I did a lot of thinking about the Tom Lukiwski case over the weekend, read and watched a lot of the coverage. A few things continue to stick out in my mind.
The words expressed by Lukiwski in the video were beyond disgusting. No doubt Lukiwski then lived and worked at that time in a conservative environment that condoned this kind of random, casual hate.
Have things changed much since then? Sure they have. Now this kind of virulent homophobia has been driven mostly underground.
Lukiwski claimed in his various apologies last week that he didn't actually believe what he said in the video, that he was simply being stupid and thoughtless. I must say I continue to find this explanation hard to believe, mostly because it's too convenient and seemingly designed to help minimize the damage caused by his comments.
I can't help but picture some emergency Tory brain trust meeting on Parliament Hill last Thursday when the video came to light. Ian Brodie-types would've sat around and determined how to best deal with a scandal that had the potential to destroy the Harper government's attempts to leave behind its socially conservative/Reform Party past.
Considering the level of disgusting hate so unapologetically on display in the video, it's difficult to argue that Lukiwski somehow has changed his tune all that much, even over 17 years, I'm sure the Tory brain trust worried. He was 40 years old when he made the comments, after all. It would likely take some kind of major personal event, perhaps a loved one coming out of the closet, to cause the type of epiphany that could explain how a virulent homophobe in 1991 could become a nice, mainstream gentleman in 2008.
I suspect the Tory brain trust last week decided it was best that Lukiwski claim in his defense that he never truly believed what he said in 1991, thus giving his apology today more credibility. I don't believe it for a second. There's no doubt in my mind that Lukiwski believed what he said in that video.
But it still begs the question: When did Tom Lukiwski change his opinions about homosexuals? At what point after 1991 did Lukiwski have his epiphany? He needs to explain himself further. When you look at his record as a parliamentarian, safely ensconced within the Tory backbench and voting every time against gay equality, it defies credibility. However, maybe he's gotten to know some of his gay colleagues in the House of Commons since being elected and has genuinely changed his views?
I do agree with Jason Cherniak on this one. I'm torn on this issue. Part of me wants to believe that Lukiwski has changed, give him the benefit of the doubt and hope this incident becomes a major learning experience for him. On the other hand, it's clear that Lukiwski's record to date would indicate he's only now sorry because he got caught.
The damage that has been done again to the Tory/Reform Party brand by this incident has no doubt been huge. Thus far, the Harperites have played it somewhat poorly, showing a sensitivity only to their own base (Lukiwski has yet to be punished for his comments because, Lord knows, 95% of the Tory base has uttered similar comments in the past, but simply not on video.) But in so doing, the Harper government is sending the message that it's soft on hate.
Lukiwski needs to be relieved of his parliamentary secretary duties to show the government is serious about courting mainstream Canadians. They kicked Larry Spencer out of caucus for virulently homophobic comments, it's the least they can do.
Sadly, there'll be no atoning in Harper's caucus for anti-gay slurs. Shame.