CBC Cross Country Checkup
June 22, 2022
"What is your reaction to Ottawa's decision to recognize same-sex marriage?"


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Of cock-ups and conspiracies

The Montreal Gazette, 18 August 2021 (under another title)

Once upon a time I had my own radio show, but only recently did I reacquaint myself with the inside of a broadcast booth. As fate would have it, I braved the bowels of the massive CBC establishment in Montreal for a joint interview (conducted from Toronto , of course) with two other notorious “social conservatives.” We made a curious trio. One was a swim-suit model who, among other things, holds a university chair, regularly writes in the national papers, and visits the CBC so often that the ghost of Peter Gzowski greets her at the door. One was a gay social researcher, who also happens to be Jewish, and is co-writing a series of controversial books on gender relations. And me, of course, the student DJ who eventually found better things to do.

There were at least three things that united us, however, beyond the fact that we know each other pretty well and were willing to do the interview together. One was that each of us objects to being labelled. Another was that each of has a principled objection to conservatism. The third is that we become a little less sociable when the CBC labels us “social conservatives.” Remember, this is the same institution that gave us the word “fishers.” Not as in the sexist little gospel ditty, “I will make you fishers of men” – which should have been “fishers of women and men,” only that didn't scan (how about “fishers of fishers”?) – but so as not to offend that largely fictional creature, the lady fisherman who doesn't like being called a fisherman.

To be perfectly fair, though, there was one other thing that bound us together, namely, that we were all prepared to do as we had been asked: to try, for the love of sheer perversity, “to make the case against same-sex marriage.” And that, for our bias-free public broadcaster, makes us social conservatives beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Anyway, we arrived at the broadcast booth at the appointed time, about ten minutes before we were to go on air. It was deserted. No lights, no power to the board, no technician, not even enough microphones. When the technician did arrive – at barely five minutes to air – he behaved in a most unusual fashion for a technician. I won't bore you with the details, except to say that though we did manage to link up with Toronto (sharing microphones at first) we had to conduct nearly the entire interview while listening to loud background chatter in our earphones. This in spite of the fact that yours truly would jump up from time to time, gesticulating wildly at the technician through the glass. Perhaps he thought this was a deeply engrained classroom technique I had learned at McGill. Or that, like most social conservatives, I was subject to uncontrollable public fits, which it was impolite to notice.

Now let me offer this disclaimer: I know nothing about the reasons or motivations behind an episode which my swim-suit model friend tells me was the worst experience she has had in twenty-five years of regular broadcasting. And I hasten to mention that the producer in Toronto, who may well have been more upset by this curious episode than we were, immediately sent an apology to us. So let's assume the best about the CBC. This was an aberrant, entirely apolitical breakdown in the broadcast booth rather than an attempt to sabotage anything so obviously hopeless – pitiful, one might say – as a defence of marriage. Marriage, that is, understood as an institution that exists mainly for the sake of children, and ought therefore to continue to be a gendered institution which connects children to their biological parents.

Give or take the apparent inability of our guest interviewer to follow any argument that didn't lead to her preferred conclusion, that lets the CBC off the hook. Mistakes happen. I made one or two myself in my days in the booth. It was a cock-up, in other words, not a conspiracy. I wish I could say the same for the marriage debate itself, or rather for the grand farce that is being played out in place of a marriage debate. But I can't.

Take, for example, what I saw on the CBC website this week. It was our Justice Minister's latest statement about his new legislation, the innocuous-sounding Act Respecting Certain Aspects of Legal Capacity for Marriage : “ Justice Minister Martin Cauchon … told reporters that if homosexuals were told they could only unite under a civil union rather than through marriage, it would send an unfortunate message that, ‘Less than equal is less than adequate.'” Just ignore the fact that this garbled sentence actually says the opposite of what one presumes the Minister meant to say. Notice instead that our Minister of Justification appears to be about as discerning as our unnamed CBC interviewer. What she didn't get, he doesn't get either: The institution of marriage is not about rating people's love-lives. It's about children and what's best for children. And the hidden premise of so-called gay marriages (which, in case you hadn't noticed, don't produce children) is that children are a secondary issue at best. Children are quite definitely less than equal players in the great drama of Gay Rights. Set that down as the new legal marker for Canadian society, Mr. Cauchon, and see where it takes us.

But being a bit dull is no crime, even for a Justice Minister. And it certainly isn't evidence of a conspiracy. That catchy slogan, “Less than equal is less than adequate,” ought to give us pause for thought, however. Can the man who mouthed it have voted in 1999 to uphold the common-law definition of marriage as a heterosexual, family-oriented institution? Can the government he represents be the same government that promised to make no changes to that definition, and even incorporated it into Bill C-23? Help me out, Martin! Help me out, Jean! It may be less than clear whether you have immortal souls to give some account of before your Maker, but you do have an electorate to give some account to at the next election. Tell us: Was “less than equal” adequate in 1999, before the courts told you otherwise? If not, which is the real cock-up? Bill C-23 or your new (and, as your bishops would say, unnatural) Act? Or were the machinations of a few years ago just a bit of a stall until a more opportune time?

Either some folk are even duller than they seem, or there's a whiff of conspiracy in the air.

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