Sixteen years ago, I was a new mom volunteering for local women’s organizations. Before my first-born was six weeks old, she had attended her first lobby sessions, one with the Devine Conservative Cabinet and one with the NDP Official Opposition. Undoubtedly, I made mistakes during that time of my life but giving birth to my daughter and volunteering in the women’s community in the province of Saskatchewan were not mistakes. My daughter is one of my greatest teachers. And my volunteer work was important to ensuring the electoral defeat of Grant Devine and his scandalous Conservatives.
It does not surprise me that the political hack and devout Mennonite who is now the Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, was party to racist, sexist and homophobic antics during the Devine years. We’ve recently tasted the flavour of bloggers who supported him in his climb to power. Along the way, he has had to appease many moderate voters, to be sure. However, the piece of Saskatchewan’s culture captured on that video has changed very little over the past two decades.
So, I am also not surprised that the homophobic commentary of another political hack, the Member of Parliament for Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, Tom Lukiwski, is also on the video. In fact, it would not surprise me if the entire video had been recorded last week — well, except for the hairdoos and the outfits. In Saskatchewan, we all know someone who is just like that, someone who is right now applauding the comments made in that old recording. This is a province of extreme homophobia, such that in 2005, when same sex marriage became legal, then Minister of Justice and MLA for Saskatoon Meewasin, Frank Quennell, had to insist that the province’s Commissioners of Oath conduct same sex marriage ceremonies. We live in a part of the world where that is what is, politically and weather-wise.
I remember admiring Lynda Haverstock, despite the fact she led the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan in the 1990’s. She was making great gains for women within the province and, given half a chance, would have done much to ensure a better situation for women here. Unfortunately, the Old Boys in the Liberal Party felt threatened and had her ousted. Clearly, they shared at least some of the attitude displayed by Lukiwski, Wall and others in the early 90’s. Although she did not view the video, the always diplomatic Haverstock issued a statement, saying,
If it denigrates and marginalizes individuals based on their ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, I hope that the parties involved will take full responsibility for their actions.
No one has yet apologized to Haverstock, who went on to become one of the finest Lieutenant Governors in the Province’s history.
And no one has apologized to Barb Byers, former President of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union (SGEU) and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) and current Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) who was also denigrated in the video. Nor has George Roseneau, another former president of SGEU, received an apology.
The statements the Conservative party-goers made about the union leaders could also have been made today. The governing Sask Party recently introduced Bills 5 and 6, two pieces of legislation which have been soundly condemned as being attacks on workers’ rights by Larry Hubich, current President of the SFL. Hubich and labour lawyers across the country have also spoken out about the Wall government’s attack on the Labour Relations Board. Again, none of this should be surprising to anyone who pays any attention to the goings-on in Saskatchewan, particularly given the extreme right-wing’s hold in the province.
Some have condemned the NDP for releasing the video; I am not one of them. Had it not been carelessly left behind in the offices of the Official Opposition, it may well have not come to light. I would hope that no matter who found it, a politician or otherwise, they would add it to the public record, a record already besmirched by scandalous politics. Wall’s people, many of whom are holdover’s from the Devine and Mulroney eras, including Wall’s Executive Director of Communications, Kathy Young, who also features in the historic piece, must now face the music, so to speak.