The return of Stockwell Day, who now implies that people with AIDS deserve no sympathy.
He’s back. Stockwell Day, the man who once admitted that he believed humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time, has once again revealed that he is not fit to hold public office. Then it was sort of funny (remember the “Doris” Day petition?) but this time it is just appalling. Press reports revealed recently that Mr. Day, who is the Conservative Party’s foreign affairs critic, refused to send condolences to the Palestinian people on the death of President Yassir Arafat. Why? Because of Mr. Arafat’s support for armed struggle against Israel? No. Because he might have died of AIDS.
In a November 16 email to his Conservative colleagues Mr. Day stated: "Some of you have asked why I have not released a statement of condolence or sympathy. As you know, there are two sides to the Arafat story. You pick...." He then included in the email an article by David Frum, former speech writer for George W. Bush, indulging in unfounded speculation about the cause of Arafat’s death. Frum suggested that Arafat’s symptoms “sounded AIDS-like.”
Clearly, for both these men, anyone who dies of AIDS is to be shunned, not only while they are alive but even after they are dead. Shunned why? I guess we would have to ask Mr. Day though neither he nor anyone from the Conservative Party wanted to talk about it. We can safely assume however, that Mr. Day, a fundamentalist Christian, and his intellectual mentor David Frum, believe that Mr Arafat was gay and contracted AIDS through sexual contact. In other words, Mr Day believes that we should punish people for being gay. This antediluvian attitude persists in the Conservative Party despite the great progress made in this country in dispensing with homophobic bigotry.
Foreign Minister Day?
This proof is irrefutable: the man who Stephen Harper will name foreign affairs minister if the Conservatives form the next government, has no qualms about expressing this backward and mean-spirited attitude. Even worse, he is quite prepared to act on it. One of the areas in which the Official Opposition can act is in responding to such international events as the death of a leader – and Mr. Arafat was the elected leader of the Palestinians. The message sent by Canada’s government-in-waiting to other countries is that Mr Day’s homophobia will determine whether or not condolences are forthcoming.
I wonder of Mr Day refuses to send condolences to families in his Penticton constituency whose loved ones die of AIDS? Or would they qualify only if they could prove the disease was not sexually transmitted? Just what are the rules for receiving sympathy from the man who holds one of the senior critic positions in the Conservative Party?
Back when Mr Day was dismissing evolution he was also, lest we forget, trying to defend his more serious transgressions. He had expressed the view that we should place child abusers in the general prison population so that those prisoners could summarily execute the abuser. He was also proud of the fact that he made a point of being one of the first customers at holocaust denier Jim Keegstra’s new garage after he was convicted of hate crimes. When he was an Alberta MLA, Mr. Day slandered Red Deer lawyer and school trustee Lorne Goddard, attacking him for defending a pedophile in a child pornography case. "Goddard must also believe it is fine for a teacher to possess child porn,” said Day. He spent years badgering his cabinet colleagues to end abortion funding.
The disturbing pattern of those days is revealing itself again. If the law and constitution of the land conflict with Mr Day’s perverse version of Christian values, then he feels no compunction in simply ignoring the law. The roots of this contempt for human rights go deep for Mr. Day, right to the very notion of democratic governance. Under his guidance the Bentley (Alberta) Christian Centre featured a social studies lesson which declared that democratic governments “represent the ultimate deification of man, which is the very essence of humanism and totally alien to God's word." One might have hoped that years of being in government might have moderated this extremist nonsense. But clearly Mr Day still gives preference to his interpretation of “God’s word” on homosexuality and not on the word of Parliament.
Stephen Harper refused to criticize Mr Day’s offensive email, presumably because the extreme Christian right is still just as important to the party’s future success as it was when it was called the Reform Party. While the party has now taken the name of the Conservative Party don’t be fooled by the name and the moderate gloss Mr Harper hopes it will provide.
If Mr. Harper was genuine in his claim to be moderating the “new” party’s social conservatism he would have fired Stockwell Day. He didn’t. Behind the moderate image lurks the same old bigotry.
Author and journalist Murray Dobbin's 'State of the Nation' column appears twice monthly on The Tyee.