Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 19, 2005
Marriage campaign builds momentum
Up to 20,000 Canadians pledge to work for pro-marriage Parliament
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The campaign to elect a pro-marriage Parliament on Jan. 23 got off to a shaky start, but the movement is building momentum, with thousands of volunteers signing on and fundraising going well.
"It's growing like crazy," said former Liberal MP Pat O'Brien, who with Grant Hill chairs one of the most prominent pro-marriage campaigns.
However, O'Brien's and Hill's effort, originally dubbed Defend Marriage Canada circulated a website address that did not work after they launched their campaign Nov. 22. That meant that in the early weeks, no one was able to sign on.
Now they have a new website, www.VoteMarriageCanada.ca.
"To call ourselves Vote Marriage, clears up confusion, and puts emphasis where we want it," O'Brien said in a Dec. 12 telephone interview from London, Ont.
The new name also distinguishes the group from the Defend Marriage Coalition, an umbrella for the Campaign Life Coalition, Real Women of Canada, the Catholic Civil Rights League and the Canada Family Action Coalition. The groups, however, are all working in tandem. They also include Enshrine Marriage Canada and Focus on the Family.
O'Brien estimates as many as 20,000 people have logged on to VoteMarriage
Canada.ca expressing their willingness to volunteer.
In all his years in politics no issue has ever mobilized Canadians all across the country the way the marriage debate has, he said.
"I want to harness that enthusiasm and interest, especially among first time people," he said. "We can't let them go back to sleep politically."
He said he fears that unless momentum is sustained well beyond the next election, Canada will see laws in favour of euthanasia, legalized prostitution and polygamy, as well as a continued push against religious freedom.
That's also the concern of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry.
"The churches will be treated as just another special interest group among many others and a rather weird one at that," he said in a Dec. 11 interview with the Rome-based Zenit news agency.
"The human rights commissions and tribunals will in all likelihood be used as the thought-police of politically correct thinking."
"A constant challenge is to determine whether our faith shapes our culture and our politics, or is it the other way around?" Henry said. "I'm afraid that too many Catholics have become too complacent and too tolerant. We are not nearly countercultural enough or prophetic enough."
"Nevertheless, recent issues, such as same-sex marriage, have served as an evangelization moment and as a wake-up call within and beyond the Catholic community."
Harper made marriage an issue on day one of the campaign, but the issue has received scant mainstream media coverage until Dec. 12, when Prime Minister Paul Martin challenged the Tory leader to "explain himself" on same-sex marriage.
Joseph Ben-Ami, executive director of the Institute for Canadian Values, said the most important thing pro-marriage forces can do is organize in those ridings where there is a chance a pro-marriage candidate can win.
However Ben-Ami stresses that everyone involved must take a long-term view, beyond the election.
"Defenders of traditional values must learn the process, and not be discouraged by what they might see as bad results," Ben-Ami said. "Getting involved in the democratic process is never a bad thing."
O'Brien agrees. He identifies the two key battlegrounds as southeastern Ontario and greater Vancouver.
"If we can improve the turnout of people of faith, we can play a major role in who gets elected," O'Brien said, who said there is a "realistic hope" of overturning the same-sex marriage bill if Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper forms a government and gives MPs a free vote.
He also pointed out that more than 30 Liberal candidates voted against the legislation, as did some members of the Bloc Quebecois and one former NDP MP, pointing out that VoteMarriage is non-partisan.