An assortment of protest signs are arranged in front of parliament hill in Ottawa at the 1 Million March 4 Children protest, Sept. 20, 2023.

Editorial: The great harm ‘no-harm’ brings

  • September 28, 2023

After last week’s Canada-wide street protests pitting parental rights advocates against transgender champions, context can be illuminating. Light can be shed, for example, by recalling the way activists and strategists for the gay rights movement employed a brilliantly effective two-tiered tactical approach to gain victory in the pursuit of same-sex marriage a quarter century ago.

First, they embedded the tautology in public consciousness that opposition to “marriage equality,” as they succeeded in having it called, was necessarily rooted in bigotry and therefore manifested hate. The widespread effect was to truncate debate by a) bringing the guilt-ridden, fashionable inclusivity crowd immediately onside, and b) placing religious opponents on the back foot of constantly having to prove the negative of not being “haters.”

The second volley spared us such pugnacity and, in a move of pure genius, asked simply: “What possible harm could it cause in your life if your next door neighbours are a loving, married same-sex couple?” The question was stunning in its elemental reduction of the debate to a single possible answer: “None.”

It did not convince us as Catholics. “You cannot bless a sin,” Pope Francis said recently in rejecting a call from German bishops to sanctify gay unions. However, it stumped us as participants in secular society. We are the ones called, above all, to love our neighbours as we love God and ourselves. But for the past half century, love in North American life has been differentiated from charity and melded into the politics of justice, which, in turn, is calibrated from the starting point of harm.

In Canada’s legal system, even a Charter of Rights complaint is granted standing only if it can be demonstrated that harm has already occurred. And “harm” is a double-edged legal sword.

Following the 2015 Supreme Court of Canada Carter decision that birthed our terrifying MAiD regime, for example, people seeking medical suicide are deemed to be of no harm to themselves even though their action necessarily means they will die. Just the opposite. Medically killing oneself is held to cause no harm. Harm arises from preventing people medically killing themselves despite the unavoidable outcome that it means they will, well, medically kill themselves.

Such convoluted extension of harm/no harm as the measure of societal acceptability is also at the core of our increasingly heated transgenderism debate. It pits the until-now irresistible force of sexual identity rights against the implacable object of parents’ rights to informed consent involving their own children.

In adopting the very harm/no harm tactic of the gay rights movement 25 years ago, the activists and strategists of transgender ideology are the most likely to find themselves hoist by their own unsustainable overreach.

Unlike the gay marriage debate, the current question is no longer an abstract one about the loving of the neighbours next door. It is about home. It goes to the heart of specific families. It is about moms and dads concerned with keeping their own children from harm, including, oh, the harms of plunging into existential confusion, ingesting huge amounts of biology altering pharmaceuticals and undergoing disfiguring surgery.

The counterpoint of transgender activists and their pedagogical allies that they, too, have as a primary concern preventing harm to children is doubtless honestly and positively intentioned. It nonetheless flails and falls on its face by the awkward presumption that trans gender advocates, and their educative allies across the land, know what is best for the children of families they do not even know.

Indeed, the same-sex marriage argument itself refutes the right to such interference in the private lives of particular families. It asserts the premise, long accepted, that gay couples know what is best for specific gay couples, and granting such does no harm to those living beyond the fences that make good neighbours. It is, in reality, a homologue to the very position that parental rights advocates are advancing now.

   More, those pressing such rights aren’t even demanding exclusivity on a par with what gay activists and strategists won. They seek a contextual relationship that acknowledges their children are, well, their children. By the lights of the question that carried an earlier day, how much harm can parental demands for a seat at the table, a voice in the discussion, possibly cause?

In the context of Catholic education, at least, the answer must be: “None.”

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