Inside Canada's Culture War

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As a number of my print readers enjoyed the following interview I conducted with Paul Tuns, editor of the Interim (Canada's national pro-life newspaper) for the Wanderer, I thought I would share it with my cyber-readership as well. Enjoy!

Inside Canada’s Culture War
The Wanderer Interviews Paul Tuns

by Pete Vere

While the majority of our readership is of American nationality, Canada continues to provide our nation with an important barometer concerning the culture war. This is because after each victory gained in Canada, the culture of death will often seek to replicate their advance in the United States of America. Thus the Wanderer has featured many stories over the past year that concern the culture war in Canada.

At the forefront of Canada’s culture war stands Paul Tuns. Our Canadian readers will recognize Paul as the editor of the Interim, which happens to be Canada’s national pro-life newspaper. For the rest of our readers, the Interim is also a sister organization to LifeSite News, whose timely press-releases regularly find their way into the pages of the Wanderer. Recently, Wanderer correspondent Pete Vere had the opportunity to interview Paul concerning the culture war in Canada.

For our American readers, could you please tell us a little bit about the Interim?

The Interim is Canada's largest (more than 20,000 circulation) pro-life, pro-family newspaper. A non-partisan paper without formal ties to any religion or religious organization, it has published monthly since March 1983 with the support of our advertisers, parish sponsors and the generousity of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC). CLC is the political lobbying arm of the Canadian pro-life movement.

CLC started The Interim in 1983 when the media refused to cover a Bernard Nathansan press conference in Toronto. CLC decided that if the media was not going to cover pro-life stories, it had to get into the business of journalism. Shortly afterward, The Interim was incorporated as an independent entity.

We cover news from Canada, the United States and around the world on issues such as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, the family, homosexuality, education, religious and free speech rights, the United Nations and numerous issues that would fall under the rubric of social/cultural conservatism.

What are some of the major pro-life issues facing Canadians?

We recently fought against Bill C-13, the government's reproductive and experimental technologies bill. Normally government legislation is rammed through Parliament quickly but not this bill. Originally introduced in May 2001, it took nearly three years to pass, mostly because of the work of pro-life Canadians lobbying their Members of Parliament.

In the end, the government had to make a deal with one of the opposition parties to ensure passage of this fundamentally flawed bill that allows embryonic stem cell research and, because of the faulty language the bill uses, human cloning. Despite having a majority, the government had no idea if the bill would pass without their deal with the NDP [Canada’s socialist party] because numerous Liberals opposed their own government's anti-life legislation.
Right now, pro-life Canadians are getting ready for a federal election in which no major party leader or platform is pro-life, leading most social conservative voters to closely examine the local candidates. In terms of specific issues, some provincial groups are trying to raise awareness about public funding of abortion and on Parliament Hill last week, several Members of Parliament began talking about the need for conscience protection for health care workers and other professionals. Unfortunately, a media-imposed silence on the issue makes it very difficult to begin any national pro-life campaign.

How is the culture war in Canada different than that of the United States?

It is very different and for many reasons. First, the abortion issue hardly reaches the surface of political debate in Canada. In the 2000 federal election, Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien said Canada had social peace on abortion. If it does, it is paid for by the blood of at least 106,000 unborn babies each year.

But I think Chretien confused forced silence with social peace; the major parties, the major papers, the three major broadcasters and the single national news magazine are all silent but the fact is there are more Canadians who are members of pro-life groups in Canada than there are members of political parties (in non-election years). Obviously many Canadians haven't got the memo that they were supposed to surrender their principles.

Secondly, as bad as judicial activism is in the United States, it is worse in Canada. For 15 years, Canada has had no abortion law because the Supreme Court struck it down. Only twice since has the federal government considered any legislation or motions on the issue. To make matters worse, on abortion and the gay rights agenda, legislators defer to the courts and claim it is out of their hands to address the issue because the courts have spoken. Weak-kneed politicians have surrendered their rights and responsibilities to the robed dictators.

The culture wars in Canada operate almost entirely in cyberspace. Because the media and political elite are overwhelmingly socially liberal – even more so than in the United States, it is almost the only place any debate on the issue occurs. We have no Fox News, no National Review. If you don't count The Interim, there is only one major conservative magazine (the Western Standard) and one nominally non-liberal newspaper (the National Post).

Furthermore, our Catholic colleges harbour numerous heretics and there are few who challenge them. There is no Ave Maria law school, just a collection of Georgetowns. Our biggest Catholic newspaper is more likely to editorialize on poverty than abortion, homosexuality or the filth that passes as culture. There is no broadly conservative think tank. In short, the conservative movement is a loosely connected grassroots movement that does not have the trappings of a movement – publications, research centers, anything really – that develops ideas or encourages debate.

This is slowly beginning to change. My friend Tristan Emmanuel, a Presbyterian minister, has begun a publishing house, Freedom Press (Canada) Inc., that hopes to publish several titles a year by new conservative voices. But it will take a lot of work.

Should Americans pay attention to the struggles of the pro-life movement in Canada? Why?

Yes, and we what happens in the United States. I say this for three reasons. The first and obvious is that what happens in one country does affect the other. Our media, politicians and academics get ideas from one another. The border is very porous when it comes to ideas.

The second is that the Left uses the same bullying tactics and arguments north and south of the border. Watching each other's struggles we can learn to anticipate their next moves and what does and does not work to counter them.

Lastly and most significantly in recent years are the court decisions in our two countries. Following last year's Lawrence decision, several members of the Supreme Court admitted to having consulted international and foreign law; that is, the legal decisions of other nations, including the Ontario (provincial) Superior Court that legalized same-sex marriage in one part of Canada was cited as evidence of a growing tolerance of homosexuality. If Canadian precedents are going influence American law (and presumably vice versa), we should be aware of those decisions and the arguments used in winning and losing cases.

How difficult is it to be a pro-life politician in Canada?

Extremely. The political mythology has it that pro-lifers are all bigoted Christians and that merely courting their support is a political albatross, a signal to Canadians that one is little more than a neanderthal with a tie. Pro-life Conservatives have faced media ridicule as unenlightened religious fanatics trying to take over the party. Pro-life Liberals [Canada’s closest equivalent to Casey Democrats] face the scorn of their caucus colleagues and a severely diminished chance of ever being promoted to the cabinet. Canada has moved from the idea that one does not have the right to impose their personal beliefs on abortion on the rest of the country to the idea that people who hold pro-life views ought not run for political office at all.

Recently, the Globe and Mail, Canada's oldest national paper, claimed the Conservative Party was being taken over by evangelical social conservatives because three candidates (out of 308) had histories with evangelical organizations. Even many in the Conservative Party are uncomfortable with pro-lifers running under their banner. Of course, they want our votes, but the party doesn't want to do a lot to earn it. At most, they offer a seat at the table to raise our issues but they don't realize that politics is about more than airing grievances; political debate is about trying to persuade others of the superiority of your views over another. Pro-lifers are increasingly denied that opportunity in the political arena.

Any concluding thoughts you wish to share with our readers?

As much as I have sounded that the cause is hopeless, I do not believe all is lost. Five or six years ago when President Bill Clinton was vetoing the partial-birth abortion ban, I am sure many pro-life Americans were wondering when the madness would stop. If an almost fully delivered infant can be aborted , what limits could there possibly be? But pro-life legislation has been passed and signed at the federal and state levels in the US.

I am hopeful that eventually the tide will turn in Canada, too. Abortion is propped up by nothing but lies and lies cannot withstand the force of truth forever. As more Canadians learn the truth about abortion – that is kills an unborn human being, that it harms women, that is costs taxpayers untold tens of millions of dollars, that doctors are not being graduated from med schools because they refuse to participate in abortions – Canadians will turn against abortion-on-demand. It might take 5 or 10 or 20 years, but it will happen. To despair is a sin; we place our trust in God and continue to do his work. Through us, the seeds of a culture of life are being sewn. I hope that I will see that tree blossom some day.

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Hey, fellows, the guy who Track[ed]Back™ to Pete's excellent article thinks we're all Canadian!

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Vere published on June 20, 2004 10:06 AM.

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