative than marrying someone with a low paying job. These disincentives to marriage are one of the biggest contributors to the problem of fatherless families. Society should not encourage single parenting and more importantly it should not help fathers abandon their responsibilities to their children. Fortunately, many states in the U.S as well as provinces in Canada have begun to lower benefits to make working and marrying someone who works more attractive. Some jurisdictions are limiting the benefits available to those who have another child well on welfare.”

In my quest to unearth documents written by Reid during his time at Focus On The Family Canada, I obtained two audio recordings of a November 2003 Focus On The Family seminar held in Singapore, in which “Dr. Darrel Reid, a Political Historian and President of Focus on the Family Canada” presented “Deconstructing Marriage and Family: Canada’s Present, Singapore’s Future? —- Homosexuality: Myths & Truths.”

‘Dr. Darrel Reid’ began, ironically, by telling the audience “I’m not a doctor, my specialty has been in the area of public policy.” Among other things, Reid claims “the (Canadian) court redefined federal and provincial marriage laws by itself; It said those laws are discriminatory and ordered the governments to change, to comply with that ruling … that has caused a certain amount of upset in Canada … because the majority of Canadians believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman … but the federal government began a propaganda campaign to sell (same sex marriage rights) to the public.”

He rambled at length about the evils of “no fault divorce”, “co-habitation/living in sin” (common law marriage), spanking laws, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, before returning to the issue of same sex marriage; specifically how ‘the gays’ managed to achieve equal rights in Canada.

“In the gay lifestyle, sexual identity is paramount. According to the homosexual arguments in Canada, gays are an oppressed minority … it’s very key to become an oppressed minority, because nobody wants to see that … The media has been very, very active in promoting and bringing these stories forward. The line is that ‘we’re just folks, we’re just like you but our lifestyle may be a little bit different’ … and that plays very well in the media; it does have an impact on our legislators and on our judges. Then (they) seek and receive special protection by governments.”

“… In canada we have federal human rights commission and provincial ones … these are not courts but they speak with the authority very much, or often times courts back them up. We have human rights tribunals in provinces which often champion and emphasize gay rights causes using words like ‘oppression’ and ‘discrimination’. The cases are inevitably highly publicized … on these issues we often refer to (the Human Rights Commission) as a kangaroo court.”

“If you’re concerned about your religious freedom … you need to know your rights will come secondary to same sex groups.”

By far the most incendiary remarks came when Reid spoke about the ‘myths & truths of homosexuality.’

“I am sorry to say tonight I will not be speaking about myths and truths,” Reid begins. “I will just be talking about truths, and that is what has happened in the Canadian experience … we as a culture have been taken over by an activist court; by radical lobby groups, that have changed the country beyond the wildest imagination … in a way I’m ashamed and sorry to be standing before you as a Canadian and telling you this, but my reason for doing so …is that perhaps our present will never be your future.”

“Marriage is no longer determined by how we’ve been created by God. You read in Genesis : 2, you read in Matthew : 16; It’s not good for man to be alone. We are created for community. We are created for that marriage bond. It is encoded in out genetic structure. In (Canada), that’s not what the courts say.”

“Same sex marriage is better understood as a co-habitational relationship. There hasn’t been much research on this. The only research that’s been published on this is a study that was done in the Netherlands on same sex marriage … what they found is that gay marriage was very different than heterosexual marriage. You see, the average same sex marriage in the Netherlands lasted 18 months and had an average of 8 different sexual partners involved in that relationship. So whatever you want to call it, don’t call it marriage because it’s not and it never will be. In every way it is inferior and socially disruptive.”

“In Canada today, children to not have the right to have a mother and a father.”

“What we’ve seen in Canada is that the gender distinction has been erased. The gay groups in Canada really believe there’s really functionally, ultimately, no difference between men and women; it’s just a matter of plumbing.”

“What about education? … What we’ve seen in Canada is that (homosexuality) is beginning to be promoted at the earliest education levels. That means kindergarten which is age five, grade one which is age six. Already same sex groups are being brought into the classroom to talk about how normal it is.”

“There’s a very narrow definition of religious rights (in Canada) … our legal people, our media, our academic elite don’t care what you believe (against same sex rights), they just don’t want you to talk about it to anybody or act upon it. Now I’m a historian … the best parallel that I can think of historically is in Germany in the 1930s, as the rise of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler came to power. You see, Adolf Hitler and his friends didn’t care what you believed, you only became dangerous when you talked to somebody else about it, or you acted on it. I believe the same rational is taking place (in Canada.)”

“On freedom of expression, there’s been a chill on democratic discourse in our country, that is the strength of our democracy is that we can say what we believe … There’s a move afoot in Canada to clamp down on that. There’s a bill in our House of Commons that’s well on it’s way to being passed that would criminalize statements of hatred toward homosexuals. Now what do we mean by statements of hatred? That’s the problem, because nobody knows what that means. We do know that a judge one of our provinces has taken passages from the Bible … and has already ruled that those passages of scripture constitute hatred … we’re coming close to losing our religious liberties and religious freedoms in Canada.”

You may have noticed that Reid has an issue with so called ‘activist’ judges, whom he blames for Canadian gay rights legislation; This common cause of the religious right continues, most recently by president of Canada Christian College, Charles McVety.

Earlier this month, as noted by Macleans, McVety took to Parliament Hill, “on behalf of an alliance of evangelical Christian and family-values groups,” calling for Harper to ” ‘restore democracy’ by filling any vacancies that might open up on the country’s top court with judges who won’t insist on writing their own laws.”

May 5 press release from the Institute For Canadian Values coincided with McVety’s march on Parliament Hill. It reads:

“The President of Canada Christian College, Dr. Charles McVety says ‘This is the most important issue of our time. Out-of-control lawmaking judges have legalized two types of child pornography, reduced the age of consent for anal sex to 14 and redefined marriage.’ As part of a campaign to inform Canadians the importance of Supreme Court appointments, we have produced the full feature documentary film ‘Besieged, Democracy Under Attack.’ Viewers can watch Canada’s Chief Justice articulate the current judicial lawmaking philosophy and judge for themselves.”

Indeed, you can watch the trailer (and buy the DVD!) at www.besieged.tv. The short video features dramatic music, ‘1984’ visuals, and the requisite ‘shocking’ information:

“Democracy is under attack … Judges have made themselves lawmakers, usurping Parliament … Canadian activist judges have legalized fictitious child pornography, reduced the age of consent for anal sex to 14, legalized sex clubs for orgies, and redefined marriage and family … Get your copy while you still can. Warning! This film contains information the government does not want you to hear.”

Though I found the ‘Besieged’ video comical, it’s important to remember that Reid, who now works directly with Harper, is part of a group of Christian activists who hold beliefs such as this. During his tenure at Focus On The family Canada, Reid worked hand in hand with McVety an other extremist religious figures, and is now considered an ‘inside man’ by the various religious Conservative organizations.

One only has to look at decisions made by the Harper government over the last 12 months to see the effects the Right Wing religious organizations are having on Canadian policy:

-Defunding KAIROS
-Defunding Rights & Democracy
-Defunding multiple women’s NGOs
-Rescinding funds for Gay Pride events
-Implementing a ‘Mexico City Policy’ for the G8 maternal health initiative
-Initiating a ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy for Abortion rights in Canada

While religion remains an integral part in the lives of many Canadians, it has no business in the halls of Parliament, and certainly does not belong in the process of crafting government legislation. The separation of Church and State serves an important purpose; the beliefs and desires of a given religion are not necessarily beneficial to society as a whole. Any religion or belief system that seeks to ostracize or blacklist a group of individuals for not adhering to a given set of rules, works against the message of the ‘loving God’ they purport to represent. If God has an issue with homosexuality or access to safe abortion, the use of contraception, or a whole host of other social issues, ultimately it’s between each individual and God. It’s troublesome enough to have religious figures spreading misinformation about lifestyle choices to suit their own religious agenda, but to have these religious figures directly influencing Government policy is a serious cause for concern.

Cross-posted at rabble.ca

For further information regarding Harper, the CPC, and the U.S. Religious Right, visit THIS page and download the PDF.

UPDATE! – December 9, 2010 – Darrel Reid leaves the PMO to join the Calgary School.

Ex-Harper aide gets ethics exemption to take University of Calgary post

BY GLEN MCGREGOR, POSTMEDIA NEWS

OTTAWA — A former top aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper was given an exemption from an ethics rule that restricts the jobs public officials can take after they leave government.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson waived a post-employment requirement for Darrel Reid, who served as Harper’s deputy chief of staff and director of policy until earlier this year, so he could take a fellowship at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

The Conflict of Ethics Act prohibits public-office holders from taking a job with an organization they had “direct and significant official dealings” with in the final year of their government employment.

Although Dawson’s ruling makes no mention of it, lobbyist registration records show Reid had contact with lobbyists from the University of Calgary on two occasions in 2009, with “education” and “Strengthening links with U of C” listed as the subjects discussed.

“In reviewing this request, the Commissioner has determined that because of Mr. Reid’s experience and expertise in the field of public policy, the public interest in granting this waiver outweighs the public interest in maintaining the prohibition,” the waiver notice on Dawson’s website says.

“Mr. Reid continues to be subject to all post-employment obligations that would otherwise apply.”

In an email, Reid wrote: “She has made her ruling and I will abide by it.” He did not comment further.

The lobbying records show that Reid is only the second public-office holder to receive the same kind of post-employment exemption from Dawson.

Earlier this year, she granted an exemption to Kenneth Watkin, the former judge advocate general in the Canadian Forces, so he could accept an appointment from the Israeli government to be a foreign observer in an inquiry into the Gaza flotilla affair.

Reid is a past-president of the evangelical organization, Focus on the Family. He left the Prime Minister’s Office this summer and became the executive director of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a conservative group founded by his old boss, former Reform party leader Preston Manning.

At the School of Public Policy, Reid will join another Harper alumnus, Ken Boessenkool, who served as Harper’s chief of staff in Opposition, then became a lobbyist with Hill and Knowlton before the Tories formed the government. Because he left before the Federal Accountability Act took effect, Boessenkool was allowed to lobby his former colleagues in the party.

Boessenkool is now listed as a fellow at the school.