Meet the group behind the change in CPC marriage policy

History was made at the CPC on Saturday when the party removed the definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman” from the Conservative Party Policy Declaration.

The group driving the change are called LGBTory, an organization of LGBT conservatives and allies.

A few days ago I met them at their pub gathering, next to the Vancouver Convention center. They go by the tagline the "Rainbow Conservatives," an apt slogan given the colourful individuals that form this group.

This spectrum of characters included the jovial giant Eric Lorenzen, VP Communications for the group, who told me:

"The thought of having to get a licence from the government to get married really sticks in my craw. However, we have the legal system that we have, and marriage isn't going away. Our position is that, since the government licences marriage, the CPC's official policy to deny marriage licences to same-sex couples infringes on the legal rights of same-sex couples."

He went on to say:

"More than that, our biggest concern is that the CPC's policy on marriage (they're the only party with ANY policy on marriage of any kind) repels centrist voters who would otherwise be our allies on issues like small government, individual rights, low taxes, etc. These voters are essential to winning elections."

I also spoke to the president of the group, business owner Doc Von Lichtenberg. With a Gandalf-like beard and enchanting deep voice, he was as interesting a man as his name suggests. He told me:

"We don't want to change the CPC's marriage policy; we want the CPC to have NO marriage policy whatsoever. We want the contentious articles in the Policy Declaration removed, not replaced with something else."

Not everyone at the gathering was gay. I also spoke to some of the straight allies Natalie Pon (Edmonton West Policy Chair) and Joseph Heap (President of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake), co-sponsors of the resolution.

“We want to remove having marriage defined in the CPC policy declaration. It currently states that the Party supports legislation defining marriage as between one man and one woman” said Natalie.

“We want to create a more inclusive party that supports personal freedoms.” said Joseph. “It's time to get rid of this part of our policy declaration and move on. All leadership contestants to date have been supportive and we don't see this becoming an issue again in the future."

LGBTory should be proud of what they have achieved today. And I’m sure I speak for everyone in the LGBT community in expressing our gratitude.

James Campbell - The Rebel Media

Ontario Sex Education Curriculum & the Ontario PC Party

August 27 2016

As reported in a number of news outlets yesterday (see here) a letter outlining Ontario Progressive Conservative (OPC) leader Patrick Brown’s views on the Ontario sex education curriculum has been circulating in Toronto. The letter coincides with the provincial by-election in the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Rouge River. In the letter, Mr. Brown wrote "a PC government would scrap the controversial changes to sex-ed introduced by Premier (Kathleen) Wynne and develop a new curriculum after thoughtful and full consultation with parents."

LGBTory Canada supports the broad principles of the Wynne government’s new sex education curriculum (which you can read here). We are pleased that the document, the first update in the curriculum since 1998, addresses issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and other topics of concern to LGBT students. We accept that there is room for debate on the timing and implementation of these topics in Ontario schools, but we believe the curriculum offers teachers, students, and families a reasonable and balanced program of sex education.

We spoke today with Patrick Brown to seek clarification on his comments. He later provided us with a statement outlining his position:

I am determined to lead a PC Party that is modern, inclusive, pragmatic, and that reflects the diversity of our province. I strongly support an updated curriculum that takes into account the changing attitudes and world in which children now dwell. Children have to cope with challenges completely unknown to their parents. As we do this, I insist that parents be thoroughly consulted. I’ve been perfectly consistent on this point and make no apologies for it. Consultation is never wrong. The Wynne Liberals simply have not done this. I will. That’s the difference. And that’s the issue.

Incidentally, this is substantially similar to the Ontario NDP’s position in 2010 when leader Andrea Horwath criticized the government of Premier McGuinty when it unsuccessfully attempted to change the sex education curriculum (see here). She said:

The current curriculum is out-of-date and needs to be modified. Unfortunately Dalton McGuinty failed to engage, consult and prepare parents for the changes, and parents objected. It is critical that the government consult not only on the content but on most appropriate age for the introduction of the content.

Mr. Brown assured us that inclusion and diversity continue to be priorities for him, and that LGBT issues will be a focus in the Ontario school curriculum. He said he is committed to consulting parents on changes to the sex education curriculum but that the curriculum will continue to ensure that LGBT students and their families are supported and treated with sensitivity.

We have worked closely over the past year with Patrick Brown to provide input to him and his party on LGBT issues and to help with OPC outreach to the LGBT community in Ontario. He has provided us with invaluable support in our campaign to change the Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) marriage policy and to use his influence to remove obstacles to the CPC’s recognition of same-sex marriage. We consider him an ally on LGBT issues and question the raising of this matter in the middle of a hotly-contested by-election campaign. We believe he deserves more recognition for his outreach to the LGBT community in Canada and that partisan politics have obscured the progress he and the OPC have made in this area.

We have explained our concerns about the curriculum in detail to Patrick Brown, and his response to us has reassured us that he does not intend to remove pro-LGBT elements from the document. We will continue to work with him and the OPC to make sure this happens.

LGBTory Canada
Toronto, Ontario

I came out as a gay conservative in Vancouver. Here's what happened.

Coming out as gay in rural Scotland wasn’t easy, but it was a walk in Stanley Park compared to coming out as a conservative in Vancouver.

That's because Vancouver is liberal -- and the Vancouver gay scene is VERY liberal.

As the flamboyant conservative activist Milo Yiannopoulos tweeted:

"I had no trouble coming out as gay. I had a lot of trouble coming out as a gay conservative."

He wasn’t exaggerating.

When I first arrived in this beautiful city four years ago, I was eager to find my feet and build a new life. And I did: A very wholesome life, with a job, friends, social activities and even a fiancé.

I had been through a messy "coming out" in Scotland, so Canada represented a clean slate for me to be myself. What I didn’t realize is that the slate would need cleaning all over again.

For years, while living in Vancouver, I kept my silence whenever the topic of politics came up. I remained silent while my friends chimed in with the canned laughter as Jon Stewart ridiculed conservatives.

I remained silent when my friends said, "Isn't Justin Trudeau's gender neutral cabinet just awesome?"

I remained silent as my friends talked about how wonderful they were for starting a petition to let more Syrian migrants in.

I remained silent when they talked about opposing BC pipeline construction.

However, little bubbles of resistance inside me gradually coalesced into a foam of frustration.

I began posting articles to Facebook and making comments, pointing out falsehoods and providing alternative sources (like

I was particularly critical of band-wagon liberalism, slacktivism, lazy hashtag campaigns and Facebook-profile-picture-tinters. I told people what I really thought about Justin Trudeau. I began openly expressing my opposition to the invasion of Europe by hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.

Reactions from straight people were fairly hostile. For example, a German friend told me to "be more careful about what I think, let alone what I say" after I posted something about immigration that would have been totally inoffensive to any rational person. A relative told me that the libertarian group I joined on Fcebook was a "cult" and that my family were "concerned for me." A few friends texted me to say they had removed me from Facebook.

Reactions from gay people were considerably more hostile.

I play and coach in a LGBT soccer league. After a game one night I was approached by one of the organizers, who warned me that other members were talking about my comments, "found my views repellent" and that I was "making enemies." I asked him to specify which particular view was so offensive. Apparently it was an anti-Hillary article I posted. I had attacked the queen bee and the hive was responding.

My fiancé’s gay friends pressured him over my views and in turn he applied this pressure to me. He was extremely upset after he found out that one of my favourite books was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. His gay friends had persuaded him that only sociopaths could enjoy such a book.

Gay men accused me of having "internalized homophobia" for failing to celebrate with gusto the giant publicity stunt which was marriage equality -- a teaspoon of distraction in exchange for a bucket of freedom.

I was called a sociopath, a psychopath, "cisgendered," right-winger, retard, fascist, arrogant and dangerous. I was even anonymously threatened with violence.

I became self-doubting, paranoid, depressed and anxious. I left my fiancé and refused to socialize for months. I realized I had been ostracized, and I’m sure some of it was almost willingly on my part.

Eventually I emerged however, and more confident than before. The people who really loved me stuck around and those bonds are stronger than ever. I learned to trust my own mind and be honest with others. I had begun to attract new and wonderful people into my life.

Most surprisingly, since I’ve been more vocal about my opinions, I’ve discovered a handful of conservative and libertarian men in the Vancouver gay scene.

Now I know what you’re thinking, surely this shouldn’t have been such a big deal? And you’re right, it wasn’t exactly Galileo and the Inquisition. I’m sure such pressures would have had little effect on someone more confident like Milo Yiannopoulos.

But not everyone has learned those skills yet, and as you can see from my experience, the social pressure can be quite significant.

My advice to anyone in the same position is to remember that any temporary discomfort you experience will be compensated for by a long-term feeling of contentment which you can only get from being yourself.

Now is not the time for conservatives to be quiet, especially gay conservatives. I believe the gay community has immense influence over the direction of cultural progress and gay conservatives and libertarians like me need to come out of the closet and start fighting to take the reins.

After all, we’ve done it once before.

James Cambell - The Rebel Media


As a Tory I believe in equality under the law: MacLeod

"I'm an old school, small government, keep your nose outta my life and hands outta my pocket conservative" read the post on social media this week.
Revellers take part in the Ottawa Pride Parade on Bank Street, August, 24, 2014. Over 75,000 people were said to take part in the days festivities. (Chris Roussakis/Ottawa Sun)

Revellers take part in the Ottawa Pride Parade on Bank Street, August, 24, 2014. Over 75,000 people were said to take part in the days festivities. (Chris Roussakis/Ottawa Sun)

It sounded like my type of Tory.

As a Progressive Conservative I was brought up to believe that government needs to live within its means, you help those who cannot help themselves, government cannot and should not be all things to all people, private property should be respected and in society the rule of law should prevail.

It should come as no surprise that any conservative prepared to stand up for the rule of law should also support the equality of all under it.

This of course, was disputed by a radio host on the day I joined PC Leader Patrick Brown, federal cabinet minister Kellie Leitch and local MPP Jack MacLaren at Toronto's Pride Parade.

CFRA's Nick Vandergrat suggested Jack and I should be "tossed out of the building" for marching in support of equality.

Perhaps he was unaware on that day four men were murdered by ISIS in Syria by being "tossed out of the building" for reportedly being gay. (Spoiler alert, Tories are anti ISIS).

It should also not come as a surprise to anyone that equal rights, indeed human rights, have been the cornerstone, a tradition, of Canadian conservativism over the years.

Suffrage was supported as early as confederation by Sir John A Macdonald.

Women were granted the right to vote by Sir Robert Borden, John Diefenbaker brought in Canada's first Bill of Rights, Joe Clark and Flora MacDonald opened Canada's doors to Vietnamese boat people (Flora fought and won for gender equality inclusion in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms), Brian Mulroney is largely credited with leading the opposition to apartheid in South Africa and my predecessor John Baird aggressively opposed Vladimir Putin's anti-gay laws in Russia while serving as Foreign Affairs Minister.

That said every major political party has had its moments in choosing the wrong side of history, too.

But time marches on, and so I chose to march in Toronto Pride this year.

And I was surprised that it received attention by a luminary such as Vandergrat.

That's because there is no contradiction in being conservative and supporting equal rights, regardless of what type of conservative you identify with.

As a right of centre conservative, I advocate for family-friendly policies, fiscal conservatism, the rule of law and government accountability.

And it's been my experience in representing one of Ontario's fastest growing constituencies, with a large urban and vast rural population, that fairness is paramount -- whether that's a level playing field for small and medium sized business, or lower taxes for middle class families, or for the basic equality of all citizens under the law.

But I'll be the first to acknowledge that some in society are having difficulty with this, which is why it is important for me to march today in Ottawa's Capital Pride parade.

Someone needs to give a voice to the majority of conservatives who believe in equal rights and who would rather spend their time talking about fixing things like the economy, health care and education as opposed to rolling back a marriage law passed a decade ago.

More than anything, it is important to the young conservatives who may be questioning their own sexuality and their place in our party that I march.

After Toronto Pride, I received a note that said, "As a LGBTQ Tory I thank you for marching in the parade. If I was out I would've been there marching with you all."

So, I will march today as "an old school, small government, keep your nose outta my life" Tory in that spirit.

In the meantime, I have to ask, how can you demand government get off your land and get out of your life if you're going to pass judgment on others' lives and expect government to as well?

-- Lisa MacLeod is the MPP for West Nepean-Carleton.

Rona Ambrose

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Canada's 42nd Parliament got down to business Monday, with the often-promised new era of civility sounding a lot like a brittle rehash of the federal election campaign.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair used debate on last week's throne speech to refight some of the same election battles, with sparks flying between Liberals and Tories in particular.

Ambrose issued a scathing critique of the new Liberal government's throne speech, which was itself a recap of Trudeau's election promises.

Echoing the same criticisms levelled throughout the campaign, she called the Liberal plan a recipe for intrusive government that thinks it knows best how to spend Canadians' money.

"What we did hear was a recipe for big government and big spending. So the question that every taxpayer wants us to ask this government is: where will the money come from to pay for all of this?" Ambrose told the House of Commons.

"It only comes from one place and that's out of the pockets of Canadians."

Treasury Board President Scott Brison questioned how Ambrose could make such an accusation when she had been a minister in what he termed "one of the biggest spending governments and the most wasteful governments in Canadian history." The previous Conservative government added $150 billion to the national debt, he added.

The exchange prompted Ambrose to observe: "I think it's been 25 minutes and the sunny ways are over."

But Ambrose was no slouch when it came to partisan shots.

She took aim at Trudeau's vow to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the allied bombing campaign against Islamic radicals in Syria and Iraq. While the Americans, French, British and Germans are all ramping up their efforts, Ambrose accused Trudeau of believing that "posing for selfies at international conferences is a better use of his time."

Rona Ambrose

"Canada isn't back. Canada is backing away," she charged.

Mulcair struck a more conciliatory tone, promising to work with the government "when our values and our policies coincide." But he took the opportunity to recycle a number of planks from the NDP platform, urging Trudeau to hike taxes on large corporations and introduce a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage.

He also touted two other favourite NDP election promises: universal, affordable child care and abolition of the Senate.

As he did during the campaign, Mulcair criticized the centrepiece of the Liberal platform — the plan to cut taxes for Canadians earning between $45,282 and $90,563 while raising taxes on the wealthiest one per cent — as smoke and mirrors.

The plan will actually benefit wealthy Canadians the most and do nothing for 70 per cent of taxpayers, he said, urging Trudeau to expand the tax cut to those in the lowest income tax bracket.


““Canada isn’t back. Canada is backing away.””

Indeed, after question period was over, Finance Minister Bill Morneau admitted in a news conference that the tax changes would indeed cost Canadians to the tune of about $1.2 billion a year, starting in fiscal 2016-17.

"This is going to cost a bit more for the government, and we want to explain to Canadians exactly what the shortfall is," Morneau said.

For his part, Trudeau essentially repeated the throne speech, in slightly greater detail. But he took a veiled shot at the previous Conservative regime, which campaigned on hot button identity issues, including a proposed ban on Muslim women wearing the face-covering niqab during citizenship ceremonies.

Extolling the virtues of diversity, Trudeau said some Canadians have, at times, "been the target of hateful words and deeds, simply because they look different, speak a different language, choose to wear different clothes or practice a different faith."

But he argued that "intolerance stands little chance" in Canada and pointed to the recent election as proof that Canadians reject attempts to pit one group against another.

While there were some sparks, the tenor of Monday's sitting was still far more civil than the toxic partisanship that marked the Commons in the months leading up to the election.

"Canadians want a government that acts honourably and that treats all others with respect. both inside and outside this House," Trudeau said. "We will be that government."

During the first question period of the parliamentary session later Monday, Trudeau maintained a respectful demeanour as Ambrose grilled him on the planned withdrawal from the bombing mission in Syria and Mulcair challenged him to reveal his plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, in keeping with past practice, the daily jousting match did not produce much in the way of detailed answers.

"I am disappointed to find out that question period is still question period and not so much answer period," Ambrose said later.

"I did think that questions were tough, but respectful."

Benjamin Weinthal: How to fight homophobia in the Middle East

“The Islamic State organization, which has executed dozens of gays, replicates the anti-gay policies of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Qatar, to name just some of the most dangerous countries ... Only one Middle East country grants sexual liberty to LGBTs: Israel.”

January began with more horrific news for LGBTs in the Middle East. The Islamic State executed a 15-year-old Syrian boy suspected of being gay by tossing him off a rooftop in the eastern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. Such reports are not new, or rare.

The time is ripe for Canada and the United States — two countries where the march of progress has secured marriage equality for LGBTs — to confront lethal homophobia and persecution in the Arab world and Iran.

Just last month, the Empire State Pride Agenda in New York, an important LGBT human rights NGO, announced that it will disband because it achieved its goals of LGBT equalities over its 25-year history. This was a mistake, in large part because the battle for LGBT protections requires advocacy in Muslim-majority countries.

Canada, to its credit, seeks to provide priority resettlement to Syrian LGBT refugees because of their dire plight. But it can do much more to influence a change in anti-LGBT behaviour in the Middle East.

The row between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran over mass executions in the kingdom and the torching of the Saudi embassy in Tehran is a significant opportunity for the West to end the death penalty for LGBTs. The Islamic State organization, which has executed dozens of gays, replicates the anti-gay policies of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Qatar, to name just some of the most dangerous countries.

According to a 2008 British WikiLeaks dispatch, Iran’s regime executed “between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians” since the Iranian revolution in 1979. Even Arab countries that on paper limit punishment for homosexuality to prison sentences seek to exterminate their LGBT communities.

Danny Ramada, a gay Syrian who was granted asylum by Canada, said in November, “Legally speaking, in Syria homosexuals (can be punished) for three years in prison. Three years in prison are, to be honest, a death sentence.” In written testimony to the U.K.’s parliamentary inquiry on the refugee crisis, Subhi Nahas, an openly gay Syrian refugee, wrote, “In 2011, at the start of the uprising in Syria, government media launched a campaign accusing all dissidents of being homosexuals.”

Only one Middle East country grants sexual liberty to LGBTs: Israel. An odious campaign called Pink Washing attempts to discredits Israel as part of the larger BDS (Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment) movement targeting the Jewish state. Sadly, LGBT progress in the Middle East is largely limited to Israel. The case of Payam Feili, a gay Iranian poet, provides a telling example. Feili, a prolific writer who has authored nine books, fled to Turkey in 2014 and arrived in Israel in December.

He was tortured during the so-called reform administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iran’s security forces subjected him to detentions, harassment and a writer’s blacklist. He survived 44 days of gruelling captivity in a shipping container.

Feili saw the deceptive nature of Rouhani’s campaign victory in 2013: “Nothing essential has changed. The structure is still the same. It’s a play, a comic and ugly performance. They’re relying on the naïveté of people to be able to succeed.”

In late December, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the first openly gay lawmaker from his conservative Likud party, Amir Ohana, at his swearing-in ceremony in the Knesset. Traditionally, new MPs are welcomed by fellow lawmakers, but Netanyahu sought to make a point with his personal address. 

“I am happy to accept him in our ranks. Ohana has a rich past in security and is the head of the Likud Pride Group. I accept him with appreciation and pride,” said Netanyahu.

When Arab and Iranian parliaments are mature enough to have LGBT MPs, there might, just might, be stability and peace in the Middle East.

While many European parliaments, which support LGBT rights, have unilaterally recognized a Palestinian state, they have ignored disturbing remarks from PLO representatives. When asked if gays will be tolerated in a Palestinian state, the PLO ambassador to the U.S., Maen Rashid Areikat, said in 2011, “Ah, this is an issue that’s beyond my (authority).”

All of this helps to likely explain why an LGBT film festival organized by Aswat-Palestinian Gay Women could be held in Haifa in Israel this year, but not in the Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority. 

What can Canada and the U.S do to improve the conditions of LGBT communities in the Middle East? First, they can provide funds for NGOs seeking to end anti-gay policies in Muslim-majority countries. Second, Canada and the U.S can impose human rights sanctions on individuals and regimes involved in anti-LGBT persecution. Third, economic sanctions should also be considered as part of a pressure-point strategy to change conduct. Lastly, the U.S and Canada should reject nominations from anti-gay Middle East countries to all UN human rights fora.

Progress comes slowly. But with help, it can come.

Source: National Post

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. 

LGBTory Is For Real

LGBTory Canada is for real

Jillian Page
LGBT Perspectives editor

QUEBEC — I don’t think you can blame people for being skeptical about the motives of a group called LGBTory during last year’s federal election campaign in Canada.

And there was some question about whether LGBTory should have been allowed to participate in Ottawa’s Pride parade during a vicious election campaign that saw support for the federal Conservatives plummet and, ultimately, the election of a Liberal majority government in October.

Were they a last-gasp attempt by Stephen Harper and company to win votes from anybody? Yes, many were suspicious, even cynical.

I was one of those who felt during the campaign that the legitimacy of LGBTory could only be verified after the election. If, as Conservatives, they still urged their party to clean up its policies concerning LGBT people, then we’d know they are for real and weren’t part of a re-election conspiracy last summer.

Well, the LGBTory group is for real — I’m really happy to say that.

A Canadian Press article on the Globe and Mail site reports this:

A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Tories says now is the time to drop language opposing same-sex marriage from Conservative party policy.The party’s need to rebuild after the fall election provides an opportunity to get rid of a policy that’s offensive and hurts the party’s chances for growth, a group called LGBTories says and they are asking interim party leader Rona Ambrose for help.

“This policy is a significant obstacle to the acceptance of the Conservative message by voters who would otherwise be attracted to the party’s stance on economic, security, and foreign policy issues,” they wrote in a letter to her made public this week.

They’re right about that. I, for one, might have voted for the Conservatives in the last election had it not been for its anti-LGBT attitudes — especially the Conservative-dominated treatment of a trans rights bill in the Senate. I’m with the Conservatives on security issues, though, and I am saddened to see how Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party have brought disgrace upon Canada in the international community with the plan to withdraw our fighter jets from the coalition battle against the degenerate terrorists known as “ISIS.”

LGBTory really has nothing to lose now. And they’re speaking up ahead of the Conservative policy convention this spring — and before a new party leader is elected.

So, bravo for LGBTory for this new effort on behalf of same-sex couples. I hope they will speak up for transgender people now, too.

Incidentally, some of us wondered about the “LGBTory” name: was the “T” meant to erase transgender people from “LGBT,” as some right-wingers and rad-fems in the United States tried to do last year by overtly removing the “T” from “LGBT”?

Well, no: As the LGBTory site explains, “We are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Conservatives who refuse to endorse wasteful and ineffective government policies …””

As if to emphasize the point that transgender people are not being left out, an editor at the Globe and Mail put this headline up over the CP article: “LGBT Tories organizing to change party’s policy on same-sex marriage”.

Good call by that editor.

P.S. How about Rona Ambrose for Conservative party leader?

LGBT PERSPECTIVES, with Jillian Page

Statement on the Terrorist Attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida


LGBTory Canada joins the world in mourning the loss of forty-nine innocent lives in the assault on Orlando`s Pulse Nightclub on June 12. Words can barely express the sense of horror and loss coming from this horrendous attack on the LGBT community. We stand in solidarity with all civilized people in condemning this brutal act of hatred.

The people brutally murdered in Orlando were not targeted because of any national, political, or ethnic affiliation – they were killed specifically because they belonged to the LGBT community.  In that sense, this act of violence was aimed at LGBT people worldwide, and serves to remind the world of the dangers that LGBT people face everywhere, every day, just for being who they are.

In a larger sense, this attack is a message to freedom-loving societies all over the world. The LGBT community of Orlando was targeted because the fact that in a society of freedom and tolerance LGBT people are able to gather peacefully and openly to enjoy themselves. This same freedom and tolerance is abhorrent to totalitarian regimes who seek to destroy the liberty that we have come to take for granted.

It must also be said that this massacre was motivated by the twisted ideology of jihad and political Islam, which actively seeks the death of LGBT people. LGBT people are persecuted most in areas of the world ruled by fundamentalist Islamic governments, and jihadists seek to establish these regimes worldwide. We must confront this reality head-on, and reject attempts to silence critics of Islamism with accusations of islamophobia.

We hope that governments and policy-makers in western democracies heed the warnings coming from the Orlando killings and confront the clear and present danger facing their LGBT citizens.

ISIS kills LGBTs

"Why is [Trudeau] stepping back from the fight, when our allies are stepping up? ... Just how bad does it have to be in Iraq and Syria for him to leave our CF-18s there? ... ISIS .. is a death cult that sells children and women into sexual slavery. It targets and kills gays and lesbians and it has murdered thousands of Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. ... Just how bad does it have to be in Iraq and Syria for (Trudeau) to leave our CF-18s there?”

— Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose

Ambrose jousts with Trudeau in first QP of new Parliament

OTTAWA ­— Rona Ambrose was sharp.

Justin Trudeau looked better answering questions than he ever did asking them.

And Thomas Mulcair vowed to be the left-wing champion of progressive voters.

The highly anticipated maiden question period of the 42nd Parliament on Monday afternoon did not produce the sparks that flew when Mulcair battled Stephen Harper over the senate scandal. But Ambrose, the interim opposition leader, and Trudeau had some solid back-and-forth exchanges.

The diminutive Ambrose led with sharp questions on the Liberal decision to pull Canadian jet fighters out of the fight with ISIS even as the U.S., the U.K., and France are amping up the fight in Syria and Iraq.

"Why is the prime minister stepping back from the fight, when our allies are stepping up?" Ambrose asked in her first volley from the Opposition benches.

Trudeau has been pressed on this by reporters for the last few weeks as he's travelled to various international summits and, each time, he points to the election promise he made.

"We have made a clear commitment to withdraw the six CF-18 fighter jets and to engage in a continued way militarily, in humanitarian efforts, and in refugee efforts, which we are continuing to do," Trudeau replied.

That wasn't good enough for Ambrose.

"Just how bad does it have to be in Iraq and Syria for him to leave our CF-18s there?" Ambrose asked.

"There is not a Canadian in this country who does not think that ISIS is a group of terrible terrorists who should be stopped," Trudeau replied. "The question has always been: How best to engage?"

When last seen in the House of Commons, Trudeau was asking questions as leader of the third party and, even those in his own party, thought he often looked shaky and unprepared.

But when it comes to answering questions, he drew the applause of his side on more than a few occasions and was comparatively more sure and confident of his responses.

For his part, Mulcair came at Trudeau on themes near and dear to progressive voters.

He called, for example, on Trudeau to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions this year. Trudeau would only commit to meeting with the premiers early next year to come up with a plan on climate change.

Mulcair then asked Trudeau to honour his campaign commitment to restore Canada Post home mail delivery.

Trudeau dodged again, saying he'd work with Canada Post to provide Canadians with the service they expect.

Some Notable moments in the first Question Period of new Parliament:

Interim Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose:

"ISIS .. is a death cult that sells children and women into sexual slavery. It targets and kills gays and lesbians and it has murdered thousands of Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, and other religious minorities. ... Just how bad does it have to be in Iraq and Syria for (Trudeau) to leave our CF-18s there?"

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion with most Optimally Effective Answer:

"Our view is that we will be more optimally effective with our allies in flighting this awful terrorist group if we stop delivering only 2% of the air strikes and focus on where Canada will make a real difference."

Knockout Punch?

Former agriculture minister and Saskatchewan Conservative MP Gerry Ritz demands international trade minister Chrystia Freeland sign the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal his government negotiated. "This deal has been years in discussion and is now the gold standard on environmental and labour chapters. She claims to be pro trade, so when will she stop stalling and sign this deal?"

Freeland delivers the knockout: " I must say to my honourable colleague that he is a little mistaken on the facts when he suggests that we could be signing the deal now. The deal is not yet open at the moment for either signature or ratification. The member might want to have a coffee with the honourable member for Abbotsford who is well versed in the details of how trade deals work."

Freeland was referring to Abbotsford MP Ed Fast who, as trade minister in the Stephen Harper government, negotiated the terms of the deals including when it could be signed and ratified.

Best Good Question and Worst Non-Answer:

Cathy McLeod, Conservative MP from B.C. asked:

"On June 2, when the Truth and Reconciliation report was released, the current prime minister pledged his unwavering support for all 94 recommendations, the full list, no exceptions. Could the minister of indigenous affairs give us the full cost of keeping this promise?"

Carolyn Bennett, the Toronto MP who is minister of indigenous affairs answered:

"We are so pleased to see that already the provinces and territories have taken up those calls to action that are theirs. The universities in the country have already committed to help with the things that are theirs and that we will be able to do this. It was inappropriate for us to cherry-pick out of the 94 recommendations. With political will, leadership, and partnership, nation-to-nation, we are going to get this done."

Best Moment:

Mauril Belanger, the Liberal MP recently diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease, a terminal condition, gets a standing ovation from all sides when he rose to ask his own government about violence in Burundi and Canada's response to that.


Toronto Sun

'Freedom and respect': Conservatives strike marriage definition from party policy

Delegates Michelle Rempel and Natalie Pon celebrate the vote to strike the definition of marriage in the Conservative Party's official policy at their convention in Vancouver Saturday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press) 

Conservative delegates at the party's policy convention in Vancouver have voted to strike the definition of marriage in the party's official policy document.

In a 1,036-462 vote, delegates from all provinces except Saskatchewan cast majority votes in favour of no longer defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

"I think our party got a little more Canadian today," Calgary MP Michelle Rempel said after the vote. "It's a milestone and it's not just a milestone for our party, it's a milestone for all Canadians."

"Yes, it took us 10 years to get to this point, but I think this is something that is a beacon for people around the world who are looking at equality rights. Canada is a place where we celebrate equality."

The result followed a heated debate and prompted some high-fives and cheers across the hall. It shifts the party's official position on same-sex marriage from being against the unions to neutral.

Eric Lorenzen, from an Eastern Ontario riding, said during the debate that as a gay Conservative, he found it troubling that his party told him his relationship with his partner was not valued.

"What other group does our party have a negative policy towards? A policy of restricting civil rights and restricting full participation in society?" he said, drawing applause.

Delegate Natalie Pon wears a LGBT button as she waits for the results in the vote to change the wording of the traditional definition of marriage in the conservative policies at the Vancouver convention on Saturday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

"It's all about freedom and respect," said Quebec MP Maxime Bernier. "It's about us and it's about telling Canadians that you can love who you want and that you can be loved... and having fair policies at the federal level for that."

"I'm proud of you to have this debate here with you," the former cabinet minister said.

"'It is a fundamental human right and government does not have a place in your bedroom," said Goldie Ghamari, who is seeking a nomination in an Ottawa riding to run for the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.   

Losing party's base?

Speakers against the motion warned that social conservatives — who make up 40 per cent of the party's base, according to one person — would stay home and stop supporting the Conservative Party if it didn't represent their views on marriage.

"This resolution is not about inclusiveness or the value of individuals," Manitoba MP Ted Falk warned. "This motion is an attack on our values and principles."

Interim Conservative leader on party's future direction6:59

But other social conservatives elected to support deleting the definition, calling the wording of the policy a workable compromise because opponents still had the freedom to hold personal opinions against same-sex marriage.

Alberta MP Shannon Stubbs told CBC News she knew of some who held personal views against gay marriage but nevertheless supported the motion. People were ready to move on, she suggested.

Saskatchewan MP Brad Trost, who was vocal in his opposition to the proposal throughout the convention, said he was disappointed. Some of his colleagues had expressed support for traditional marriage and campaigned on it but then said they didn't want to deal with the issue anymore. 

"It was a line in the sand. With that line, other things wouldn't be crossed," he said. "I don't see the need to change." 

"I didn't get into politics just to vote for the lowest common denominator. I believe in things."

Michelle Rempel LGBTory

MP Michelle Rempel wipes a tear after the successful vote. She told delegates it was long past time they passed this resolution. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Motions condemning gender-selection abortions, endorsing ticketing rather than arresting individuals found with small quantities of marijuana and protecting conscience rights for medical practitioners who don't want to perform abortions or participate in assisted suicide also passed on Saturday.

None of the 32 resolutions considered by the full group of delegates failed.

'Don't anticipate anyone leaving'

MP Erin O'Toole had predicted Saturday morning that the motion would pass, saying his party was evolving and people were more comfortable with it now.

"We're tackling tough issues — whether it's euthanasia, same-sex marriage — and doing it quite respectfully. We're having passionate debate and then at the end of the day we're having a beer together."

O'Toole added that the Conservative Party is a "brokerage party," where no member expects to have all of his or her positions reflected. "I don't anticipate anyone leaving," he said.

Conservative leadership contender Kellie Leitch6:27

Former cabinet minister Steven Blaney, who opposed same-sex marriage originally, said Canadians have spoken and it was time.

"I haven't met anybody who is passionate about keeping an obsolete policy on the books that no longer reflects law or social custom," possible leadership contender Jason Kenney told The Canadian Press.

'Value of human life' added

On Saturday morning, delegates voted in favour of a half-dozen amendments to the party's constitution, while rejecting one.

The phrase "a belief in the value and dignity of all human life" was added to the party's governing document after a short debate.

Rempel argued that it was a way for the party to stand up against the genocide of Yazidis in Northern Iraq. Another delegate wondered if it was a policy amendment in disguise, suggesting that if the party wanted to adopt language on abortion or assisted suicide, it should do so outright.

Other changes clarified that senators can participate in choosing an interim leader and national councillors must not receive compensation nor get involved in nomination or leadership contests.

The defeated amendment concerned the treatment of donations for the purposes of attending a national convention.

'Better late than never': Trudeau pokes fun at Tories

At the convention simultaneously underway for the Liberals in Winnipeg, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a shot at Conservatives for debating same-sex marriage more than a decade after a Liberal government made it legal.

"Better late than never," he said. "Who knows … 10 years from now, they might finally be willing to admit that climate change is real. Or that tax cuts for rich people don't help the middle class. Or that government shouldn't legislate what women can wear on their heads."

Conservatives vote to end official opposition to gay marriage


VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Published Saturday, May 28, 2016 6:06PM EDT

The federal Conservative Party shed its official aversion to gay marriage this weekend as rank-and-file members voted to remove the traditional definition of wedlock from their policy book – part of an effort to recast the Tories after bidding farewell to founder Stephen Harper.

“It’s about telling Canadians that you can love whom you want,” Conservative MP and leadership contender Maxime Bernier said.

The 13-year-old party, now struggling to find its place in the political wilderness after nearly a decade in power, has yet to decide on who will lead the Conservatives against Justin Trudeau in the next election or precisely how to refashion their appeal to voters.

But a majority of delegates at a Vancouver convention agreed on what they don’t want: to be considered obsolete in a country that officially legalized gay marriage more than 11 years ago. The measure to effectively recognize gay marriage passed 1,036 to 462.

'Obsolete' was the same word former Harper lieutenant Jason Kenney used Saturday to describe long-standing Conservative Party policy which declared marriage was a “union of one man and one woman.”

The Calgary MP, long considered a standard bearer for the party’s conservative wing, was unequivocal about the need to jettison the traditional definition of marriage from Conservative doctrine.

“I think it’s a no-brainer. This issue was resolved 10 years ago. There is no point in having … obsolete language about something that was changed in law and society a decade ago,” the Calgary MP said.

“Welcome to a broad, national political party. There are always going to be different views on different issues but when we talk about unity it means unity in diversity.”

Conservative organizers and delegates, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the party’s social conservative wing appeared reduced in strength and voice at the May 26-28 convention which began with an official send-off for former prime minister Stephen Harper.

It will be a new leader, however, who will exert the most influence over what the new, post-Harper Conservative Party looks like.

Mr. Kenney, who would be a strong front-runner for the job should he choose to accept it, signalled several times this weekend he remains undecided.

He acknowledged publicly that he’s also seriously considering a pivot to provincial Alberta politics where two parties – the Progressive Conservatives, and Wild Rose, are splitting the right-leaning vote.

“I have got a lot of encouragement to run for the Conservative Party national leadership – which has been deeply reinforced at this convention,” Mr. Kenney said.

“I also have a lot of people encouraging me to contribute to uniting Albertans to defeat the NDP.”

Mr. Harper isn’t entirely fading from the picture. He is slated to soon become a director of the Conservative Fund – the party’s powerful fundraising arm.

There were clear signs of how the Tories are changing without the influence of Mr. Harper, known for secrecy and distrust of the media.

The Tories opened all their policy debate sessions at their Vancouver convention to the media. It was a first for this party, which has less to lose now from such a move now that it’s no longer in power. But it also meant that journalists were present to witness a Muslim Conservative supporter accusing party brass of unfairly targeting Muslims during the 2015 election campaign.

Urz Heer, from the riding of Brampton South in the Toronto area, told a Conservative Party executive director Dustin van Vugt Friday that the party made her feel like an outsider. She was referring the Tory promises on a public sector ban on niqabs and a snitch line for “barbaric cultural practices.”

Toronto area MP Lisa Raitt, another potential leadership contender, said she’s proud of how the Tories opened up their debates to journalists. “Think about it in terms of a workplace – we just did a performance review in public. Even publicly traded companies don’t do this.”

She said the Tories are learning to chart their own path without Mr. Harper, the man who created the party and ruled it for 12 years.

The leadership campaign is expected to pick up speed in the summer and fall this year.

Mr. Kenney has said he will make a decision this summer and people close to Peter MacKay, former justice minister, said he will also decide shortly but might not make an announcement for several months.

Former labour minister Kellie Leitch, Toronto-area MP Michael Chong and former small business minister Maxime Bernier have already declared themselves candidates.

Former Commons speaker Andrew Scheer is considering a run as is former treasury board president Tony Clement.

Ms. Raitt recounted a meeting she had with Mr. Harper three months ago where he told her she didn’t need his advice.

She had asked him how he would deal with weak economic growth if he were still in charge.

“He made it very clear to me when I had a meeting with him. When I asked his advice, he said I’m not going to tell you what do. That’s for you guys to figure out.”

Conservative delegates, however, also rejected a motion to support physician-assisted dying and they approved a policy change by 990 to 496, saying they support the rights of doctors and nurses and others “to refuse to participate in or refer their abortion, assisted suicide or euthanasia.”

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‘Government does not have a place in your bedroom’: Conservatives vote to accept same-sex marriages

VANCOUVER – Conservative delegates voted overwhelmingly Saturday at their national convention to effectively accept same-sex marriage, a move Tory MPs and leadership candidates said modernizes their party and sends an important message to Canadians.

In a vote of 1,036-462, Conservative members – following a passionate debate – voted to take a neutral position on marriage and no longer define it as “the union of one man and one woman.”

The change also removes a longstanding policy statement that said Parliament, through a free vote, and not the courts should determine the definition of marriage.

The policy change effectively means the party accepts same-sex unions and that it shouldn’t be in the business of defining marriage for Canadians.

The vote needed and received support from a majority of delegates in a majority of provinces and territories. Saskatchewan was the only province whose Conservative delegates didn’t support the change.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward Conservative MP Jason Kenny gives the thumbs up at the Conservative Party of Canada convention in Vancouver, Friday, May 27, 2016. 

“The Conservative party is the party of rights for all Canadians. It is long past time that we passed this resolution,” Calgary MP Michelle Rempel told delegates, to loud cheers from the more than 1,500 people packed into a ballroom at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Quebec MP Maxime Bernier, who’s running for the Conservative leadership, supported the change and said the issue is “about freedom and respect.”

“It’s about us and it’s about telling to Canadians that you can love who you are, who you want, and that you can be in love, and I hope that also having fair policies at the federal level,” Bernier said.

Ontario MP Kellie Leitch, another declared leadership candidate, said the policy change is “just the right thing to do.”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin TangConservative MP Maxime Bernier.

Calgary MP Jason Kenney, who’s weighing a leadership bid, said eliminating the definition of marriage in the policy declaration was a “no-brainer” because it was resolved by the courts more than a decade ago.

“There’s absolutely no point in having a policy declaration that doesn’t reflect reality either in law or social custom,” Kenney said. “It’s just having the language catch up with reality.”

Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay, a perceived leadership frontrunner who hasn’t ruled out a bid, voted for the change and said he was heartened by the transparent way the party dealt with the issue.

“It’s a message of modernization and moving on, and accepting,” MacKay said. “We have to send that signal that we want everybody to work with us to build a better country. So I’m thrilled with the outcome.”

One member who identified himself as a gay Conservative assailed his own party for being a laggard on accepting same-sex marriage.

“As a gay Conservative, I find it troubling that the party of which I’ve been a member for almost 40 years has a policy that tells me my relationship with my partner is not valued, my civil rights are of no concern,” the man told the crowd.

Party delegates and even Preston Manning, the patriarch of the modern-day Conservative party, delivered a message similar to Pierre Trudeau’s famous declaration: “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” 

Goldie Ghamari, a Conservative delegate who supported the change, said she comes from a country where homosexuals are hanged and persecuted in the name of religion, and that her family came to Canada for freedom.

“Government does not have a place in your bedroom,” Ghamari said, to loud cheers.

Outside the room after the vote, Manning said, “the ultimate position should be that the state has nothing to do with the defining of marriage,” which can reconcile positions of social conservatives and libertarians, and mean “people can define marriage as they like.”

However, a number of Conservative parliamentarians don’t support the change, including social conservative Brad Trost, a Saskatoon MP.

“If we as a party start to waffle on this, that line in the sand moves very sharply and becomes much more difficult,” Trost said before the vote.

“I don’t think social conservatives will leave the party because I’m not leaving the party. We’re going to stay and we’re going to fight.”

Rural Manitoba Conservative MP Ted Falk said the proposed policy change was “not about inclusiveness,” but was instead an “attack on our values and principles.”

Other policy changes approved by Conservative delegates on Saturday included:


Members voted to support peace officers issuing issue tickets for “simple possession of small quantities of marijuana,” in an effort to provide more tools for law enforcement in combating drugs and to reduce the volume of judicial proceedings.

Conscience rights:

 The party overwhelmingly voted to support “conscience rights for doctors, nurses, and others to refuse to participate in or refer their patients for abortion, assisted suicide or euthanasia.”

Right to work:

Delegates approved a policy that supports “right-to-work legislation” to allow for optional union membership including student unions.


Delegates voted to “streamline firearms classification” and that a Conservative government would order a review of firearms-related laws “to identify parts of those Acts that have no public safety value.”

Conservatives vote to drop same sex marriage ban from policy

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, May 28, 2016 9:43AM EDT

VANCOUVER -- Conservatives emerged from a spirited convention Saturday, ties to many of their past policies and politics severed after days of debate that many say is proof that the party is on the rebound.

The party wiped a policy opposing same sex marriage off its books Saturday and adopted another supporting a more permissive approach to marijuana after 2 1/2 days of introspection and intense public debate.

"It's a demonstration of the maturation of our party," former Tory cabinet minister Peter MacKay said of the marriage resolution.

"We're clearly recognizing the law, the realities of people's lives and I'm heartened by the very open transparent way in which we dealt with this issue."

The vote followed emotional debates in policy workshops Friday and on the floor Saturday with some social conservatives arguing that any leadership candidate who supported it would automatically lose their vote.

That didn't faze candidate and MP Maxime Bernier, who spoke in favour of the motion from the convention floor.

"It's about freedom and respect. It's about us and telling Canadians that you can love who you want and that you can be in love," he said.

But if party members were listening to former leader Stephen Harper's speech Thursday night about the need to stay true to Conservative principles of faith, family and community, then they can't support it, argued Manitoba MP Ted Falk.

"This motion is an attack on our values and principles," he said.

Harper had addressed the over 2,000 delegates to the convention Thursday night calling on them to remain united on the road to the 2019 election, taking the stage to AC/DC's Thunderstuck, a song that was a classic for him on his many political campaigns.

The 2015 campaign failed in part because its reliance on the same old themes and approaches of the past, delegates had heard during a packed session that served as a moment of catharsis for many in the party's grassroots who told party leaders they had felt sidelines and ignored during the election.

Those complaints were heard loud and clear, said MP Erin O'Toole.

"We've had some difficult discussions, we've had some frustrations with the campaign," he said.

"But that's how we become stronger as a party."

One argument party officials heard was that they'd put forward no new policy ideas during the campaign and that their ads and attacks on opposition parties were stale.

A key line of attack against the Liberals had been that party's plan to decriminalize marijuana.

The Tories routinely argued it was going to result in pot being sold to children from corner shops.

But the Liberals are moving ahead with that plan and the Tories need to change their approach, delegates argued.

A resolution that supported peace officers issuing tickets for small amounts of possession was supported by members including former Toronto police chief and cabinet minister Julian Fantino on Friday.

It passed by the broader membership in a vote of 718-491.

Policy resolutions are not binding on political leaders but are often used to help shape platforms.

The Conservatives will next gather in May 2017 to choose a new leader.

Check out the recap of our CTV News correspondents' live blog. Reading on an app? Tap here for mobile experience.

Fighting ISIS

From our friend Dillon R. Hillier.

It was one year ago that I left Canada and boarded a plane for the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.

After completing five years in the Canadian Forces and serving a tour in Afghanistan, I decided to embark on a personal mission to fight against the Islamic State.

My plane landed in the city of Sulimaneyah and within one week I was on the front lines alongside Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling jihadists fighters.

In the months prior to my arrival, ISIS had stormed out of their Syrian strongholds and routed the Iraqi National Army at Mosul, capturing nearly half of the country in the process. Were it not for coalition air strikes against ISIS in the late summer and autumn of 2014, the Kurdistan region would have likely been overrun by the forces of the caliphate and the black-and-white flag of jihad would be flying over the cities of that nation.

Thankfully, Kurdish forces held out while the rest of the Iraqi army fled and managed to roll back some of the gains made by the Islamic State. I saw first hand that the success of the Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against evil can be attributed to two things: Their superior training and the help of Western air power.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks of the ineffectiveness of air power in the war against ISIS, I cannot help but shake my head at his ignorance.

During my time at the front, I witnessed on multiple occasions the effectiveness of coalition air strikes. At small towns and villages like Tal al-Ward and Rashad, where fighting on the ground was fierce, I saw Western air strikes brutalize and punish ISIS fighters when they were in the open and reduce their strongholds to rubble.

On another instance, my unit was made ready for battle late one January night because ISIS was launching a massive offensive on our position. However, the arrival of just two coalition jets destroyed the enemy attack and we were able to stand down without firing a shot.

Western air power has allowed Kurdish forces to liberate cities, towns and vast tracts of territory that were once under ISIS control. These are places where women and girls are no longer gang-raped by ISIS fighters, children no longer conscripted into the jihadist ranks, and men no longer summarily shot.

In a sense, civilization has returned to these places, but as long as the flags of the Islamic State fly on the horizon, the country and the world will never be safe.

Pulling Canada’s fighter jets from this war is a severe tactical mistake. Canadian sorties have made a difference; they have saved lives and prevented countless atrocities.

Air power alone isn’t going to win the war in Iraq and Syria, but we sure as hell aren’t going to win the war without it. Our allies are counting on us to continue the fight. The world needs us and now is not the time to run.

Trudeau talks about compassion and saving 25,000 refugees. But it’s a token gesture in the grand scheme of things. Keeping our CF-18 fighter jets in the skies above Iraq, Kurdistan and Syria will not only save thousands of lives, it will save millions and help end the war.

I stay in touch with the Kurdish fighters I met while in Iraq. They put their lives on the line not just for Kurdistan, but for civilization itself. These brave soldiers have asked me to pass a message to Canadians: Thank you for your help in this war. And please, keep the CF-18s in the air.

— Dillon Hillier is Canadian Forces veteran of Afghanistan and served alongside Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS.  

Source: "Canuck's experience fighting ISIS shows Trudeau is wrong"

Opinion: Conservatives must abandon opposition to same-sex marriage

"Polls show that only 22 per cent of Canadians opposed same sex marriage, while 70 per cent approved..."

There’s a $30-billion budget deficit, we’ve abandoned our military allies, our energy sector is crumbling, and Alberta is literally aflame. Yet, at the Conservative Party of Canada’s annual convention next week, the biggest debate will be over same sex marriage. Yes, Ontario first legally recognized same sex marriage in 2003, and yes, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously agreed, and yes, tens of thousands of same sex couples have been married, but here we are. Fortunately, this might be the last time the party embarrasses itself by debating an issue that the rest of the country has long forgotten. The motion in question proposes to drop the policy supporting a traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.                                                           

The Conservative Party desperately needs to abandon its dated and self-defeating opposition to same-sex marriage. I’m neither going to insult Canada’s LGBT community nor the readers’ intelligence by explaining why “gay is okay.” Someone still opposed to same sex marriage in 2016 isn’t going to be swayed by arguments based on ethics, morality, or socio-economic incentives. But electability might. Polls show that only 22 per cent of Canadians opposed same sex marriage, while 70 per cent approved, reflecting consistently growing support over the past decade. Three consecutive Parliamentary free votes in 2003, 2005, and 2006 have all asserted the legitimacy of same sex marriage. There is simply no imaginable future in which the Canadian public will support a repeal or even infringement of the status quo. So why is the party actively alienating tens if not hundreds of thousands of Canadians that otherwise agree with Conservatives on low taxes, limited government, and individual responsibility but are excluded by this losing battle against the LGBT community?                                                     

Every autopsy of the 2015 federal election agreed that the focus on social issues and identity politics was a failure. Half a year later have these lessons already been forgotten? No matter how far Stephen Harper’s government distanced themselves from social issues, and worked tirelessly for LGBT rights around the world, the policy declaration haunted them. Is there any merit to the arguments proposed against this motion? Some concerns of social conservatives are understandable, but misplaced. This motion isn’t pushed by ominous “special interests,” nor is it a conspiracy orchestrated by the “gay mafia”. It was brought by grassroots party members through their EDAs in Edmonton West and Fort McMurray. The group LGBTory has been outstanding in promoting LGBT issues in conservative circles, but let us not forget it consists of half a dozen unpaid volunteers with virtually no financial resources. If “special interests” are somehow involved, the term would more appropriately be applied to the groups opposed. First and foremost is the Campaign Life Coalition, active since 1978 with dozens of employees and locations across Canada, promoting anti-same sex marriage legislation, including through its own online newspaper,                                                 

Likewise, any claim that this motion is a formal endorsement of same sex marriage is utterly unsubstantiated. Neither the original movers of the motion, LGBTory, or anyone else wishes to impose their personal values onto those that disagree — doing so would contravene the very spirit of conservatism. Individuals and faith organizations should have every right to define marriage as they see right and practice that beliefs freely. It is when the state is empowered to decide what is and isn’t appropriate that religious liberties are truly threatened. The Conservative Party needs to assert the right of MP’s to a free vote on matters of conscience — a right social conservatives should appreciate more than most.                                   

To defeat this motion would only serve to give credence to accusations of a secret, homophobic agenda harboured by the party. Because why else hold onto this pointless, impossible, and self-contradictory declaration, if not to deny same sex couples’ right to marriage? Canada has moved beyond this issue — its time for the CPC to catch up.

Alexei Simakov is the outgoing president of the Conservative Association at McGill University.

Ontario PC leader Brown bringing progressive stance to old party values

Tories "unequivocally support the equality of marriage." - Patrick Brown


TORONTO — The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, May 17, 2016 8:30PM EDT

Next week in Vancouver, Patrick Brown, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, will speak to a group of gay, lesbian and transgender Tories about equality and how it doesn’t matter who you love.

The very next day, he will speak to another group, telling them that climate change is a threat, man-made, and he’s got a solution to combat it.

A year into his leadership, Mr. Brown, 37, is putting his own modern twist on the old PC party. A year ago, it would have been heretical for an Ontario Tory leader to endorse same-sex marriage or utter the words man-made and climate change in the same sentence.

“The beautiful thing about being leader of the party … is you get to act in accordance with exactly how you feel,” Mr. Brown said in an interview Tuesday. “You’ve got to be comfortable in your own skin.”

He was speaking in advance of his trip to Vancouver for the federal Conservative convention. Next Thursday, he is addressing the LGBTory group at their pub night. He supports their efforts to get language opposing same-sex marriage out of federal party policy.

The next day, he will speak to Canadians for Clean Prosperity, a non-government organization (NGO) run by Mark Cameron, a former adviser to Stephen Harper. His group was described recently in a media report as one that is pushing for market-friendly ways to fight global warming.

“It’s a lot of fun just being yourself,” Mr. Brown said. “Certainly, there were times in Ottawa where I would have taken a different approach [from Mr. Harper’s].”

Before becoming provincial leader last May, Mr. Brown served as the Conservative MP for Barrie in Mr. Harper’s caucus. He was criticized by his opponents in the provincial leadership race and also by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals for being a social conservative.

In 2006, for example, Mr. Brown voted with most of his caucus to take another look at the legislation allowing gays and lesbians to get married. He explains his vote as following a platform commitment.

But added: “Those stories of the Prime Minister’s Office being centralized … there might have been a little truth to that.” That was a reference to the command and control of the caucus emanating from Mr. Harper’s office.

And so, last year, Mr. Brown became the first Ontario PC leader to march in the Toronto Pride Parade. Then, at his party’s convention in Ottawa earlier this year, he surprised many delegates with his statement that climate change was man-made.

He recognizes now he’s making it difficult for the Ontario Liberals to define him.

“I think the Liberals are … struggling now to find out what their next smear campaign is going to be,” he says.

He knows, too, he’ll be creating tension within his own ranks as a result of these new positions, but argues that as a young leader, he is exactly where his friends and peers are. He says for them the debate over climate change and same-sex marriage is over.

“We all believe in equality and are looking forward to the day when it [the debate] is over in the federal party as well,” he says.

And he has a warning for the federal Conservatives, who need to make gains in Ontario in the next federal election if they want to come back to power. He says the federal Tories need to show that they “unequivocally support the equality of marriage and … frankly that we won’t simply criticize the Liberals on the environment but have our own … solutions.”

A long-time provincial Tory, who asked not to be named, said there will be critics of Mr. Brown’s approach; there will be some in the party who feel alienated by his more progressive positions. But, like Mr. Brown, he isn’t interested in rolling back the clock and believes that the angry e-mails will become fewer and fewer.

The veteran Tory does not believe that Mr. Brown is bringing the party to the middle. Rather, his views reflect what is happening across society now.

Mr. Brown says: “People want a reasonable alternative to the Liberals in Ontario. … People in past elections felt there wasn’t a real alternative. Now they see that there is a PC Party that … wants to be fiscally responsible but at the same time cares about the social infrastructure of the province, cares about protecting our environment and isn’t out of sync on social issues.”


Maxime Bernier begins marathon race for Conservative leadership



OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, May 13, 2016 8:01PM EDT

Maxime Bernier knows what it’s like to be a politician under scrutiny.

The four-term Conservative MP from Quebec, now running for the leadership of his party, resigned as minister of foreign affairs in 2008 after it was revealed that he left classified documents at the house of his then girlfriend – who happened to have past ties to organized crime.

But when he assesses the current controversy surrounding Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s approval of a $15-billion Saudi armoured vehicle deal, which began under the previous Conservative government, Mr. Bernier feels no sympathy.

“He lost a lot of credibility,” he says of Mr. Dion over a lunch of warm vegetable salad on a downtown Ottawa patio. “Tell Canadians that you don’t like the deal so you won’t go ahead, or you like the deal and you’re going ahead.”

What about Mr. Bernier, who prides himself on the conviction of his principles?

“Because of what’s happening right now in the news and all that, I think it’s good to do a review,” he says, referring to reports of the Saudi government using armoured vehicles to suppress internal dissent.

After a pause, he answers: “I think I won’t go ahead with that deal.”

Although his own time as foreign minister didn’t end how he had hoped, Mr. Bernier says he has taken responsibility and moved on – even laughing at the political cartoons that still poke fun at his misfortune.

After his resignation, he spent three years on the back benches. He was one of only five Conservative MPs from Quebec to survive the 2011 election, and was brought back into the cabinet, albeit in a minor role as minister of state for small business and tourism.

“What I learned is very simple,” he says. “Being more cautious with confidential documents.”

Mr. Bernier, a spry 53-year-old who ran a 100-kilometre ultramarathon three years ago for charity, is the second Conservative thus far to declare for the Conservative leadership. MP Kellie Leitch has also thrown her hat into the ring. MP Michael Chong will make an announcement Monday on “the future of the Conservative Party.”

The leadership vote itself doesn’t take place until May 27, 2017 – and the marathon runner is taking the long road.

On Sunday, Mr. Bernier will officially launch his campaign in his riding of Beauce, where he will hand out free St-Hubert chicken at a local arena. It’s reminiscent of the time he hand-delivered Quebec-made Jos Louis cakes to the troops in Afghanistan. Which, he points out, he paid for himself. “It cost me a thousand bucks,” he says.

Mr. Bernier says he came to his decision to be one of the first leadership contenders out of the gate to replace former prime minister Stephen Harper after travelling the country and assessing his support.

The self-described “free-market guy” who favours small government and low taxes, and is highly critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “socialist” deficit spending, has a loyal following in Quebec and Alberta and is well versed in the language of political fundraising.

“I know that I have an organization all across the country,” he says. (Whether he will come up with another spectacularly anachronistic jingle, as he did during the 2015 election campaign, remains to be seen.)

He expects more Conservatives to declare their candidacy by the fall, with potential candidates rumoured to include MPs Jason Kenney, Tony Clement and Lisa Raitt, along with former cabinet minister Peter MacKay and maybe even reality TV host Kevin O’Leary.

While he is well known within the party, Mr. Bernier recognizes that he still isn’t a household name in English Canada. And what if the unilingual Mr. O’Leary decides to run? “I’m waiting [for] the time to have a debate with him in French,” he says, with a smile.

Mr. Bernier says his leadership campaign will include regular speeches and policy announcements focusing on four themes: individual freedom, personal responsibility, respect and fairness. He also supports some of the socially liberal policies to be debated at the Conservative convention later this month in Vancouver. “I think we must say yes to gay marriage,” he says.

For Mr. Bernier, fairness means abolishing subsidies for big businesses – such as Quebec aerospace firm Bombardier.

He’s also a pipeline proponent who wouldn’t tolerate meddling from provincial or municipal politicians, including Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, who is opposed to the Energy East pipeline.

“It is not his jurisdiction,” he says. “I won’t take the phone and call him, it is not his business.”

Perhaps most controversially in his home province, Mr. Bernier says he is reviewing his previous support for supply management – the tightly regulated system that protects Canada’s dairy and poultry farmers from most imports.

“I will have a position, and people will judge me with that position after, if I’m a real principled politician or not,” he says. “And I know that.”

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It's about Equality, Liberty, & Human Dignity.

He said he was far more nervous about coming out to his fellow gay men as a conservative than he was in coming out to conservatives as a gay man. What does that mean? There is an expectation in the LGBT community and many other so-called minority communities that if you are a member of a minority you must identify with the so-called progressive parties. I found the conversation with Eric Lorenzen of LGBTory Canada fascinating on many levels. But most important to me as a person who leans conservative, is hearing a fellow conservative discuss how and why it’s so important for the Conservative Party of Canada to align itself with modern times and dump a part of its policy which opposes same-sex marriage.

Lorenzen told me the CPC policy position against equal marriage just doesn’t fit a conservative party that espouses the principles of personal responsibility and personal liberty.  The argument isn’t difficult, which is why it’s frustrating for many conservatives to understand what has taken so long for the party to come around. The argument is that liberty ought to mean the liberty to be yourself, and personal responsibility ought to mean living your life openly. No masks. No closets. No faking a heterosexual relationship so as to conform with what used to be social conservative values.

I'll never forget that long before same-sex marriage became the law of the land, a conservative party member told me that gay marriage was already legal in Canada. There was no law, he said, to prevent a gay man from marrying a woman. I became somewhat confrontational at the suggestion that it was in the interest of traditional family values for a gay man to pretend to be otherwise with his wife and other members of his family. Lying to your family is not what personal responsibility is about whether you are gay or straight. His position was absurd.  Fast forward to 2016, ten years after same-sex marriage was made legal in Canada, it seems equally absurd that the Conservative Party of Canada has written in its official policy the statement "we support legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman".

I hope you give yourself a few minutes to listen to our SiriusXM conversation with Eric Lorenzen of LGBTory Canada, and I hope in the coming days Conservatives meeting in Vancouver will decide to shift their party to the right side of history and make it conform to the principles of equality, liberty, personal responsibility, and human dignity. And by the way, a party that likes to talk a good game about law and order ought to be able to remove a plank from their official policy which is in conflict with Canadian law.

I’m Charles Adler.

To read the response from Rona Ambrose, the Interim Leader of the Conservative Party, to this issue, click this link.

To learn more about the issue and proposed policy changes, please click here.

Inclusive Conservatism |

Winning a minority government in 2006, the Conservatives put forward a motion to restore the traditional definition of marriage. However, subsequent to the motion’s defeat after a free vote in Parliament, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announcedthat the issue had been settled and that the government would not revisit the matter. 

This year’s 2016 Conservative Party Convention being held in Vancouver May 26-29will be closing in on the 10 year anniversary of that declaration made by Stephen Harper. Now is the time for the party to truly close this door and turn a new page.

In January, at the Alberta Congress, Alberta’s Fort McMurrary-Cold Lake and Edmonton West Electoral District Associations (EDAs) co-sponsored a proposal to delete the outdated definition of traditional marriage – between one man and one woman – from the Conservative Party policy book. In an attempt to strike a balance among party members, the proposal also includes a resolution to add language to support the rights of faith based organizations. Both resolutions passed the plenary vote with an overwhelming 88% and 98% support, respectively, from grassroots members. The sponsoring EDAs explained that the resolutions were brought forward out of a shared belief in the core conservative principles of personal freedom and small government, as well as a belief that the party should be inclusive of all Canadians and reflect the current laws of Canada.

Since Alberta Congress, a diverse movement of Conservative party members from coast to coast have been working together to ensure that this motion is passed in Vancouver. The proposal has received support in Quebec, Ontario and PEI regional meetings, as well as from 27/31 (87%) Alberta EDAs in a second round of voting. Hope is strong that the party can recognize and support the efforts of grassroots conservatives, LGBTory, and their supporters, who have been working together on this important initiative. MPs like Michelle Rempel and interim leader Rona Ambrose have also expressed support for the collective's initiative.

Conservatives need to get back to their roots and remember what they stand for – small government, low taxes and individual freedom. This proposal is a crucial step in determining the party’s future, it’s up to the members now whether they want to move forward or remain stuck in the past.

Same-sex marriage battle brewing for Conservatives

LGBTory says its equal marriage initiative is meeting some resistance

Published on Fri, May 6, 2016 4:39 pm. 

Dylan C Robertson

LGBTory posted this photo on its Twitter feed after marching in the Toronto Pride parade on June 28, 2015.


A movement by LGBT Conservatives to get their federal party officially on board with same-sex marriage has met some fierce opposition just weeks ahead of a national convention.

Since January 2016, LGBTory has been pushing the federal Conservatives to drop parts of their policy book that call for a free vote on “the definition of marriage” and supporting “legislation defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

What started as a letter asking for the party head’s support grew into a lobbying effort of meeting with members of Parliament, pushing for motions at local riding associations and trying to get a motion voted on at the May 26 national convention.

“We’re feeling pretty confident; we’ve got a lot of support from within the party,” says Eric Lorenzen, an executive member of LGBTory.

In recent weeks, the social conservative group Campaign Life Coalition, known for its advocacy against abortion, has mobilized its supporters to counter LGBTory’s campaign, on a national and local level.

“It’s not a surprise that they’re fighting us,” says Lorenzen, who lives in Belleville. “We met them at the Toronto policy sessions when we went down to argue against our proposal and they were there arguing against it.”

CLC has proposed six of its own motions aimed to steer the party toward values like opposing euthanasia and trans-rights legislation.

While none of the CLC motions directly counter the LGBTory proposal, one asks the party “to protect the rights of Canadian workers who believe in the traditional definition of marriage from employment discrimination.”

CLC told Daily Xtra its supporters have gotten these motions passed in eight regional policy meetings throughout BC, Saskatchewan and Ontario. LGBTory has had supporters pass motions in Alberta, Quebec and Toronto.

The Conservative Party told Daily Xtra these motions were among more than 350 proposals posted into an online system where riding associations across Canada vote for which ideas they support.

The party’s elected policy committee considers these results and meets with a mix of MPs and activists to decide which motions will get time for discussion at the Vancouver convention. A list of roughly 25 motions is expected next week.

At the May 26 convention, delegates will break into small working groups on issues like the economy, foreign affairs and, in this case, social conservative issues. It will be up to attendees in these break-out groups to convince people to support their motions, which are approved by a show of hands.

The motions then get a formal vote from the wider convention, requiring a majority of votes and a majority of each region on board.

“The social conservatives — although they’re vocal and they’re well-organized — I don’t think they constitute a majority of the party,” Lorenzen says.

A Daily Xtra survey of possible Conservative leadership candidates saw most avoid taking a position on the motion, though none of the respondents were opposed. Lorenzen says that he’s come across MPs who oppose the motion, but he won’t yet name them publicly.

“I don’t want to set anybody up for intense lobbying efforts,” he says. “We’re doing a get out the vote strategy, and the social conservatives are as well.”