Delegates consider policy resolutions at final plenary of the Conservative Convention 2011 June 11

Conservative policy convention supports traditional marriage and parental rights

By 
  • June 15, 2011

OTTAWA - The Conservative Party has given a ringing endorsement to traditional marriage, to family life and the rights of parents to raise children according to individual conscience and beliefs.

At its 2011 policy convention, held June 9-11, the Conservatives resolved to support legislation “defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” They also stressed that Parliament, not the courts, should determine the definition of marriage through a free vote.

“This is a party that’s not afraid of being conservative,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, a Catholic, in an interview.  “It’s a dramatic change from the days of the old Progressive Conservative Party where social conservatives were not made to feel welcome.”

The party passed a resolution on family and marriage that affirmed the family unit is “essential to the well-being of individuals and society, because it is where children learn values and develop a sense of responsibility.” The resolution also stressed “the right and duty of parents to raise their own children responsibly according to their own conscience and beliefs.”

“We believe no person, government or agency has the right to interfere in the exercise of that duty except through due process of law,” it said.

Jason KenneyKenney noted that the resolution also supported the right of religious organizations to refuse to let their facilities be used or their ministers be forced to perform ceremonies that go against their beliefs. Parental rights and religious freedom are under threat in Quebec, where the province’s mandatory Ethics and Religious Culture program is being challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada. In Ontario, the province’s equity policy is putting stress on publicly funded Catholic schools to provide clubs to combat bullying based on sexual orientation.

Kenney said he is concerned about how “intolerant secularism” can put pressure on parental rights and religious freedom. But he said “we do have a legal framework” for people to defend their rights. “It’s up to the bishops, church leaders, to vigorously defend the rights of their communities,” he said. “People who are concerned about these things need to lawyer up.”

The policies adopted by the more than 2,500 delegates from across the country do not bind the new majority Conservative government, but indicate which policies have the most broad-based support. Prime Minister Stephen Harper signaled during the election that he would not use a majority to redefine marriage. Likewise, he expressed no interest in rekindling the abortion debate. The only reference to abortion in party documents came in a draft policy resolution concerning free votes in the House of Commons on moral issues. But the resolution did not get past the workshop stage. 

A resolution opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide also failed to make the final cut, though it was supported by an overwhelming majority at the workshop stage. Kenney said the Conservative government is opposed to changing the criminal prohibitions against euthanasia. Kenney said the party wanted to limit the number of policy resolutions in keeping with the prime minister’s incremental approach to change.

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