Roundup: 20 years of Vriend

There was a particular milestone that has personal significance to me yesterday, which was the twentieth anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Vriend v Alberta, where sexual orientation was official “read into” the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it comes to protection from discrimination. Why it has particular significance for me was because this happened shortly after I came out, and in many ways, it opened my eyes to the cynicism of politics.

This was shortly after I completed my time as a page in the Alberta legislature, and I had become familiar with the MLAs who worked there. As a page, you have so many friendly interactions with them, as they ask about how you’re doing in school, and they sneak candy to you from the stash at their desks, and generally made you feel like a welcome part of the functioning of the chamber. But as the decision was rendered, the newspapers were full of statements from these very same MLAs whom I had come to like and respect that were full of vitriolic homophobia that it was very much like a betrayal of everything I had come to experience about them during my time as a page. Ralph Klein, who was the premier at the time, was also publicly mulling the use of the Notwithstanding Clause to opt out of the Court’s decision, but in the end, opted to respect it, and thus proving that so much of the trials and the foot-dragging by the provincial government was merely about the performance of having to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the present, and being “forced” to accept that gays and lesbians had rights. In other words, nobody – especially Klein, who was described by many as a liberal who adopted the Progressive Conservative mantle – had the political courage to stand up for what was right because they were afraid of the province’s Bible belt (which continues to be a thorn in the side of many to this day, with the battles of Gay-Straight Alliances in the province, and the “acceptability” in the former Wildrose party of the “Lake of Fire” comments by one of their MLAs, which eventually forced then-leader Danielle Smith to walk out, sinking the party’s fortunes).

So yes, this had a very formative impact on my political sensibilities, before I even considered journalism to be my career path. It forged much of my cynicism about electoral politics, and about the kinds of performative jackassery that is considered normal in the execution of political duties, and it especially gave me a real sense of the profiles in political courage that we see time and again, every time there’s a tough decision that MPs will defer to the Supreme Court, every single time, most recently with the decision to return the tougher decisions around medical assistance in dying back to the courts after the government refused to accept expert recommendations in their legislation. The pattern remains the same, even if the moral goalposts have shifted ever so slightly. So here’s to twenty years of Vriend, and to my human rights as a Canadian.

Good reads:

  • Jagmeet Singh now says he denounces the glorification of the mastermind of the Air India bombing, but remains evasive on the question of political violence.
  • In light of Donald Trump’s admissions around making up trade numbers, here are the US figures, and some of the trade maths that are being debated.
  • Jim Carr has reiterated yet again that the government intents for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to go ahead.
  • Marc Garneau says that the two major railways have submitted their plans to solve the prairie grain backlog to his office by the deadline he gave them.
  • The PBO is calling out some of the gaps in information in the budget. There was some information the government provided on the condition it not be made public.
  • Correctional Services wants to pull out of the gong show that is Shared Services Canada after a major outage of critical systems back in October.
  • Suzanne Legault’s last report says that the Harper government broke their own rules when they muzzled scientists, and Trudeau hasn’t done enough to change it.
  • Some religious organizations are scrambling to find funding for summer jobs after they refused to sign the attestation on the Service Canada forms.
  • Our peacekeeping figures under the UN has fallen to a new record low, and the UN has given up on counting on us to undertake a larger role. Canada’s Back™!
  • The PM has appointed Métis lawyer and scholar Yvonne Boyer to the Senate, making her Ontario’s first Indigenous senator.
  • Lucien Bouchard is “discouraged” by the current state of the Bloc. Oh, muffin…
  • Jason Kenney wants referendums on future carbon tax hikes. Because California’s experience with referendums on taxation has worked out so well… Cripes.
  • Robert Hiltz laments the choices that Ontarians are faced with in the upcoming provincial election (while he gloats that he won’t have to make it).

Odds and ends:

Patrick Brown decided he wasn’t going to run again in the next election, just as Doug Ford said he couldn’t under the PC banner.

One thought on “Roundup: 20 years of Vriend

  1. Thanks for the Vriend reminder. As a former Saskatchewaner, (and NBer, now in Ottawa), I remember following it closely–also both the huff ‘n puffery of the politicos and my disgust with them. Sadly, both remain top of mind when watching their modern versions. Even sadder, our chameleon overlords have learned their lessons well.

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