Pubdate: Fri, 17 Jan 2014
Source: Packet & Times (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Orillia Packet and Times
Author: Brian MacLeod


Shortly after being elected about 2 1/2 years ago, Prime Minister 
Stephen Harper told his cabinet that "Conservative values are 
Canadian values" and that the "Conservative party is Canada's party."

You'd be hard pressed to see that in recent developments around social issues.

Developments over same-sex marriage, safe injection sites, marijuana 
and most recently prostitution are moving towards progressive 
positions in the courts and in public opinion.

The Conservatives, however, are fighting these developments.

Harper's election platform in 2006 promised to revisit the 
legalization of same-sex marriage that was made legal under Prime 
Minister Paul Martin. A free vote in Parliament put an end to 
Harper's agenda, and today civil unions among same-sex partners 
remain a Canadian right. Canadian attitudes have long favoured this.

Likewise, despite polls showing that most Canadians favour 
safe-injection sites for drug addicts, the Conservatives plan to 
introduce legislation that would limit or even prohibit such sites. 
Health officials in B.C. note the significant reduction in the spread 
of AIDS/HIV since safe-injection policies were put in place, and 
Canadians signalled their support for such policies in surveys as far 
back as 2008.

As well, the Conservatives' ideological opposition to decriminalizing 
marijuana is starting to show some cracks after Liberal Leader Justin 
Trudeau admitted toking up while an MP and Canadians collectively shrugged.

Canadians have long supported the decriminalization of marijuana. 
Indeed, some 39% of Canadians admitted using the drug in their lifetimes.

In December, the Supreme Court's unanimous decision to strike down 
Canada's prostitution laws sent the Conservatives into a tizzy. 
Attorney General Peter MacKay issued a statement promising to explore 
"all possible options to ensure the criminal law continues to address 
the significant harms that flow from prostitution to communities, 
those engaged in prostitution, and vulnerable person."

This after Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who made reference to 
Robert Pickton, a serial killer of prostitutes, wrote that "a law 
that prevents street prostitutes from resorting to a safe haven such 
as Grandma's House while a suspected serial killer prowls the streets 
is a law that has lost sight of its purpose."

Euthanasia is likely next. Quebec is already trying to go down that road.

The arguments against these issues vary. Many cite a "slippery slope."

It's true the courts are at the forefront of many of these changes, 
but that wouldn't happen without judges who are more willing to 
recognize societal change.

And that wouldn't happen if Canadians weren't ready, which occurs 
only after years of debate that allows facts to overtake beliefs.

Note that all of these issues do not pit people against people, such 
as some of the religious accommodation debates taking place in places 
like York University. In that case, one person's rights trumps another's.

The issues of pot use, same-sex marriage, safe-injection and 
euthanasia all focus on individual rights that, by and large, do not 
infringe on the rights of others.

Canadians and the courts are increasingly seeing sensible arguments, 
based on evidence and rights, as the new values of Canada.

This isn't a slippery slope, it's righting past wrongs by decisions 
made years ago with less information that leaned more heavily on 
values and discriminatory practices.

We are changing, and we're becoming a better society, not a worse one.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom