Lukiwski seeks forgiveness as Liberals slam Tories
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Friday, April 4, 2008 10:49PM EDT
Disgraced Saskatchewan MP Tom Lukiwski asked for forgiveness Friday after anti-gay remarks he made in a video from 1991 were released to the public.
Speaking in the House of Commons one day after a transcript of the video was read during question period, a humbled and deeply apologetic Lukiwski tried to make amends.
He first apologized to his gay and lesbian friends and colleagues for the remarks, in which he calls homosexuals "faggots with dirt under the fingernails that transmit diseases."
"To say that I'm ashamed of my comments, Mr. Speaker, is not putting it in context and certainly not putting it in strong enough terms," Lukiwski said Friday.
"Their friendship and support for me during my entire career and personal life has been extremely important to me and today I ask for their forgiveness. Mr. Speaker, just being in the public sphere means little to me compared to ... their opinion towards me and to them I say I am sorry."
He went on to apologize to the broader gay and lesbian community, his friends and family, staff, the prime minister and to the people of Saskatchewan and his own Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre riding.
He said his comments in the video are not indicative of his beliefs now, or of his beliefs at the time they were made.
"The comments I made should not be tolerated in any society. They should not be tolerated today, they should not have been tolerated in 1991 and they should not have been tolerated in the years before that," he said.
He said his remarks were "stupid, thoughtless and insensitive," but added that he wasn't using that as a defence, and took full responsibility for the things he said.
Lukiwski also vowed to spend the rest of his life trying to make up for the comments.
The comments appear on a videotape that was found by NDP staffers in provincial opposition offices formerly occupied by the conservative Saskatchewan Party.
The tape's existence came to light during Thursday's question period in the House of Commons when NDP MP Bill Siksay read a transcript of Lukiwski's comments.
Siksay, a B.C. MP who is gay, asked Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan to take "all appropriate action" on Thursday.
After an initial apology Thursday from Lukiwski, Van Loan said the government was satisfied with the apology and he declared the matter closed.
On Friday, it was the Liberals who continued to press the Tories on the issue in Parliament.
Liberal MP Scott Brison, one of several gay MPs, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's refusal to strip Lukiwski of his duties as a parliamentary secretary debased the institution of Parliament.
"Does the prime minister realize that his tepid response to these hateful remarks against gays and Canadians suffering from AIDS tells Canadians that hate, bigotry and prejudice are just fine in his Canada?" Brison told the Commons.
Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale said Harper's refusal to discipline Lukiwski raised questions about his own standards.
"Does the prime minister not realize if he does not act on this matter, if he does nothing, then he owns it?''
Harper, who was in Bucharest yesterday for a NATO summit, has not commented directly on the situation.
Gay groups call for resignation
Meanwhile, Lukiwski has been under fire from gay groups who want the Tories to distance itself from the views expressed on the tape.
Egale Canada, one of the country's largest gay rights lobby groups, has called for his resignation and suggested the only reason he was apologetic was because he was caught.
"It further perpetuates the stereotype of the gay community and I believe he should resign even though we accept his apology," Egale Canada's executive director Helen Kennedy told CTV News on Friday.
Meanwhile, University of Manitoba ethics professor Arthur Schafer said comments made by Lukiwski less than three years ago regarding same-sex marriage legislation should be considered when weighing the genuineness of his recent apology.
"I firmly believe that by passing this legislation, we start on a very slippery slope which could affect societal change in a very adverse way,'' Lukiwski told the House of Commons on June 28, 2005.
Lukiwski made the comments during the final debate on a landmark bill that would see Canada move to legalize gay weddings.
"I see things that have been expressed before that could come down the pike, things like polygamy and others, while hiding behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,'' Lukiwski is recorded as saying in the official Hansard transcript. "I am fearful that societal change could happen.''
This isn't the first scandal for Saskatchewan's Conservative politicians. In the years after they were uprooted from power by the NDP in 1991, several Conservative caucus members and staff were convicted of fraud and the party suffered irrecoverable political losses.
The currently presiding Saskatchewan Party is comprised of former Conservatives and Liberals and was founded in 1997. Its leader, Premier Brad Wall, is also featured in the controversial tape, making fun of former premier Roy Romanow's Ukrainian heritage.
With files from The Canadian Press