Skip to main content

Certain notorious comments have seeped from Stockwell Day's past to infect his present bid to lead the Canadian Alliance -- comments about homosexuals, the right to abortion, mass murderers and defence lawyers. (There is no evidence he ever uttered them all in the same breath.)

Few outside Alberta, where Mr. Day first came to fame, have heard these remarks in their complete context. Both Mr. Day's opponents and defenders quote fragments, allude to only one side of the story, compete to entrench conflicting myths. My colleague Anne McIlroy reports on page A1 on Liberal attempts to peddle Mr. Day's most notorious remarks, some of them of uncertain attribution.

The veteran columnist Claire Hoy and his publisher, Stoddart, rushed out a biography on Mr. Day that hit the shelves only two weeks ago. Mr. Hoy is a Day fan, but he is also a good reporter. In Stockwell Day: His Life and Politics, he details the events surrounding some of the former Alberta treasurer's more spirited opinions.

For the record, then, here is what Stockwell Day said on:

Homosexuality: In 1989, Mr. Day strongly opposed a government proposal to extend human-rights protection to homosexuals. "Most people agree that we need to have protective legislation for reasons of religion, ethnic origin and gender," he stated. "But they feel no group should have special protective legislation based on sexual activity, whether it is a group of heterosexuals or homosexuals or sexual abstainers."

In 1994, an Alberta court ruled that Alberta's human-rights legislation was unconstitutional because it failed to protect homosexuals. At issue was the dismissal of Delwin Vriend, a teacher fired from a fundamentalist Christian school for cohabiting with a man and wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed his pride in being gay. (The school prohibits cohabitation of any kind outside marriage.) The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately ordered the Alberta government to amend its human-rights legislation to protect homosexuals. Mr. Day urged Premier Ralph Klein to use the Constitution's notwithstanding clause to override the Supreme Court on the grounds that legislatures, not courts, should decide such issues.

"Nobody gets fired because they're a homosexual," he argued. "They get fired if they don't do their job." Religious schools, he said, "are supposed to have protection" to teach children according to their beliefs. (Mr. Day was an administrator of a Pentecostal Christian school.) Mr. Klein abided by the Supreme Court ruling.

Mr. Day also protested against a $10,000 grant to a Red Deer museum to study the history of the local gay community. "We all make mistakes and they made a mistake in pursuing a project which purports to reflect the sexual choices of 1 per cent of the population," he told the Red Deer Advocate. He wanted the money returned, since it "legitimizes a lifestyle choice that doesn't deserve this kind of attention." These quotes are not in Mr. Hoy's book.

Abortion: In 1995, Mr. Day supported an anti-abortion activist group that wanted the Alberta government to stop funding abortions, unless the mother's life was in danger. (Mr. Klein retained the funding.) Mr. Day argued that it would offend the disabled community to abort fetuses because there was evidence they were deformed. "There are a lot of couples willing to adopt any baby," he said.

Clifford Olson: Mr. Day was upset that the federal Liberals would not revoke the "faint-hope" clause granting early parole for some convicted murderers. He evoked the name of Canada's most notorious mass-murderer, Clifford Olson. "People like myself say, 'Fix the problem. Put him in the general [prison]population. The moral prisoners will deal with him in a way we don't have the nerve to do.' " He later said his remarks had been misinterpreted, that he meant to suggest only "that in some ways prisoners have a higher morality in terms of justice than the Liberals do."

Defence attorneys: Red Deer lawyer Lorne Goddard attempted unsuccessfully to defend a client against charges of possessing child pornography by seeking to import a British Columbia court ruling that held simple possession was legal. (The Supreme Court will rule on the B.C. judgment.) Mr. Day wrote to the Red Deer Advocate that Mr. Goddard's defence "went well beyond" a lawyer's duty to defend his client.

"He is reported to have said that he actually believes the pedophile had the right to possess child porn," Mr. Day asserted.

Notwithstanding Mr. Day's subsequent apology, Mr. Goddard is suing him for defamation. The case is to come to trial in November.

Are these the honest, if occasionally intemperate, remarks of a politician who has the courage to say what he knows most people quietly believe? Or are they dangerous provocations calculated to inflame the intolerance of the ignorant?

This is for you to decide.