Conservative MP Vic Toews, the Minister of Public Saftey, was awarded an honorary Law degree from the University of Winnipeg yesterday admist student protest. Standing on stage with Toews, valedictorian Erin Larson said she was not proud of the University’s decision to confer the degree, adding that the school had lost its integrity. Outside, students protested with signs.
Toews was an outspoken opponent of equal marriage rights for gay couples during his ironic term as Justice Minister. Calling the legalization of same-sex marriage “a mistake” despite nine consecutive lower court rulings declaring it a constitutional necessity, he actively fought against the courts’ unanimous consensus. He introduced a House motion in 2006 to revisit the law, opening the door to end marriage rights for gays and have existing same-sex marriages annulled. Acknowledging that the law would be unconstitutional, the Justice Minister suggested the use of Canada’s obscure Notwithstanding Clause which could legally pass laws known to be unconstitutional for five years at a time. If he had succeeded, I wouldn’t be married today.
After his motion was defeated, Toews attempted to introduce a bill ostensibly titled the Defense of Religion Act. The bill would have allowed civil servants, such as civil marriage commissioners and justices of the peace, to deny public services to gay couples.
Personally, I think universities are welcome to confer degrees to whomever they choose, though I think it shows a certain amount of laziness to select controversial figures (such as politicians still in the middle of their careers) without considering whether or not their actions have been consistent with the university’s own values and policies.
And, of course, I’m welcome to confer my own Honorary Slaps to whomever I choose. Vic Toews seems like a pretty good first candidate, don’t you think?
- Students oppose honorary degree for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews [Winnipeg Free Press]
- Protest planned for Toews [Winnipeg SUN]