I’ve often been asked regarding attitudes toward sexual orientation and homophobia what it was like living in the American South, in Arkansas. My most significant comment is that although I love the support and freedom I have in Canada, the one thing I liked about Arkansas was that I knew where people stood. Arkansas has a strong and vibrant gay community: I could surround myself with them and rarely deal with the jerks. But that’s significant: I could identify the homophobes. Generally without a lot of difficulty.
Up north, it’s not so easy. Homophobes hide by just being quiet. And they bide their time, maintaining their silence until the time is right. Like Mr. Harper. When he first rose to power, he tried to overturn previous decisions on same-sex marriage, and failed. Then he shut up. That may be a good thing in some respects: but it’s not enough. He hasn’t changed his mind: he’s just simmering. Waiting. He may not be able to criminalize homosexuality the way he wants to, but he can slow much of the progress that’s been made.
From an excellent article in MacLeans (2013):
For a leader who has so recently advocated for second-class citizenship for some Canadians, silent acceptance will never be the same as support, and indifference will always be a pathetic substitute for tolerance. Besides, tolerance itself is insufficient where equal rights are concerned.
So Stephen Harper should come right out and say it: I was wrong.
Harper would never do that, however, no matter how good it would be for Canada’s citizens to hear it. And in this case it’s not that he’s too arrogant to admit it: it’s that in spite of the social science, physical science and faith-based observations to the contrary, it remains foundational to Mr. Harper’s perspective to divide the world into opposing groups: one worthy of blessing, the other worthy of discrimination. Good guys & bad guys; believers and jihadists; Americans (isn’t Canada Harper’s 51st state?) & the rest of the world. Straights and gays. It’s a very simple and easy way to live: but hardly appropriate for Canada’s PM.