On Scheer same-sex marriage stance, Tory MP accuses parties of 'anti-Catholic bigotry'
OTTAWA – A Conservative MP is accusing the Liberals and NDP of “anti-Catholic bigotry” in their questioning of his leader Andrew Scheer’s position on same-sex marriage.
In a panel interview on CTV’s Question Period airing on Sunday, Alberta MP Garnett Genuis was asked if he thinks that Scheer needs to recalibrate his position on social issues like same-sex marriage before the party’s leadership review in April.
His response was that “if anything,” the party needs to make sure that Scheer’s “very clear” position “is heard by everyone.”
“Unfortunately we see this kind of muddying of the waters and frankly anti-Catholic bigotry from the other parties but we’re going to push back against it,” Genuis said. “What we’re seeing with Andrew Scheer… is someone having questions posed to him based on, I think often a misunderstanding or presumptions about Catholics,” said Genuis about the questions posed to Scheer on whether or not he views homosexuality as a sin.
“Andrew Scheer has been very clear about equality and what I think we need to be sensitive of is some of this anti-Catholic message in particular,” Genuis said, holding up an editorial cartoon from the 1960 John F. Kennedy U.S. presidential election, as an example.
“I think we need to be really careful about not going down this road in Canada,” he said.
In response to Genuis’ allegation the NDP and Liberal MPs who were on the panel with him asserted that it’s not a question of religion.
“I don’t believe it’s that, I mean, I’m a Catholic,” said Liberal MP Mona Fortier who also noted that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is Catholic, but has been vocal in his support for LGBTQ Canadians.
“I just find they're trying to find a way to get out of the conversation which is the one we're having right now,” Fortier said.
NDP MP Jack Harris, who was raised Catholic, said it’s not a question of whether the questions to Scheer are fair game, but rather “it’s a question of do you think people are immoral or bad because they’re homosexual?”
Similarly he defended his Leader Jagmeet Singh, who is Sikh, saying that unlike with the Conservative party, he’s not heard any concerns with the NDP’s position on upholding and celebrating LGBTQ people.
“If you can‘t allay that fear by saying legitimately, ‘No, I'm prepared to recognize them and support them and march in a Pride parade to show that I support their efforts for equality,’ well then, that gives rise to legitimate fear,” Harris said. “It has nothing to do with religion. You can have your personal beliefs all you want but if you're not showing it to the point that people can have confidence that that's not part of the agenda of either you or your party, then you’ve got a problem.”
Several prominent Conservatives have come out in the weeks since the election to call on Scheer to be more clear on his personal stance on same-sex marriage or risk losing the chance to lead the party into the next election.
On last week’s episode former prime minister Stephen Harper’s then-director of communications said that Scheer’s position on same-sex marriage “could be fatal” to his future as leader because not supporting same-sex marriage is “viewed increasingly as bigotry.”
At the time CTV News had asked his office to clarify whether or not his personal view was that same-sex marriage was a sin, and did not receive a response.
Then, after Wednesday’s caucus meeting -- where some Conservative MPs went in wondering whether or not Scheer could be the leader of a party that does more to be a voice for LGBTQ Canadians -- Scheer was asked in a scrum whether he thought personally that being gay was a sin.
His response was similar to those he has offered before, saying: “My personal opinion is that I respect the rights of every single Canadian and my personal commitment to Canadians is to always fight for the rights of all Canadians including LGBTQ Canadians.”
In a separate segment on Sunday’s episode, Manitoba’s Conservative Premier Brian Pallister said that the balancing act in terms of public sentiment and your own personal views is a challenge every leader faces.
“The beauty of the situation that Andrew now faces, and the double-edged dichotomy of it, is that the grassroots members of the Conservative Party across Canada are going to determine who their leader is, they're going to ask themselves some of the questions you've just asked me, and in the Conservative Party, that's how we run,” he told host Evan Solomon.