|Garnett Genuis, Conservative Candidate|
Sherwood Park - Fort Saskatchewan
Image taken from Daverberta.ca
Garnett Genuis, whose campaign page can be found here, was one of the candidates that was identified as being a "green light."
On hearing this, I went to the website to see on what basis they had made this decision.
As of the time of writing this blog post, you can go to this site to see the Campaign Life Coalition's bio for Mr. Genuis. You will see that he is listed as green light, and there is a notation saying that "Garnett is known to be pro-life." However, there is no other information on how or why he is known that way. In particular, the questionnaire responses section says "no response" for all of the questions. Here's what the page looks like now.
This was confusing, because David Cournoyer had reported:
These four candidates, along with Mr. Hillyer, responded to a questionnaire from the Campaign Life Coalition affirming their opposition to women’s reproductive rights.
I took to twitter to see what was going on, and found a screenshot someone took of Mr. Genuis' bio page earlier that day.
|Screenshot courtesy of @rsellin on Twitter, October 1, 2015.|
Do you believe that life begins at conception (fertilization)?
If elected, will you strive to introduce and pass laws to protect unborn children from the time of conception (fertilization) onward?
If elected, would you support all legislative or policy proposals that would result in a meaningful increase of respect and protection for unborn human life?
Are there any circumstances under which you believe a woman should have access to abortion? (note: Medical treatments to save the life of a mother and which result in the UNINTENDED death of her unborn child, are NOT abortions. Eg. in case of tubal pregnancy or cervical cancer)
If elected, will you oppose any legislative or regulatory measures designed to permit the deliberate euthanasia of a human being or designed to permit "doctor-assisted suicide"?
So, the same day that the blog post went up, Mr. Genuis' answers came down.
Since then, I have been asking Mr. Genuis on facebook and on twitter to explain how it was that his answers were removed, and whether he has disavowed them, or if Campaign Life Coalition had misinterpreted him, whether he had removed them on the instructions of the Harper camapign, or generally, what was going on.
There has been no response.
I later saw that he (or someone working for his campaign, one presumes) had answered a question about whether former MP Ken Epp had been asked by his campaign to suggest to independent candidate James Ford that he should withdraw from the race. He replied that Mr. Epp was not on the campaign executive, and had acted independently. I took this to mean that this was a way that I might have my questions answered, and posted them there.
Not only was my question not answered, but it seems that all of the questions in that section of the facebook page have been removed. Here's the link to his facebook page, and here is an image of what the visitor posts section looks like now.
So that was disappointing.
So it seems that current-day Garnett Genuis is unwilling to answer my questions. But by the wonder of the internet, Garnett Genuis from 2012 is willing to answer them.
You see, in 2012 Mr. Genuis was the Vice President External of the Carleton Debate Society. I hope I'm getting all that right. During his tenure, the Carleton student's union instituted a policy whereby any student groups that were determined to be seeking to legally limit a women's right to choice with regard to abortion would be disallowed from being associated with the union.
This is exactly the sort of extreme nonsense that student unions are famous for, so it's not exactly surprising. Mr. Genuis it seems was instrumental in having the debate society take the matter up as a matter of free speech, and oppose the restriction.
In the course of representing the debate society in that cause, Mr. Genuis was asked to be the guest on a radio program or podcast (it's not clear to me which it is) entitled "Bridging the Gap." The site for this program was hosted on a site called catholicbridge.com, which still exists, though it seems the radio program is defunct. The download page for episodes of that radio program is here. His episode, specifically, can be downloaded at this link.
I have listened to Mr. Genuis' conversation with the host of that program, and I have to say that he spoke very well for himself. He seems reasonable, and thoughtful. I agree with a number of the things that he said about conflating pro-life positions with misogyny, and the need to avoid allowing official secularism to evolve into the suppression of all religious views. I also think he artfully avoided endorsing or even acknowledging the host's ageist, prejudiced views about university students in general. Generally, he expresses a sincere and devout belief in the good that Christian principles and living in accordance with them can do for individuals and society.
But even more interestingly, he said a number of things that would have served, if he still believes them, as answers to the questions I wanted to pose to him now. Please note, I recognize that it's not fair to hold him today to the views that he held in 2012. As such, I will be perfectly happy to replace any of the following with actual answers that I get from him. But he refuses to answer my questions, so in the mean time this is the best I can do.
I am editing here. These are not the questions he was answering at the time. If you want to know the full context of his statements, please download the entire interview. I am trying to be fair, and not take words so far out of their context as to seriously alter their meaning. If I fail in that attempt, let me know.
Please note, the photos are of me, not Genuis, because they come from my soundcloud account. I would never accuse anyone of looking like me.
Q: What do you think about the idea of having a debate about abortion in Canada?
A: "Good ideas win fair debates. If pro-lifers are so confident about their position, then they should be willing to debate it. And if pro-choicers, or choose your euphamism, are so confident about their position they should also be willing to debate it."
Q: What do you think about people who shy away from debates about abortion?
A: "If one side of the issue is uncomfortable with the conversation, that might suggest something about how confident they are in their position."
Q: So, Garnet, what would you say is the pro-life view with regard to abortion?
A: "The rights of the unborn child to life outweigh the rights of the mother in terms of significant convenience for that period of time."
Q: What do you think about the Conservative Party of Canada's current policy that it will not legislate on the issue of abortion in Canada?
A: "The position that's often presented within the secular world is that religion is fine for your private life, but don't bring your religion into public activities, be it political lobbying, political expression or any kind of dialogue or debate. Don't try and talk about your values to other people. The problem with that is that no religion that I know of, certainly no major religion within our culture accepts a public/private distinction. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, whatever else, require their followers to do certain things. And it doesn't matter if you are in a public context or a private context. If something is right, then you should advocate for that. If it's right that killing is illegal, then that's right for me, that's also right as a legal principle. If stealing is wrong, then it's just as wrong for me as it is for someone else. So it's my obligation as a religious person, then, to encourage the application of that principle in a general legal sense. So, you know, certainly we should be respectful, certainly we should be loving, and certainly we shouldn't try and force our values on anyone else. But there is no public/private distinction when it comes down to religion, and I think secular society needs to recognize that and come to terms with that."
Q: So it sounds like you are willing to have a real debate about the issue, and let the chips fall where they may. But it also seems as though you are under instructions from your political party to shy away from the debate. That must be difficult for you. What do you think of the Harper campaign team imposing restrictions on what you, as a political candidate, can and cannot talk about?
A: "I guess I would take the position, as someone who believes in freedom of expression, and the values of real tolerance, that we should allow dissenting opinions, and we should protect the rights of people within public space to express their opinions. Because remember, public space is not the government's space, it's our space."
Q: Why would you support legislating on the basis of Christian principles?
A: "I strongly believe in Christian principles not just because the bible says they are true, but also because I see the benefit of Christian principles in the real world."
"These aren't just theoretical commands to limit our happiness, but [that] God directs us in certain directions for our own benefit."
Q: How might that practical benefit apply to restrictions on access to abortion?
A: "I like to talk about freedoms. I think people should be free to express their opinions, free to be happy, free not to have a lot of personal baggage that limits their enjoyment of life down the road."
Generally, I think people who agree with him will agree with him no less, and people who disagree with him will disagree with him no less as a result of this imaginary interview. But I think, and evidently Mr. Genuis thinks, or thought once, it's one that we ought to be willing to have in public. That's what openness and transparency require. That's what's healthy for our democracy. People electing people and knowing what those people believe, and how those people can be expected to behave.
There's a lot I disagree with in what he says, but there is just one aspect of what he says that I can't allow to go without comment.
I think characterizing what the woman loses when abortion is not available as "significant convenience" is just monumentally wrong. I'm sure, as Mr. Genuis is now a father of two, he would not now characterize the experience of pregnancy and childbirth as an "inconvenience." But given his questionnaire answers indicate that he believes today that abortion should never be available, he still must underestimate what it is a woman loses when, for example, she is forced by the state to gestate and deliver the child of a rape.
I will also say that it is shameful that I had to go through this exercise in order to have any hope that people in Sherwood Park - Fort Saskatchewan might know what their almost-certainly-future-MP thinks on a topic of importance to him, and of importance to his constituents, because of what I can only presume is an edict from political party that evidently does not share Mr. Genuis' expressed belief in the value of fair debate. That he is willing to supplant their views for his own on this matter is disappointing.