To the Editor:
“We, with the grace of God, through prayer, education and political action, work for the respect and protection of all human life from conception to natural death.”
So goes the mission statement of the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association. The phrase “respect … of all human life” rings particularly false coming from an organization committed to controlling (and removing) women’s choices. It is an even more striking statement in light of the debacle earlier in April, when the organization made the decision to promote the homophobic agenda of Peter LaBarbera (president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality) and align it with their own pro-life cause.
The idea that LaBarbera’s presence was intended to stimulate dialogue is one I’ve heard from pro-life conference organizer John Sidloski and the Weyburn Review. It certainly provoked dialogue, but was only successful in diverting attention away from the pro-life agenda and into a tired debate about the rights and wrongs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) so-called ‘lifestyles’ in our society.
Life for queer individuals in the prairies is no picnic, yet Sidloski noted that the furore was somehow “a good experience for the city”. Let me clarify, this was not a good experience. For anybody. It was highly offensive and utterly embarrassing for Weyburn and the province. It pushed the issue of homophobia to the forefront of everybody’s minds. It intensified an already sometimes-hostile environment for queer members of our communities, reminding them that (some of) their neighbours disapprove of their life. Was this a stunt pulled by Pro-Life Saskatchewan? Was the decision to bring in a controversial speaker to stimulate dialogue made at the expense of our queer neighbours?
Was this even “a good experience” for local pro-lifers? Well, sure, for pro-life advocates who also happen to be homophobic. But for those who are not, the decision to bring in LaBarbera added a completely unrelated issue to the pro-life agenda. Whether LaBarbera was here to communicate his homophobia or not, you don’t invite Hitler to your vegetarianism conference, and then wonder why everyone’s talking about Nazism.
Yet, despite their highly offensive actions, Pro-Life Saskatchewan have managed to brush the whole nasty little episode under the rug while LaBarbera and his sidekick Bill Whatcott took the heat. In fact, they’ve refused to comment and clarify their position on homosexuality, although it is now all too clear they are a homophobic organization.
Nonetheless, their disrespectful actions warrant an apology to the members of the community who suffer the very real effects of homophobia. They have contributed to the climate of fear in which individuals are subject to bullying, at school, at home, in the workplace, on the street. This is a climate that is felt so acutely in rural communities without the support and resources available in urban spaces with LGBTQ centres and established, proud queer communities.
They have contributed to a social environment that works to deny people the freedom to be themselves without concern for judgement or safety. They wish to withhold the right for certain people to marry and raise a family, a happiness that everyone deserves.
During his trip, LaBarbera claimed he was standing up for “… healthy identities. It’s okay to oppose homosexual behaviour.” This is an idea that Pro-Life Saskatchewan and their chapters support; that LGBTQ individuals are somehow “unhealthy”. This is an extremely damaging message if it has any effect on public opinion, and particularly for those struggling with their own sexuality within communities in which support is already scarce.
The one shining light in this murky event were the actions of Intolerance Free Weyburn, and I applaud them. Extend their work and spread the message that Saskatchewan will not tolerate this kind of behaviour. Question why Pro-Life Saskatchewan used your donation to support a hateful agenda. Tell them exactly how homophobia has affected you and your loved ones. Ask them why they feel justified in using their own brand of moral didacticism as an excuse to value some lives over others. Let them know their actions have not been forgotten.
I think we all know an apology will never come, but I wonder if the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association ought to consider revising its mission statement, in order to make its politics crystal clear to all. Here’s a suggestion:
“We, with the grace of God, through prayer, education and political action, work for the respect and protection of all human life from conception to natural death, with the exception of women and the LGBTQ community.”