Monday, December 26, 2005

Hiding Agendas (7): Cindy Silver on women's rights

Over the last week or so I've been blogging about Cindy Silver, the Conservative candidate in North Vancouver. When there was concern expressed last summer about the growing influence of the Christian Right in the Conservative Party, Ms. Silver (who had for a time was legal counsel for Focus on the Family Canada) was cited as a prime example.

Silver herself has been trying to down-play that assocation for some time. In an interview, last year (see here), she insisted that her work with Focus on the Family was behind her and that her own positions on social issues are not identical with those of Focus on the Family (cf. here).

There are reasons to be sceptical. First there is the matter of her endorsements from social Conservatives that have gone missing from her website (see here, here, and here). Second, there are Cindy Silver's actions and words as a private individual: including opposition to human rights protections for homosexuals (here and here).

To these can be added an article that Ms. Silver co-wrote in 1997 for Canadian Citizen Magazine, a publication of Focus on the Family Canada. The article (which is archirved here), reports on the First World Congress of Families, which was held in Prague in that year. The Congress was a reaction to recent UN conferences on the Famly and Women. From the first paragraph of Silver's article:
At a series of United Nations conferences, the industrialized world lobbied hard for such policies as universal abortion-on-demand, artificial methods of contraception, sterilization, mandatory sex education, gender equality and homosexual rights.
The recent congress opposed this
But now there's an alternative. Last March, at the World Congress of Families, about 700 pro-family delegates representing 45 nations from every continent gathered in Prague, the Czech republic, to craft A Declaration from the World Congress of Families to the Governments of the Globe that reasserts the importance of family as the basic unit of society. The Congress was organized in response to the UN's "Year of the Family" in 1994 and was sponsored by The Rockford Institute (USA).
Silver reports the participation of Canadians, including Sharon Hayes (whose endorsement Silver has recently been removed from her website) and Gwen Landolt (head of REAL women).

Silver's article is more than a mere report, however. She encourages readers to "make your local municipal council and your provincial government aware of this Declaration. Ask them to affirm or endorse it." Then parts of the declaration are quoted. Following a preamble stressing the importance of God and family, and declarations that include a statement of bad policy:
WE DECLARE that policies which undermine the family erode the bedrock of society, thereby undermining the very source of their own authority. Such policies include:
  1. subverting the legal and religious status of traditional marriage;
  2. using population control and abortion as vehicles of state policy for any social, economic, political or other reason;
  3. establishing policies that create gender or generational war, setting husband against wife, wife against husband or child(ren) against parent(s);
  4. maintaining state school systems that focus education on state ends and neglect or oppose parental rights and responsibilities;
  5. providing state welfare systems that undermine intact families and discourage the presence of fathers and imposing coercive tax policies that force both parents to work full time outside the home;
  6. funding and promoting contraception, abortifacients and sterilization programs that promote immoral behaviour;
  7. funding or promoting those sex education/indoctrination programs that have been shown to increase promiscuity, sexually-transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancy, illegitimacy and teen-age pregnancy; and
  8. creating state policies that give encouragement to non-marital cohabitation, homosexual unions and single-parenting as the norm in society.
Then there follows a list of approved policies:
WE DECLARE that communities in harmony with human nature exhibit common traits in custom and law that include:
  1. recognition of religion as a common, necessary foundation of family life;
  2. affirmation of marriage as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman and the only legitimate province for sexual intimacy;
  3. recognition that there is no profession that has a higher status than motherhood;
  4. encouragement of the extended family as a source of added security and continuity for humanity;
  5. celebration of the conception and birth of children;
  6. welcome of large families;
  7. respect for the dignity of human life from conception to natural death;
  8. respect for the distinctive traits of manhood and womanhood as biologically determined and not as socially constructed;
  9. respect for the right of families to ownership of private property, productive land, shelter and capital;
  10. encouragement for family business and enterprises without interference or state intrusion;
  11. recognition that husband and wife have the sole responsibility for deciding the size of their family using non-abortifacient, morally acceptable natural family planning;
  12. encouragement of an economic climate and taxation policies in which the family wage may prevail, thereby allowing parents, to take full care of their own children;
  13. recognition of the social value of marriage and the value of the presence of dependent children and aged parents in the home; and
  14. proscriptions against the commercialization of sexuality and the promotion of promiscuity and pornography.
This is, of course, a veritable shopping-list of social conservative policies, including the promotion of religion (#1), condemnation of pre-marital sex (#2), abortion and birth-control (#5, #7, #11).

How, then, are we to judge Cindy Silver's claims that she is a social moderate? There's not much moderate about this agenda. And can Ms. Silver dodge behind her role as Focus on the Family's lawyer? I'm not sure. This article looks to me like pure advocacy. The fact that she now finds this article's contents inconvenient does not mean that she's not responsible for writing it, endorsing it, and encouraging her social conservative readership to advance its agenda.Cindy Silver West Vancouver

For other Cindy Silver posts, follow the link.


matt said...

"How, then, are we to judge Cindy Silver's claims..."

I, um, might quibble with your verb choice.

Anyhoo, seems to me a lot of those beliefs go to the core of a person's faith - something we as a society say ought to be protected at the deepest level.

Now, as to whether one intends to *impose* those beliefs when in the role of an MP is a crucial point that demands examination. But not scrutiny of the merit of those personal beliefs. And, obviously the corollary is that I think personal involvement in publishing manifestos and attempting to influence government policies to have those beliefs implemented (reflecting the democratic process instead of ignoring it) as a private citizen can't *automatically* be conflated with what one would do as an MP.

The issue at hand is not whether she has so-con beliefs, but whether she would be an MP championing so-con causes contrary to the preferences of her constituents.

buckets said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
buckets said...

Thanks, Matt. Yes, my choice of verbs may have been better. But lets leave that.

The important question is whether we trust Ms. Silver not to write these views into law. Personally, I think it would unfair to Ms. Silver, and all candidates, to suppose that the things that they advocated before they got into parliament were not part of what we judge them by. Like it or not, advocacy of social conservative causes is a large part of Ms. Silver's public career.

Two more points. First, The people who want Ms. Silver to impose these views know that she has them and support her because of it (e.g., here). Why do they get to vote for her because of her views and other voters don't get to vote against her for those views?

Second, Ms. Silver is running for a party that has as part of its platform having more free votes generally and a specific free vote on gay marriage. They want her to vote her beliefs, and because of that we have to look carefully at what her beliefs are.

none said...

Nothing moderate with saving oneself for marriage??? Nothing moderate to have the parents of a child to take full care of their children??? Nothing moderate being against promiscuity and pornography??? Wow, if that is what being moderate is, good decent people will have nothing to do with your "moderation". That's sick.