Why can't Alberta conservatives learn to stay away from the Lake of Fire?
This is a question for the ages.
Latest to bathe in the scalding waves of the fiery lake is social conservative litigator and Jason Kenney confidante John Carpay.
Carpay was a principal player in the unsuccessful effort last spring by the so-called Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms to get a court injunction to halt enforcement of the Alberta law preventing schools from informing parents when students join gay-straight alliances.
He is president and founder of the JCCF, the self-described "voice for freedom in Canada's courtrooms." The group's legal work on behalf of various social conservative causes has earned the endorsement of Rebel Media and donations from various right-wing slush funds like the Aurea Foundation, which also bankrolls the Munk Debate.
In court filings in its battle with Alberta Education Minister David Eggen in June, the JCCF sparked outrage by calling GSAs "ideological sexual clubs."
Madam Justice Johnna C. Kubik of the Alberta Court of Queens Bench made short work of the group's legal effort, but Carpay, also a former Reform Party and Wildrose Party candidate as well as a former Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, is no quitter.
On November 10, he was speaking to a Rebel Media conference in Calgary when he compared the rainbow pride flags that symbolize the rights of LGBTQ people to the swastika flag of Nazi Germany and the hammer and sickle of communism.
The Lake of Fire Carpay stirred up pretty quickly sloshed into social media, and thence into mainstream news coverage, with smoking spatters landing on Kenney -- who once compared Carpay to Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist best known for her role in the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott.
Well, as they say, you just can't make this stuff up. And in Alberta, you almost never have to.
Pretty soon there was a video clip of Carpay injudiciously flapping his gums circulating on social media. In it, he could be heard asking, "How do we defeat today's totalitarianism?"
"You've got to think about the common characteristics," he went on in an explaining tone of voice. "It doesn't matter whether it's a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it's the swastika for Nazi Germany, or whether it's a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility to individual freedoms." (Emphasis added.)
The "individual freedom" people who fly the rainbow flag are hostile to, by the way, is the "freedom" to persecute other people for things they can't change, like their sexuality.
The reaction on social media was instantaneous and sharp.
Commentators were quick to point out the mutual admiration Carpay and Kenney share for one another. A recording of Kenney touting for the JCCF soon surfaced.
As my colleague Joshua Bergman wrote in a strong social media commentary on Mr. Carpay's comment: "This comparison is particularly offensive and hurtful considering thousands of LGBTQ people were arrested, sent to concentration camps, tortured, and killed under Nazi rule."
For his part, Kenney Tweeted about what a wonderful time he was having at his local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. "Thank you to all of our veterans!"
Obviously worried about the impact of his blunder, Carpay issued a carefully worded apology on the JCCF's website late yesterday. "I unintentionally drew a broad comparison between the rainbow flag and the flags which bear the symbols of Communism and Nazism," he said in part. (Emphasis added.)
"'The slogans of 'diversity,' 'equity,' 'tolerance' and 'inclusion' have been abused in ways that undermine our free society, and the fundamental freedoms of speech, conscience, religion, association and peaceful assembly," he argued, not very persuasively.
"Taken in context, I hope it can be seen that it was not my intent to broadly equate the rainbow flag with the evils of Communism and Nazism, and I again offer my apology to anyone who may have interpreted my remarks in such fashion." (Emphasis added, again.)
As an aside, during my years in journalism, I always said that, "When they say, 'I was taken out of context,' they usually mean, 'I wish I hadn't said that.'''
The bigger question, as noted earlier, is why Alberta's social conservatives just can't keep their feet out of their mouths. I don't know the answer. And, apparently, neither do they.
I'm sure it keeps Danielle Smith up nights even now. It was lava surf from the original Lake of Fire, in the hours before the 2012 Alberta election campaign, that burned her party boat, the MV Wildrose, right to the waterline.
I'm not so sure that Kenney cares. He and his supporters are so persuaded they will win the next Alberta election no matter what, they may have concluded they can say what they like and get away with it.
Or maybe Carpay was just overconfident because he was at a meeting put on by Rebel Media. When you're among friends, after all … what could possibly go wrong?
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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