A mere week after pledging to create a database to screen extremists out of the UCP, leader Jason Kenney had another headache on his hands.
John Carpay, leader of the right-wing Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and a UCP member in good standing, compared the rainbow LGBTQ flag to the Nazi swastika and Soviet hammer and sickel as totalitarian symbols at a conference for the far-right Rebel Media earlier this month.
“How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism?” Carpay asked the audience. “You’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s a swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility to individual freedoms.”
Of course, the rainbow flag signifies the opposite of hostility to individual freedom. It’s a celebration of individuals’ ability to express their own sexuality.
To his credit, Kenney called Carpay’s remarks “vile,” but said it’s not his decision to kick members out of the party.
However, when an investigation from Ricochet outed Adam Strashok, who used to work for Kenney’s campaign, as being involved with an online store that sold white supremacist memorabilia, Kenney was quick to disavow him and boot him from the party.
So in a short time frame, it was his prerogative to kick members out of the party, but not so anymore, if Kenney is to be believed.
And Kenney had in the past referred to Carpay — whose organization has led the fight against mandatory gay-straight alliances in Alberta schools and who once referred to GSAs as “ideological sexual clubs” — as Rosa Parks.
How does one go from comparing someone to a civil rights icon to distancing themselves from their “vile” remarks? It’s not as if Carpay’s view of the LGBTQ movement isn’t well known.
To make matters worse, Carpay issued a non-apology, in which he insisted the comparison wasn’t intentional, immediately before doubling down on it.
“In my presentation, I pointed out that civil liberties are fragile, and must be defended,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, 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 assembly. Fundamental freedoms need to be defended, regardless of where the attack is coming from.”
As is almost mandatory in this genre of apology, Carpay claims he was taken out of context, apologizing “to anyone who may have interpreted my remarks in such a fashion.”
So what is the difference between Carpay and Strashok? Carpay is an influential member of the conservative movement, who has reportedly donated funds to the UCP.
If Kenney gives him the boot, he risks supporters of the JCCF moving to Derek Fildebrandt’s Freedom Conservative Party or the Alberta Advantage Party.
In a bizarre display of “whataboutism,” Kenney pointed to Paige Gorsak, the federal NDP nomination candidate for Edmonton-Strathcona, where incumbent Linda Duncan has announced her impending retirement. Gorsak strongly opposes oilsands expansion, favouring instead a rapid transition to renewable energy.
Firstly, she isn’t running for the Alberta NDP, nor has she received the nomination yet.
Secondly, wanting to eventually shut down the oilsands is in no way morally equivalent to comparing LGBTQ activists to Nazis and Stalinists, even if the candidate supports a more rapid transition to renewables than many Albertans are comfortable with.
One can disagree with Gorsak — as Kenney and Premier Rachel Notley, who represents that riding provincially, do — without demonizing her, as the UCP have done with other environmental activists, such as Tzeporah Berman and David Suzuki.
But with his inaction over Carpay, Kenney is demonstrating that he doesn’t take the issue of right-wing extremism seriously.