TORONTO, Nov. 3, 2006 – The re-definition of marriage in law, and other attacks on the family, cannot be addressed in isolation but must be seen as part of a larger transition in society, William Gairdner, chairman of Enshrine Marriage Canada (EMC), told CCRL’s annual general meeting Nov. 2.

“When a society evolves from an organic democracy to a radical democracy, which has happened in Canada as it has in much of the Western world over the past few decades, our sense of giving priority to the common good gives way to the freedom of the individual,” said Mr. Gairdner, a retired professor, businessman and author of many books including ‘The Trouble with Democracy’(2001) and ‘The War Against the Family’ (1993). “We are encouraged to find our ‘true selves’ outside of the bounds of authority. Institutions that traditionally put individual rights second to those of the group, such as organized religion and strong ‘patriarchical’ family structures, usually don’t survive this transition.”

This emphasis on the right to choose one’s own values and beliefs, Mr. Gairdner said, is accompanied by the belief that since all moral standards can be chosen, all are equal. “This is not true – clearly not all moral choices are of equal value to society – but that the idea has taken hold firmly is not in doubt.”

The debates on same sex “marriage”, in the media as well as in our courts and Parliament, showed how those who continue to believe that the rights of the group supersede those of the individual, are marginalized. Those who came forward to uphold the traditional understanding of marriage – the heart of civil society – were often berated publicly for their views, or dismissed out of hand as ‘homophobic’, Mr. Gairdner recalled.

When challenged, Mr. Gairdner said, courts and governments chose to extend family status and benefits to all household forms, rather than excluding those that do not have the same value to society as the traditional form. The exclusion of same sex ‘marriage’ from legal recognition could be justified when the needs of society, as served by the traditional family, were paramount, but not when the wishes and needs of individuals must come first.

Discussing how this change in focus has played out in schools and popular entertainment as well as in Parliament and the courts, Mr. Gairdner said we can begin a re-building process only after society as a whole acknowledges that a problem exists and begins to move to a truer understanding of democracy guided by social good.

In extending the League’s appreciation, Vice President Bill French invited attendees to study the EMC Declaration on Marriage, which Mr. Gairdner helped create. It  recalls the biological and social origins of marriage and the needs of children that it uniquely serves.

Earlier in the meeting, League President Phil Horgan discussed some of the court cases in which the League has been involved over the past year. Some of these matters, such as the BC schools’ curriculum review for “gay friendliness” and the rights of marriage commissioners in Manitoba and Saskatchewan to decline to solemnize same sex ceremonies, relate directly to the marriage question, while others involve the right to peaceful protest near abortion clinics. A court date is pending in the case involving the right of a union member to divert mandatory dues to the Church because of the union’s active support of same sex “marriage.”

Mr. Horgan also discussed the federal election earlier in the year, in which a change in Catholic voting patterns was observed. For the first time since the pattern was studied, more than half of Catholic voters did not vote Liberal. On the upcoming free vote in Parliament on revisiting the marriage question, Mr. Horgan said the result is too close to call, and could hinge on how many MPs are actually in attendance when the vote is taken.

League Executive Director Joanne McGarry discussed feedback received throughout the year from various initiatives. She said the election information brochures, co-produced with Defend Marriage partners, as well as the downloadable pamphlets summarizing Church teachings on participation in public life, had been very popular, and distributed across Canada. The website produced to counter the mis-information in the blockbuster movie “Da Vinci Code” was very popular, and lead to numerous national media interviews and hundreds of unique visits to the site.

Ms. McGarry also discussed the League’s submission to the CRTC’s review of broadcasting in Canada, which summarized League concerns that the current process for dealing with complaints of defamation is inadequate. The brief invited the commission to remove this responsibility from the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a voluntary industry body, and assume direct responsibility since it has the authority to make binding decisions.

Treasurer John Sidle presented the financial report, stating that modest increases in membership and a substantial increase in donations had helped the League meet its 2005 commitments with a small reserve to carry over to the current year. Future pressures on the League’s financial position are on the horizon, with a few court challenges anticipated and the likelihood of further engagements on the political front, including the possibility of a federal election in the coming year.

The slate of directors and officers was approved with no changes.

League members may request the complete annual report by postal mail, or by e-mail in PDF format, whichever they prefer.