Monday, April 25, 2011

Time to set the record straight

When I first ran for political office, I made it clear that my motivation was to stand for families, in my community and in the nation's capital. At the time “family” was not a politically correct word but I was convinced that the strength of our country came not from government but from families strong enough to forge strong communities. It's interesting to me that now, in 2011 as we face another federal election, all parties – even our new BC Provincial leader- make lip service to “family” in their platform. Little did I know this sincere motivation almost 20 years ago would take me into a 5 year maelstrom of controversial policy development and discussion.

In the years from 1993 to 1997, the Liberal government was forging new social policy directions - in direct opposition to the will of many Canadians. Within a few months of arriving in Ottawa, I was voted Chair of Reform's Family Caucus. Within a month, we were facing a Bill that proposed the introduction of “Sexual Orientation” into criminal justice legislation, then the Human Rights Act. Soon after we were debating the “Definition of Family” as a party and as a nation. The next 4 years held many challenging lessons for this novice politician and homemaker. I remember when a reporter first asked if I would call myself a “Social Conservative” – I didn't even know what that meant!

So many of these family issues were controversial and the Reform Party's social policy development was in its infancy– from Definition of Family to Age of Consent, to Spousal Support laws. No wonder my wiser colleagues were so kind as to make me their spokesperson! 

It was a privilege to speak for the many concerned individuals and groups that connected  with the Ottawa office - from all cultures and backgrounds. However, I soon learned that those that had prepared the way for these social changes were ready to fight back. I soon learned too that the media controlled the messaging.

I stepped down in October 1997. Reports of my resignation explained that I had won the election for Port Moody Coquitlam in June, that my husband had suffered a brain hemorrhage at the same time and that I had now chosen to step down in order to care for him. But then several papers included a reference to a news release from several years earlier. The reports stated that it was this release by which “ I was best known”. As I have had no public platform since that time, I feel this attempt to redefine my purpose needs to be addressed. I would like to set the record straight.

Let me give the background about this particular news release. It was in the summer of 1995 that a staff member made me aware of an article put out by the pro-family organization Focus on the Family in the States and known to the American Congress. Both Canada and the U.S. were facing many of the same challenging issues through that time. This article had to do with Focus' ongoing campaign against abortion but it was much more graphic and hard hitting than their previous letters. Probably because of the upcoming U N Women's Conference in Beijing, this article highlighted the existing one-child policy in Communist China, the purported sale of organs from political prisoners and then concentrated on the reported abuse of foetal parts in that country for medicinal use. It even made reference to "cannibalism" in an effort to underline both the horror of abortion and this inhumanity towards the pre-born. I insisted that the staffer thoroughly verify sources. Against my better judgement, I finally agreed to let them submit it to our communications people. To my surprise, it was released to the national media. It appeared in several newspapers and there was several days of feedback.  I did not re-release the story after that but did receive 1 or 2 calls throughout the remainder of my term in office. There were many other stories with “longer legs” released from my 4 years in office including both local and national issues. Thus my surprise, when this one article was resurrected and described in detail as a major event at my resignation.

Thankfully, there has been no evidence of the truth of that story since that time. Frankly I did not intend for it to be released. In no way did I intend to discredit any nationality or group of people then or since. I believe far more harm was done in that regard by those who used the story in what i can only assume to be a political way . But it was a mistake to allow the staff to submit it and I must bear that responsibility. I sincerely apologize to any who have been offended in any way.

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