Monday, April 7, 2008

Tom Lukiwski still needs to atone for his sins...

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.

*********UPDATE**********

Sadly, there'll be no atoning in Harper's caucus for anti-gay slurs. Shame.

26 comments:

wilson said...

You write as if you 'know' what is another man's heart and mind.

If you don't want to accept his heartfelt apology ,
then you don't want this hetero-gay battle to end.

Sometimes, a battle is so long and hard fought, that the winner doesn't realize, he won.

Matt Guerin said...

Who's the winner here, wilson? I'm still struggling to figure that out.

Johnathon said...

If you and the rest of the "queer" world want to be seen as "normal" OR "MAINSTREAM" or "hip" then you have to be willing to accept jokes about your lifestyle.

After all, blacks, Americans, Jews, Christians, retards, Chinks, Japs, Turbans, Palestinians, Russians, Mexicans have all been made fun of.

Why should homosexuals be any different.

I think its because you know your behaviour is unnatural and thats why you get all shook up when people make fun of it.

Matt, if your homsexuality is the way to go and mainstream, why are you all shook up over this M.P's comments?

Johnathon said...

ANd to further my argument read the following on and you will realize and people from ALL parties including your beloved liberals have opinions on homosexuality.

Here ya go,

"Homosexuality is statistically abnormal, it's physically abnormal and it's morally immoral." Liberal MP Tom Wappel - 2006
--------------------------------------------------------------------
"It's sort of corny, but a constituent phoned up and said, 'God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ "If it's two adults, where do we stop? What about a grandma that wants to marry her grandson or an uncle that wants to marry his niece? Where do you stop?" - Liberal MP Roy Cullen - 2005
---------------------------------------------------------------------
NDP's Tommy Douglas's Opinion on Homosexuality (link to video)

"And if we ever needed in this country to adopt a new attitude towards homosexuality, this is the time. Instead of treating it as a crime and driving it underground, we ought to recognize it for what it is. It is a mental illness. It is a psychiatric condition, which ought to be treated sympathetically. Which ought to be treated by psychiatric s and social workers"

- NDP’s Tommy Douglas - recognized of one of the greatest Canadians
---------------------------------------------------------------------
As a student, Telegdi often raised quite a stir with his emotionally charged attempts to raise student interest in issues such as housing and enumeration. His statements published in the then-student newspaper the chevron were often controversial and have contributed to Telegdi's Feds legacy.

"Students are niggers because they want to be niggers," he told the chevron in the December 6, 1974 issue, after a low student voter turnout in that year's municipal election. (University of Waterloo's Imprint Newspaper)

- Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi, while he was a student at the University of Waterloo- December 6th, 1974
--------------------------------------



Matt, why are you all shook up about this Con M.P's comments when your heroes in the Liberal Party think the exact same thing.

Be fair here Matt, Liberals said things as bad or worse than the Con M.P did.

Why don't you include that on your blog?

MERBOY said...

Johnathon said...

"If you and the rest of the "queer" world want to be seen as "normal" OR "MAINSTREAM" or "hip" then you have to be willing to accept jokes about your lifestyle."

Yeah I think it's a bit of a stretch to call Lukiwski's comments a joke... ok a BIG stretch.

MERBOY said...

Johnathon said...

"ANd to further my argument read the following on and you will realize and people from ALL parties including your beloved liberals have opinions on homosexuality.

NDP's Tommy Douglas's Opinion on Homosexuality"...

If Tommy Douglas was alive he could easily sue you for slander... only a total moron could interpret his comments as being homophobic.

MERBOY said...

Johnathon said...

"I think its because you know your behaviour is unnatural and thats why you get all shook up when people make fun of it."

Ah so you're one of those... now it all makes sense. :D

Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, merboy, for the comments. I long ago stopped replying to raving homophobe 'Johnathon's comments. I only post them because I don't really believe in hitting delete on the comments approval page, unless of course it's real hate speech or libel, etc.

MERBOY said...

Matt Guerin said...

"Thanks, merboy, for the comments. I long ago stopped replying to raving homophobe 'Johnathon's comments. I only post them because I don't really believe in hitting delete on the comments approval page, unless of course it's real hate speech or libel, etc."

Anytime. :D

When I was 18 people like Johnathon bothered me greatly... now I find it moderately entertaining to read about the imaginary world they live in.

The Grumpy Voter said...

I'm not sure what activists and those in the gay community would feel is an appropriate penance for the comments. I've heard everything from "he should resign" (plausible and realistic expectation) to "there should be an independent inquiry launched to *examine* the attitudes of Conservative MP's (uhhhh, yeah, ooookay..)

Here's what we know: Lukiwski committed political suicide, just 17 years after the fact. His shelf life as a parliamentarian is somewhere between a dozen eggs and spreadable cream cheese now. He humiliated himself and his family in front of a national audience and as a result his name is now mud in the field of public service.

So what more can be done to atone for this sin? Do we flog him? Do we force him to be a grand marshall at Toronto's Pride Parade? I'm not sure what else can or should be done outside of flogging or being forced to march naked down Bank Street with a big sign over his head that says "Yes, I am Homophobic".

What more does the gay community want?

Johnathon said...

Why are you two trying to spin your way our of my comment?

I showed you two quotes from Liberal members that are not that nice to homosexuals.

Tom Wappel and Roy Cullen surely should be villified in this post as well as the Con M.P.

Why did Merboy and Matt ignore the Liberal comments but choose to villify the Conservative M.P.

Is that not a double standard and quite immature?

wilson said...

Matt, the gay community is the winner here (and there are no losers IMO).
17 years ago, that tape would have not caused the uproar it does in 2008.
17 years ago, SSM wouldn't have made it past a protest rally,
in fact
only 2 years before SSM became law,
Anne McLelland stood in the house and declared
the Liberal position, that ''marriage is between one man and one women''.
the rest is history, and so is a 17 year old tape.
If Liberals can change why won't you allow or accept that Conservatives have changed?

Enjoy your success Matt, accept the deserved apology, and move on.

p.s. next time TiGuy calls me a c**t, perhaps you'll come to my defence?

wilson said...

Almost a decade AFTER the drunk & stupid tape was made:

June 8, 1999 (Canada) - The federal government votes 216 to 55 in favour of
preserving the definition of "marriage" as the union of one man and one woman.
(that's a huge majority against SSM)

...Also in March 2000, (Liberal) Justice Minister Anne McLellan anounces that
Bill C-23 will include a definition of marriage as "the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others."
On April 11 the bill passes with a vote of 174 to 72...

2005 vote passed 158-133 (barely a majority) in favour of allowing same-sex marriage.

December 7, 2006
Vote on revisiting the SSM debate loses, MPs voted 175-123 on Thursday against.

MERBOY said...

Johnathon said...

"Tom Wappel and Roy Cullen surely should be villified in this post as well as the Con M.P."

Well since this isn't the "let's explore political history" blog... yeah I don't see a problem with focusing on a current topic.

Frankly the Liberal comments you cite aren't even half as offensive as the ones Lukiwski made... ignorant sure... but about as offensive to me as your "normal" comment from earlier... almost laughably stupid.

Having said that... I didn't vote Liberal in the last two federal elections at least partly because of the Liberal party's tolerance of certain homophobic members... and I wouldn't miss them at all if the party decided to kick them out.

"Is that not a double standard and quite immature?"

I think I'm pretty consistent... but you can believe what you want.

MERBOY said...

wilson said...

"17 years ago, that tape would have not caused the uproar it does in 2008."

17 years ago, Toronto's PRIDE festival celebrated it's 10th anniversary.

MERBOY said...

wilson said...

"If Liberals can change why won't you allow or accept that Conservatives have changed?"

People definitely change over time... I just find it hard to believe that a 40 year old spewing pure ignorant hatred is capable of such a drastic change.

MERBOY said...

wilson said...

"June 8, 1999 (Canada) - The federal government votes 216 to 55 in favour of preserving the definition of "marriage" as the union of one man and one woman."

You do know that voting against gay marriage isn't even slightly comparable to Lukiwski's comments right?

Matt Guerin said...

I can't speak for the gay community, but all I want at this point now is to have real proof that Lukiwski has changed, not simply to have to take his word for it. If his views have evolved since 1991, when and how did this happen? I think it's fair to ask for this explanation. If he's met many gay men and lesbians since 1991 who helped change his opinions on the issue, then I'll accept that. But I'd like to hear it.

The Grumpy Voter said...

>>I can't speak for the gay community, but all I want at this point now is to have real proof that Lukiwski has changed, not simply to have to take his word for it<<

What proof do you require? See that's what's driving me nuts about all the outcry on his comments. What form does *proof* take? What should he do? Should be walk across broken glass barefoot? What is the proof?

See for me at least, the apology is good enough. The gay community, in my view, does itself a disservice by allowing it's rightful sense of outrage become overshadowed by it's calls for atonement without defining what form that atonement should take. You say you want proof but you don't define what form the proof should take.

I think most Canadians are fair minded individuals who recognize that this happened a long time ago. It doesn't take away from the sting of those comments to those in the gay community, but the fact is that I believe most Canadians think his apology was genuine.

The nice thing about a democracy is that you can vote for the other guy come election time. Maybe that's the best outcome for all involved. Until then, I think his comments were insulting and bordered on hate, but I am a fair minded individual who can see a genuine apology from a mile away.

I'd like to think most Canadians feel the same about this as me.

The Right is Where its At said...

Who is a Saint here? Please people just for one second,forget what political spectrum you are from. Is apology worth anything these day's? I am sure that some of you reading this are probably saying that he only apologized,because he was on video. True but who remembers what they said to the first person they saw this morning outside of your family hey? Do not forget this has happened 17 years ago.

I mean if we are going to go back decades in a politician back ground to see what they said or done,then why is not anyone asking why Mr.S.Dion in his collage years was a separatist? As far as I know he did not apologize.Now did he?

If people should loose their jobs because something stupid they said 17 years ago not to many people would be working today.

Matt Guerin said...

Grumpy, I wrote in my last response, "If his views have evolved since 1991, when and how did this happen? I think it's fair to ask for this explanation. If he's met many gay men and lesbians since 1991 who helped change his opinions on the issue, then I'll accept that. But I'd like to hear it."

His explanation that he never believed what he said was a big part of his initial apology. Personally, as I said in my initial post here, I don't exactly buy that he didn't believe what he said in 1991, at least partially. I do accept that opinions can change and evolve over time, though. My question is - when and how did he change his opinion of homosexuals. I'm legitimately trying to ease my concerns here so we can move on. If Lukiwski had publically shown any sign of being gay-positive over the last few years, I'd accept his heartfelt apology at face value and move on. But we don't have anything except his word that he's changed and all of those votes against SSM. If he's interested in receiving public forgiveness from the gay community, and I'm sure he is, then I hope he can provide this "proof"/explanation.

The Grumpy Voter said...

>>My question is - when and how did he change his opinion of homosexuals.<<

Sometimes we have to take a person's apology. cross our fingers and hope for the best. I don't believe Lukiwski, even when he made the comments had joined any hate group or has done anything in a personal or professional capacity to diminish the value of gay people to our community. I know he was on the wrong side of the SSM debate, but so were hundreds of thousands of Canadians (even members of the Liberal Party of Canada). There comes a time to forgive for the sake of forgiveness, because unless you can build a groovy machine that probes the innermost thoughts, feelings and values of individuals, we will never ever ever know if their feelings/views/opinions/apologies are genuine or not.

I'm a good example. I don't particularly care about or understand gay people because I am not gay. I ain't crazy about it, but want to know something? I strongly supported same sex marriage simply because nearly 50% of straight marriages wind up in divorce every year and the opponents of SSM kept pointing to the sanctity of marriage shouting, SSM will DESTROY marriage in Canada. The irony is the straight people out there are doing a pretty good job of destroying marriage all on their own. In my mind, that hypocrisy (which was NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER reported on the news) cancelled out any negative feelings I might have had for the gay community. I thought, "hell, maybe the gay community can teach us straight people who have F*@#ed up marriage how to do it right."

Look, acceptance is a lot like forgiveness. Both acts are really a leap of faith. Maybe we have to have faith that he is sorry and leave it at that.

Matt Guerin said...

I agree with much of what you write, Grumpy. Regardless of what he does now, I'll be able to move on after this incident for sure. Now that Harper has decided that no further action is needed, the questions might continue as a guy who displayed such hatred faced no major consequences (except the intangible consequences like suddenly limited professional opportunities in Ottawa, and potentially a tougher time winning his seat again, etc.). If Lukiwski wants the questions to end (at least from reasonable people), explaining how and why he changed his opinions of homosexuals would definitely help.

Matt Guerin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sharonapple88 said...

I can see why something needs to be said or done. It's too easy for an apology to be empty and only to benefit himself. If he's changed his views, I'd like to know how. When people shift their beliefs, there's something tangible. Dion may have started off as a separtist, but he's fought against them for most of his adult life. Ditto for Trudeau who flirted with Quebec nationalism before fighting it and burrying his past.

As for the joke itself, first it wasn't funny and potentially rooted in the period of the time, it does him no credit for embracing a common prejudice. To quote Mordecai Richler, "The argument that anti-semitism must be forgive Macken, and other gifted people, because it was commonly trendy, in polite society at the time... is hoelessly asinie. What was acceptable on the walls of public toliets, or among the boobisie, was not to be expected among people of so-called sensibility. SO yes, they are diminished for conspiculously failing to rise above the deplorable biases of their time."

ch said...

I would also like to hear Lukiwski explain how he changed from someone who said those things in his 40's to someone who was able to confront and overcome his bigotry against homosexuals.

If he has really changed, he knows others like him could harbour harmful feelings towards gays and he would understand that he could contribute something positive to society by openly discussing his own transformation. On the other hand, if he hasn't changed, it would be difficult for him to pull off a convincing explanation. I'm not expecting any explanation from him, but I'd like to be surprised.