ED BROADBENT ON GAY ISSUES, 1976-7In Maclean's in late 1976, Ed Broadbent was quoted on the NDP and gay concerns. Hearing about it a couple of months later, off went my usual indignant letter -- that's one less vote for you, buster, etc. Unexpectedly he wrote back, a reply to which I then replied. Broadbent wasn't a homophobe like former NDP premiers Barrett and Schreyer. Nor can he be accused of the kind of perfidy perpetrated by Ontario NDP leader Michael Cassidy, since he never indicated his attitude was anything other than what it was. Nevertheless he was typical of the NDP in that they were all for taking sympathetic positions but when it came to acting on them, whether in opposition or even more so, in government, it was too often a different story. Not to say other political parties were any better.
Maclean's, November 29, 1976In November, 1976 an article by Ian Urquhart on Ed Broadbent appeared in Maclean's. The offending paragraph, with it's quote from Broadbent, read as follows:
. . . he believes the NDP has got to stop adopting every fad issue or minority concern that comes along "whether it's the homosexual minority or whatever. Because of the very decent impulses of members of the party to protect the aggrieved individual, there is a tendency to want to project minority grievances into a national thrust for policy. The party is then perceived as being just concerned with this or that minority group. The concerns of the majority should be the principal thrust of a democratic socialist movement. This doesn't mean a cynical disregard of minority concerns; it means putting them into the right perspective so as not to make their concerns the overriding concern."
Ed Broadbent's letter, Feb.25, 1977
Thank you for your recent correspondence.
I can appreciate your sensitivity to a reference I made to the homosexual minority which was quoted in an article written by Ian Urquhart in the November 29th edition of MacLean's. I want to assure you first of all that there was no intention on my part to single out or speak out against homosexuals and I regret that Mr. Urquhart's distorted presentation of my statements may have left this impression. The point I was trying to make was that as democratic socialists we must be clearly perceived as being a party committed to the pressing concerns of the majority. This certainly does not mean, as I stated in the article, a disregard of minority concerns. It is a question of priorities for a party which averages only three questions a day in the Question Period. To put my postion in more concrete terms, if we had to choose between raising in the House of Commons an issue such as unemployment involving a million Canadians or a matter involving a minority group, we would as a rule give preference to the former. We have to be concerned in the first place with issues that affect the majority.
As I stated earlier, I did not intend to single out the homosexual minority. I want to assure you of my own view that homosexual individuals have the right to live their lives as homosexuals with exactly the same freedom and liberties enjoyed by other Canadian citizens.
Thank you again for writing to me. I hope I have been able to clarify my position.
My reply, March 9, 1977
I think a reply to your letter of Feb. 25/77 is necessary. Your sentiments with regards to the right of homosexuals to life and liberty are welcome. Perhaps in the future they will be expressed by you and others a little more loudly and a little more often. The experience of homosexual Canadians in dealing with New Democratic governments differs little from their experience in dealing with other governments and I would look for more reassurance than offered by your letter.
With regards to unemployment in Canada, I don't think a concern with other issues indicates a neglect of that as an issue nor that a concern with that issue justifies a neglect of other issues. I might point out to you that we are as subject to the vagaries of the job marketplace as anyone and, due to particular prejudices, in many cases more so. There are also related areas such as equal employment opportunities and job security in which we have a particular stake. Rest assured that we as a body of people have always been quite aware of issues of employment and unemployment.
Need a reminder also be made that a fairly well accepted estimate of our numbers would put us at 10 per cent of the population. We've all had mothers and fathers, most of us have brothers and sisters and a number of us have wives, husbands, children. Some of us even have heterosexual friends! Any attempt to reduce us to a "minority" concern is unimpressive.
With regards to what is said in the House of Commons, the fact that we two million are hardly ever spoken of there, and mostly vilified when we are, speaks for the cowardice of the place as much as the War Measures Acts and witchhunts which have come to be thought of as a measure of its integrity.
Finally, you are a politician, you cannot help but but be aware that a statement on your part which can be interpreted as a put-down of the particular concerns of the gay community will find many readers who will happily interpret it in that manner for you.
Your letter was as much a dismissal of those concerns as was your original statement. If you think not I suggest you re-read it.