Albion Monitor /Commentary

The Christian Coalition Comes to Canada

by Kim Goldberg

British Columbia guts protection of women's clinics

Reproductive rights rights in Canada took a giant step backward in January when a provincial court judge gutted the British Columbia's government's new Access to Abortion Services Act, which had established protest-free "bubble zones" around abortion clinics and doctors' homes and offices.

The ruling came at a time when the previously disorganized Religious Right in this province was congealing into a B.C. wing of the newly formed Christian Coalition of Canada, inspired by the politically influential Christian Coalition in the U.S. This double whammy against women's access to abortion (and much more in the case of the CCC) raises the stakes considerably in a tight provincial election anticipated for this fall.

B.C.'s government drafted the bubble-zone law in response to a torrent of anti-choice violence sweeping Canada and the U.S., including the near-fatal sniper shooting in 1994 of Vancouver gynecologist Dr. Gary Romalis in his home. B.C. is the only province to enact such a law.

A similar U.S. law was enacted nationwide in 1994 and withstood a constitutional challenge last October, despite the broad interpretation U.S. courts have historically given to the constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly. The B.C. government is appealing the verdict that deemed its own law unconstitutional. But an election will likely be called before that process is complete.

The Christian Coalition of Canada is sure to be a factor in the upcoming election

Even more ominous for democratic rights in this province is the recent hatching of the B.C. clone of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. With 1.7 million active members and a $25 million (US) annual budget, the U.S. organization has become a formidable lobbying force in American politics, installing its anti-choice, anti-gay agenda and candidates at all levels of government, from school boards to Congress.

The B.C. chapter is headed up by Operation Rescue activist Don Spratt, and claims among its founding board members former B.C. Premier and ardent anti-choicer Bill Vander Zalm. In an opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun, Spratt insisted (somewhat oxymoronically) "We have no ties with our U.S. counterpart." However, according to news reports, the Christian Coalition of Canada materialized after dozens of conservative Christians in this country thronged to Washington, DC, last fall to attend a major convention of the U.S. organization.

"Advisors" to the new CCC reportedly include Ted and Link Byfield (owners of the ultra-conservative B.C. Report and Alberta Report magazines), Jason Kenny (head of the Canadian Taxpayers Association), and Alex Parachin (head of the Christian Broadcasting Associates in Toronto, the Canadian branch plant of Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network).

B.C. is particularly fertile ground for conservative Christians, according to CCC activist and organizer Jim Garrow (who heads the Ontario-based National Parents Coalition), hence B.C.'s status as the first provincial wing of the CCC. Alberta and Ontario are predicted to be next in line.

The B.C. chapter is sure to be a factor in the upcoming election, giving a boost to Reform Party candidates and any others who will go on record opposing abortion. The effect will likely be greatest in Surrey and the rest of the bible belt east of Vancouver. (Surrey is home to the taxpayer- funded "Traditional School" which opened last year after much campaigning from Surrey school trustee and clinic blockader Robert Pickering. Pickering scored another victory for the Religious Right this February when his motion to ban Planned Parenthood from all sex education programs in the district passed.)

While Don Spratt may be telling readers "Nobody has anything to fear from Christian Coalition," progressive activists and journalists will have to make sure the electorate knows better.

Kim Goldberg is a Canadian-based freelance journalist and author specializing in environmental and First Nations issues, social activism and media. She is the author of several books on community activism and is a current affairs columnist for Canadian Dimension and the Nanaimo Times. Her articles have appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, The Progressive, BBC Wildlife Magazine, Vancouver Sun, and elsewhere.

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Albion Monitor May 5, 1996 (

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