Religious Fundamentalism Fuels Harper's Extremist Zeal

By Dobbin, Murray | CCPA Monitor, July/August 2008 | Go to article overview

Religious Fundamentalism Fuels Harper's Extremist Zeal


Dobbin, Murray, CCPA Monitor


GOD'S WRATH AND THE TORIES:

With the country well into its third year of minority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, there has been very little commentary on what may be the most important driver of his policies.

No other prime minister in our history has so strained the fundamental edict of the separation of church and state.

Perhaps that's because the church in question is not the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church-the ones that used to come to mind in such conflicts. No, this church is the evangelical Alliance Church (the same one attended by Preston Manning) and the implications for public policy are far more dramatic.

Few Canadians probably even realize that the prime minister who is steadily changing the nature of their country is a born-again, evangelical Christian. Unlike his fellow born-again, George Bush, Harper has been careful to manage his blending of church and state. But if you have any doubts, read Stephen Harper and the TheoCons, the meticulously researched 2006 article by Marci McDonald in The Walrus magazine.

There's a lot of evidence to suggest that Harper has no problem creating a theocracy-lite administration in this country, partly based on his own religious convictions and partly to ensure that he keeps his core constituency happy. Some of Harper's policies-from his aggressive support of Israel (taking his lead from the Christian right in the U.S.) to legislation that would take into account the death of a fetus in the murder of a pregnant woman (encouraging his antiabortion supporters) are pretty obvious.

But it is the extent to which retribution is at the core of this man that strikes me as one of the most disturbing aspects of his government, because it is so at odds with the values of the vast majority of Canadians.

Whether it's his war on drugs (and drug users), his obvious preference for the death penalty, his refusal to register any complaint about the illegal treatment of Omar Khadr in Guantanamo, his politicization of the procedure for choosing judges, or the appointment of Stockwell Day (the man who believes Earth is just 6,000 years old) to his cabinet, Stephen Harper is making it clear that his god is not a forgiving god. Forgiveness is for sissies.

Stockwell Day was chosen carefully as Minister of Public Safety. His retribution credentials are impeccable. He has suggested that one way to get around the lack of a death penalty in Canada might be to release murderers into the general prison population so that "moral prisoners will deal with it in a way which we don't have the nerve to do."

In 2004, when he was the Conservative Party's foreign affairs critic, Day refused to issue any statement of condolence or sympathy to the Palestinian people when Yasser Arafat died-referring his befuddled colleagues to an article by David Frum suggesting that Arafat had died of AIDS.

One of the most controversial issues highlighting the Tories' desire for retribution is the government's determination to close Vancouver's safe injection site for drug users-a plan recently thwarted by a B.C. court ruling that keeps the site open, at least for a while.

The harm reduction project, called Insite, has been praised around the world, positively assessed in 22 peerreviewed papers, and is supported by the city, local police, and even B.C.'s right-wing Liberal government. Health Canada recommended in 2006 that funding for the project be extended and that similar programs be tried in other cities.

But for Harper and his party, their evangelical Christianity trumps science. The International Journal of Drug Policy recently featured an article charging that the Harper government directly interfered in the work of independent scientific bodies, tried to muzzle scientists, and deliberately misrepresented research findings. All in the service of ensuring that drug users retain their status as criminals to be punished. …

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