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Prague, The Czech Republic 1997:   Conveners | Declaration | Speakers | SwanSearch Speeches

 

 

 

 

LESSONS FROM PRO-FAMILY POLITICAL PARTIES

 

 

Sharon Hayes, MP

 

Remarks to The World Congress of Families I

A statesman and a member of the Canadian Parliament. She is also the chair of the Family Caucus for the Reform Party of Canada.


Introduction

Unlike many of our speakers, I am not a philosopher, psychologist, historian, or theologian. I am a Christian; wife; mother; and since 1993, an elected member of the House of Commons in Canada. It was concern for the crisis within family in my neighbourhood and in my country that took me into politics—not with a belief that politics alone would save families, but that unchallenged political process would allow, and potentially guarantee, the continuing destruction of this fundamental institution.

Last week I was in the eastern Ukraine, and in a very real sense I feel a part of me is still there. Last month my daughter moved to Dnepropetrovsk as a recent university graduate to teach children and again disciple young adults at the University. Those few days there gave me a better understanding of my daughter, myself, and the different worlds within this world of ours. It has enriched me with a better understanding of the bonds between people regardless of, and often despite, their circumstance.

I will always remember a simple moment as one of the young people drew me aside. His message: "Thank you, for you have given your daughter roots, and you have given your daughter wings."

I am grateful that family and faith can indeed give roots and wings. It is not by accident that Carolyn chose a verse in Isaiah for her commissioning service: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles." The strength of our homes’ and of our nations’ futures call out for roots and wings for each generation.

We are not here to invent cold strategies for our own purposes but to awaken a vital spark of recognition and value for an institution and principles as old as mankind and as powerful as life itself. We are here to find ways to give to our children and our children’s children the roots and wings that will carry them through life’s journey.

The Reform Party of Canada

In the Federal Election in 1993, Canadians expressed their anger at a traditional mainstream government by reducing it from a majority to two out of 295 seats. The new liberal government found themselves with 54 MPs in an Official Opposition dedicated to the imminent breakup of the country and a six-year-old populist presence of 52 seats for the Reform Party of Canada. Twenty years of traditional party election promises from liberal and conservative governments had bequeathed unsustainable levels of deficit and galloping debt. Several constitutional proposals engineered in the corridors of power had been decisively rejected. Mistrust drove the upset in ’93—mistrust of the process, of the politicians, and of the media.

The Reform Party called out to the common sense of the common people. This included some very basic principles:

• Government should live within its means.

• Government should retool spending around principles of individual family and community responsibility, local accountability, and effective targeting.

• The principle of equality of every individual and province under law, where equality is equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome.

• The principle of better representation with direct input into the democratic process and policies to hold politicians accountable for their decisions.

The Reform Family Caucus

Many have come to Reform out of a genuine desire for a stronger set of ethics or values in policy and representation. Values come in many forms: higher ethical standards in public office, deep commitment to environmental conservation, fiscal responsibility, and the awareness and promotion of family, to name a few. As a populist party, Reform would welcome all voices in public policy debate. Those who reflect the democratically determined will of the majority of members are incorporated into party policy.

The Reform Party Family Caucus was formed within two months of the 1993 federal election. As a relatively small group of a half dozen MPs, we determined to attempt to review all policy initiatives in relation to their effect on family, with a goal to strengthen families. Already our party’s economic principles of deficit elimination specifically targeted the areas of high taxation and related high levels of unemployment, the resulting loss of choice in parenting and the intergenerational transfer of wealth that affect our families in profound ways. Reform has taken a strong stand on the Constitutional entrenchment of property rights, which have been ignored by successive governments. We stand for deterrence and real consequence in criminal justice policies, with protection of law abiding citizens and their families a priority instead of the prevailing victimhood and nonaccountability mentality. We reject affirmative action programs and government funding of special interest groups. Although the thesis had not crystallized specifically around family, the foundation has been solidly laid.

The Canadian Political Landscape

It has been some adventure for me these past few years—as a novice to politics and activism itself. Quite frankly, I had no idea things were as bad as they are. Most of you are aware that Canada is no longer a Christian country. We are a pluralist society with a media-driven, humanist mind set. The statistics and trends repeated in many of the presentations from around the globe here in Prague are reflected in Canada. Youth crime, youth suicide, abuse of social services benefits, divorce rates, single parenthood, and abortion all give testimony to the huge social cost of family breakdown.

The following will give a brief Canadian economic snapshot. Time and choice has been robbed from parents, with the real average family income $3,000 less today than three years ago. Government debt has grown by over $100 billion in this administration to now exceed $600 billion with a population of under 30 million people. Unemployment is stuck at 10%—16% for young people. These statistics affect families in profound ways.

But let me take a moment to tell you about Canada’s experience with some of the issues specifically addressed at this conference.

The Redefinition of Family by the Homosexual Rights Agenda

Pre-election promises of 1993 included a commitment by the justice minister to include sexual orientation as a ground for discrimination in the CHRA. Gay activists and judges themselves had predicted this would lead automatically to same sex benefits and eventual redefinition of spouse and marriage.

Therefore, one of the first tasks of our family caucus was to establish a definition of family as a benchmark in the quickly shifting sand. That definition, which is now party policy, describes family as "those related by blood, marriage, or adoption, where marriage is the union of a man and a woman as defined by the state."

Meanwhile the unaccountable international process allowed Canada to introduce and promote the terminology of sexual orientation at the Beijing Conference in 1995. Then using the commitments to that Platform for Action, our Federal Canadian Human Rights Act was changed in the spring of 1996 in a matter of ten days in an unaccountable legislative process against the majority will of Canadians.

Today, Canada’s refugee policy is under review, with quotas on convention refugees being contemplated. However, we will accept those who claim persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation. These grounds may be as simple as domestic legislation that limits the practice of homosexual activity.

Today, on the basis of the Human Rights Act, a Christian university has been denied the right to establish its own teaching faculty on the grounds that it discriminates against homosexuals in its code of conduct. Its very existence as an institution probably rests on a successful outcome of the court challenge of this decision.

Today the federal justice department has been charged by the courts to review the definition of "spouse" in all existing legislation.

UN Conference on Women

Secondly, allow me to spend just a moment on the Women’s Conference in Beijing. Yesterday’s session, with its commentary and background on the UN process, was excellent, and I recommend those crucial presentations to everyone.

I had the privilege to attend this conference in Beijing as part of the official Canadian government delegation. I also had the privilege of officially protesting its agenda by leaving early. With limited time, let me tell you what Canada meant to Beijing and what Beijing then meant to Canada.

Canada assumed the leadership role formerly taken by the USA. I watched as the two countries worked as a team in various sessions with Canada, who acted as spokesperson for both. Specific references to Canada’s leadership are made in the final newsletter of the Canadian Beijing Facilitating Committee (CBFC) entitled "Onward from Beijing":

After the chair ruled the words sexual orientation would be taken out because of a failure to reach consensus, one-by-one 16 countries, led by Canada, rose and offered interpretative clauses, reading the words back into the document for their own purposes. That included the European Union, whose one voice spoke for 15, bringing to 30 the number of countries. . . .

What will probably come out of the Platform For Action in real terms for lesbians in Canada is that by the end of the next Parliament, the government will bring home its message on sexual orientation and amend the Human Rights Act to include protections for lesbians and gay men. . . .

Human rights activists applauded a Canadian breakthrough . . . that recognizes children’s evolving rights to make their own decisions. The issue pits a child’s right to learn about issues such as birth control against the right of parents to prevent access to subjects in which they don’t believe. (pp. 13-4)

In the last two years, commitments made in Beijing have placed gender feminist bureaucracies in every Canadian federal department. It is government policy to give priority to their recommendations in all legislative and budgetary initiatives.

Abortion

Finally, an item relating to abortion was in the Vancouver Sun last week. In a restructuring initiative, regional health boards are being created by the provincial government to replace locally elected hospital boards. The health minister is quoted as saying, "Basically everybody on the board was required to support our government’s view that all legitimate health care services, including therapeutic abortion, be provided." Thus, this government has barred pro-lifers from our provincial health boards. Similar denial of freedom of expression were all too much a part of the post-Communist society I have just visited. Canadians should be incensed.

The 1997 Election

The Reform Party has developed and matured as a pro-family party over the last three years as it has addressed real issues in real time. It is not surprising then that our election platform for 1997 adds to existing pro-family economic and social policy to highlight further the need for government attention to the institution of family.

Some of these highlights of our Fresh Start Platform are:

• A balanced budget within two years by overhauling government operations.

• Delivering tax relief to families and removing 1.2 million Canadians from tax rolls altogether.

• Removing government tax penalties of a single-wage family.

Much of the tax relief will be targeted to giving value back to families with parenting via:

• Increased and equal basic and spousal exemptions.

• Converting an existing child care deduction system that only rewards outside receiptable day care to a child care tax credit for all parents of children 12 and under, including those who care for their own children.

• Zero tolerance on family violence, with separate and more serious criminal code offenses defined.

• Cracking down on child prostitution and pornography. This includes challenging government policy on the age of consent of 14 in existing legislation. This law alone is tragically giving pimps more rights than parents in the nationwide phenomena of recruitment of child prostitutes.

Anti-family agendas are driven in Canada by an effective minority in the hallways of power. A parliamentary system that forces elected representatives to follow the party line and generally ignore their constituents has allowed anti-family/big government mentality to thrive.

Another fact in Canada is that our pluralistic society increasingly views individuals or politics connected with individuals who can be associated with traditional religion with extreme skepticism.

Addressing Morality in Public Policy

How, then, do we address morality in public policy? A basic principle of reform as a populist party is that minority views, particularly in areas of morals, do not dictate policy for the majority. It is not government that makes moral decisions, but individuals. Morality is a personal response to absolutes. Laws in a democracy reflect the moral temperature of a nation of individuals. The potential and the risk of a democracy is that the nation defines its moral code and then is accountable for the result. The nation that chooses to remove its moral compass does so at its own peril. As Jefferson said, democracy depends on a moral foundation for its very existence.

We see both individuals and nations have made good and bad choices throughout history and have faced the eventual consequences. Too much of Canada’s moral decline lies in a system that has allowed the imposition of minority positions on the majority. Liberal mind set has prevailed, but our families bear the consequence. Reform’s position is that it is not enough to temporarily be the minority to suit your purpose. The system must be changed to prevent abuse of the majority now and in the future.

Does this position mean that matters of right and wrong are determined by the majority? Right and wrong are absolute, but morality is the individual response. The best protector of morality and the transfer of values is found in healthy families. Healthy families will ensure morality can have a voice in a truly representative democracy.

I stand before you as a Christian and a Canadian MP. It is my personal responsibility in both capacities to exemplify and promote my deepest moral conviction at every opportunity. It is my legislative responsibility in a democracy to represent the known majority opinion of my constituents.

"The best protection for values and morality is found in healthy families." This is not an extreme statement. This is not even a religious statement. This is simply the common sense of the common people. This is reform territory. The importance of healthy families is self-evident once identified and has tremendous support across the human spectrum but has too long been completely foreign to the humanist liberal mind set. A key responsibility of those in government who care about family is to put family issues on the political agenda and then ensure a system to let the people speak.

But what about an eventual vote for the most basic of moral issues like life itself? Would I, could I, vote contrary to my deepest convictions?

I will ask a question in return. Should leadership be abandoned on account of a hypothetical situation? Is leadership to be abandoned in light of real opportunity to affect the outcome?

Moses again helps my fledgling steps of faith as he has so many times in the last four years. Moses would never have left Egypt if he had listened to those who told him about the Red Sea. Moses would never have remained leader to those who chose to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. He and they made that choice—against God but on the advice of the majority. He chose to stick with that decision for four decades based on a belief in his mission to affect the final outcome.

Conclusion

I did not thank the organizers of this conference at the beginning of my presentation. I want to thank them and many wonderful presenters now in light of the importance of their undertaking.

If we truly believe that family is the most basic social institution; if we can join hands across the barriers of language, race, and even religion; if we can take back the issues and the high ground that has been hijacked by others; if we can use technologies to share information, opinion, and expertise; if we can continue to model what we have seen begun in the rooms and hallways of this conference and the World Congress declaration, then we will change the outcome.

We need and see action in all these areas. With those called to participate in the political process, we can define systems and policies that will support that change. These contingencies are needed by a vast army in our homes and communities, where we can restore the roots and wings of countless future generations in our acing culture.

More importantly, we need the prayers of God’s people.

 

 

 

 

 

Prague, The Czech Republic 1997:   Conveners | Declaration | Speakers | SwanSearch Speeches

 

 

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