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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

O’FEE -- What Every Compassionate Conservative Needs to Do

“As long as someone takes responsibility for what they have said, and addressed the fact that in 2019 some things that may have been said in the past are inappropriate today, that if anything that they have ever said in the past caused any type of hurt or disrespect to one community or another and have apologized for that, I accept that   - Andrew Scheer, September 14, 2019

We should all accept that Andrew Scheer is a person of strong Catholic faith and that his or anyone’s right to express their faith should be respected.  However, our civil society functions best when members of various faith communities do not impose their faith upon society at large.

For example, some faith groups mandate a certain head covering such as a yarmulke, turban or hijab.  While more traditional practitioners of these faiths should be able to wear these coverings without discrimination, it would be inappropriate to assert that everyone should. The same would hold true for the various dietary restrictions some faiths have.

Free democracies follow the general rule that peaceful expression of religious faith should be protected but not imposed.

Catholics don’t accept same sex marriage, or abortion, as permissible within their faith.  While that’s not my personal view, I would be against requiring a Catholic priest performing a gay wedding, or being required to allow their church to be used for one.  That would amount to government imposing something into the peaceful expression of religious faith. 

Andrew Scheer’s votes against same sex marriage, and for re-introducing restrictions on abortion rights could arguably be viewed through the lens of his faith.  However, having government not recognize gay couples as married, or imposing government prohibitions on women’s reproductive rights, is also arguably the imposition of religion on the public at large. The fact that same sex couples have the right to marry does not take away from the rights of heterosexual couples ... it’s not a pie.

Still, Mr. Scheer has stated, without backing down from or apologizing for his votes, that he will not re-introduce any legislation restricting LGBTQ2S rights.  He also states that his earlier votes were an expression of his faith.  Perhaps, but another Andrew Scheer vote provides us with a clear-cut example of intolerance that is in direct violation of his stated faith doctrines.

Transgendered people can be very vulnerable in society.  They face a difficult journey with their gender identity and suffer much higher rates of suicide than the population at large.  They are subject to more violence and often face discrimination in employment and other areas of their lives.  On May 17, 2016, Canada introduced legislation (Bill C-16) making it illegal to discriminate against somebody because they were transgendered.  280 MP’s from across party lines voted for protecting this vulnerable group from discrimination.  Andrew Scheer was one of only 40 legislators who voted “no”.

Let’s be clear.  Mr. Scheer’s vote was not based on his faith.  Vatican doctrine in this regard is unambiguous.  The LGBTQ2S community “…must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided”.   Scheer’s vote was not just against Canadian societal values, it was also against public expressions of the Catholic faith.

Perhaps Andrew Scheer will reflect his vote and take his own advice.  He can own up to the fact that the views he expressed and the vote he cast were inappropriate and he can apologize for the hurt he caused.

If you call yourself a compassionate Conservative who supports LGBTQ2S rights you should be demanding Mr. Scheer retract and apologize for his intolerant (and un-Catholic) position.  If you are prepared to look the other way, that’s also your choice.  Just acknowledge you aren’t the person you claim to be. 

John O’Fee ... established a law practice in Kamloops focusing on real estate development, corporate transactions, wills and estates. He served three terms as a Kamloops school trustee, 11 years on Kamloops city council, and was also the CEO of the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc (Kamloops Indian Band). He is a past chair of the Interior Health Authority, been recognized as a distinguished Alumnus of TRU, selected for a BC Community Achievement Award, designated as Queen’s Counsel, and received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.


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