The legal victory of marriage for same-sex couples may have been celebrated this weekend at Boston’s pride parade, but the fight is just heating up this week in Ottawa — already wilting after its 100-degree scorcher of a weekend — as Canada’s governing Liberal party vows to fast-track through parliament legislation to legalize gay marriage before it adjourns for summer recess. They have made it clear there will be no vacation until their bill is passed.
In anticipation of the historic vote — and in reflection of polls showing Canadians split 40 percent for and 40 percent against marriage for same-sex couples — the Toronto Star sent a reporter on a road trip from one corner of Canada to the other, from Whitehorse to St. John’s, to gauge the real public opinion on the matter. In summing up the journey, the reporter said, “What resonates is the sheer complexity of life experiences that help Canadians determine where they stand on same-sex marriage. This is not an isolated debate. It touches some deeply and some not at all. It is connected to who they are.”
A few excerpts:
“In Red Deer, Alta., sixty-four-year-old Ken Cameron, who owns KC Saddlery…is fighting trim in snug jeans, cowboy boots and a sharply tapered denim shirt. Cameron accepts that same-sex marriages will probably be legalized in Canada. But he also believes such liberal laws are ushering modern civilization one step closer to the end. “Look at all the other great cultures of the world that fell,” he says. “They don’t exist anymore because they became dysfunctional … If I had livestock that didn’t breed, I would have to destroy it,” he says.
“In Corner Brook, Nfld., a husband strongly advises his wife not to talk to me. She ignores his plea, however, explaining to him that while she is extremely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the subject of homosexuality, she feels she can contribute to my story. ‘I believe it is a matter of human rights, whether I feel comfortable or not,’ she says. Her husband pushes my business card across the table in disgust and storms away, without a word.”
In Marie Joseph, N.S., I greet Jim Langille, a beleaguered-looking, 55-year-old lobster fisherman. He’s a weathered, postcard-perfect old salt, who I’m sure will fulfill my stereotype of a homophobic good ol’ boy. I’m wrong. (I shouldn’t have been surprised. Support for gay marriage is actually higher in Atlantic Canada than it is in Ontario.)
“Whatever floats your boat. It’s a free country. People should live and die as they choose. I think men around here feel they have to do the whole he-man, workin’ in the woods, workin’ on the water thing,” he says. “Even if they agreed, they wouldn’t say it.”
In St. John’s: “On the final day of my journey, in the middle of a cold, wet afternoon, I find myself being unceremoniously evicted from a dark waterfront pub in St. John’s, Nfld., with my arm cocked behind my back. I am apparently being put to the sidewalk for engaging two patrons in a conversation about same-sex marriage — the same exchange I have been pursuing with hundreds of Canadians over the past three weeks. (Though, to be fair, it also could have been simply because I am a reporter or, most objectionable of all, someone from Toronto.)
I have been in Erin’s Pub on Water St. for only a few minutes, barely enough time to select two people I thought might talk to me, barely enough time to explain that I was travelling across Canada from Vancouver to St. John’s to find out exactly how Canadians feel about same sex marriage, before I am sent packing.
But as I stand in the rain feeling indignant and a little embarrassed, in the last moments of my 8,000-kilometre road trip, I wonder if I had simply poked my finger once too often and, perhaps, too deeply into the cage of public opinion.”