The Report Newsmagazine Save The Family Save The World by Tom McFeely The 1,500 delegates who gathered November 14-17 at the Second World Congress of Families in Geneva had a message for the anti-family activists who dominate today's international social debates. An expanding and sophisticated alliance, rooted in a shared belief in the importance of the natural family, is ready to contest the radicals at every level, from the smallest community to the United Nations. And with humanity's most basic institution now the battlefield, conservatives believe they have finally found common ground upon which they can unite to defeat the forces seeking to deconstruct the family. As Congress of Families co-chairman Allan Carlson, president of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society, remarked in his opening address, "This is the social engineering most needed in our time: the kind that will protect the natural family, and allow it to thrive." There were lots of gloomy stories for delegates to exchange in Geneva, ranging from France's and Ontario's recognition last month of homosexual " spouses" to the UN-directed promotion of abortion and artificial contraception across the societies of AIDS-ravaged Africa. But hope, not pessimism, was the central theme. Many participants cited an international poll conducted just before the Congress by Wirthlin Worldwide. It found deep global support for the natural family, with 84% of respondents agreeing that "the definition of marriage is one man and one woman," and 78% concurring that "a family created through lawful marriage is the fundamental unit of society." Moreover, a solid pro-family majority exists in every global region, even in socially liberal North America and Western Europe. Still, conservative analysts acknowledge the tide toward liberalism has reached a critical watershed. For more than two centuries, policymakers have been increasingly sympathetic to leftist ideologies. Such ideologies, both in their older socialist variants and in their newer radical-feminist and radical-environmentalist mutations, view human nature as a purely social construct. Further, they hold that this socially-constructed nature has been deformed by "oppressive institutions" like the family and religion. Consequently, leftists have campaigned since the French Revolution to replace these voluntary institutions with arbitrary structures through which autonomous individuals, unencumbered by tradition, can contract with an omnipresent state for their social rights and entitlements. Understandably, as the basic social unit, the family has been a particular target for radicals. During most of the 20th century, the attack was most explicit in the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe. Michaela Freiova, the director of the family and society program of the Civic Institute of the Czech Republic and a former anti-communist activist, says that collectivization was more pronounced in Czechoslovakia than anywhere outside of the Soviet Union itself. Women were commonly forced to abandon mothering duties for the workplace, and parental authority was intentionally subverted, particularly with regard to education and religious instruction. State-run nurseries, officially characterized as an " infant paradise," sprang up across the country. "The philosophy was that the child was to be reared in the collective, by the collective, and for the collective," Mrs. Freiova says. However, children raised in such environments frequently suffered from profound social pathologies, described as early as the 1960s as " deprivation syndrome." And while communism's economic failure was the proximate cause of the Soviet Bloc's disintegration, the newly liberated citizenries of Eastern Europe made re-establishment of their damaged family structures a priority. But even the collapse of the Soviet empire, where the destructive consequences of social radicalism were unmistakable, failed to slow its international advance. Instead, as speaker after speaker in Geneva noted, the promotion through UN structures of an expansive array of novel "human rights" has dramatically enhanced the attack on the family. The UN's anti-family bias is not new. In an essay entitled The Natural Family Under Siege, Mr. Carlson ascribes its emergence to a group of Scandinavian socialists who infiltrated UN structures in the late 1940s. The group included Gunnar and Anna Myrdal, a Swedish couple whose 1934 book Crisis in the Population Question argued that the traditional conceptions of marriage and parenting must be replaced by radical sexual egalitarianism and the assumption of child-rearing by the state. Both of the Myrdals assumed prominent positions at the UN, but their "progressive" marriage soon disintegrated because of Gunnar's fixation on his professional life. Embittered by the break-up, Alva moved from Geneva to New York to advance her own career, leaving behind her daughters, aged 15 and 12. In 1950, she was appointed head of the division of social science of the UN's Economic and Social Council, despite having no social- science training. This position provided an "unprecedented opportunity" to purge the UN bureaucracy of traditionalists, according to Mr. Carlson, and to install an ideological cadre "committed to Alva Myrdal's vision of the family as a social institution requiring radical change." That vision was detailed in the Alva Myrdal Report, commissioned in the late 1960s by Sweden's Social Democratic Party. The report advocated the elimination of every social, political and economic distinction enjoyed by marriage and "more protection to other forms of co-habitation," on the grounds that social "equality" requires eradicating all areas "where Nature has created great and fundamental differences." If Scandinavians were the early UN exponents of socialism and feminism, multimillionaire Canadian businessman-bureaucrat Maurice Strong was equally responsible for the similarly significant entrenchment of green activism. Mr. Strong began brokering the unlikely UN alliance between corporate interests and environmentalist non-governmental organizations ( NGOs) while serving as secretary-general of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. His influence remains pervasive. One of Mr. Strong's current initiatives, as chairman of the Earth Council, is promotion of the "People's Earth Charter." Article 8 of the draft charter, which is to be submitted to the UN General Assembly for ratification in 2002, calls for "universal access to healthcare that fosters reproductive health and responsible reproduction." "Reproductive health" is the UN's favoured codeword for promoting on-demand abortion and artificial contraception. "The real goal of the Earth Charter is that it will in fact become like the Ten Commandments, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Mr. Strong explained in a March 1998 interview. While anti-family activists have long dominated the UN apparatus, their ability to influence world affairs remained limited until three key events occurred: the 1989 promulgation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC); the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro; and the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). Articles 12 through 16 of CROC, the most widely ratified international treaty ever, mandate the "rights" of minor children to such things as freedom of association and freedom of expression. The application of these articles, CROC's pro-family critics charge, inevitably leads to such things as the sanctioning of unimpeded access of young children to pornography and other destructive influences, and more broadly to the permanent usurpation of parental authority by state agencies. The Earth Summit, and its "Agenda 21" green manifesto, served as the blueprint for environmental globalism. Agenda 21 rests explicitly on the assumption that existing social institutions, including the family, are inadequate to meet environmental challenges. It too mandates the promotion of "reproductive health," and advocates "the sharing of household tasks by men and women on an equal basis." Mr. Strong, who chaired the Earth Summit, used the conference to formally unite green activists with UN feminists through new NGOs like the Women's Environmental and Development Organization. Cairo was the site of another anti-family synthesis. Until 1994, the UN's population-control movement sought to persuade Third World governments to impose quotas on population growth. But at the ICPD, population controllers publicly renounced coercive quotas and allied with feminists in endorsing the "reproductive health" concept. For population controllers, the main benefit of "reproductive health" is that it promotes depopulation by "empowering" women to contracept or to abort unborn children. For feminists, the benefit is the "liberation" of women from motherhood's "oppression." In the post-Cairo period, UN bodies, Western governments and activist NGOs further institutionalized the feminist, green and children's rights agendas. Just as Canadian courts have used Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms to retroactively "read" homosexual rights into legislation that never envisioned such privileges, the UN committees that monitor compliance with the six international human-rights treaties have "re- interpreted" those treaties' contents. In one notable 1994 case, the Human Rights committee ruled that an Australian anti-sodomy law violated the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by discriminating against homosexuals. The committees monitoring CROC and the 1979 Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have been equally creative. The CROC committee has criticized several countries, including Canada, for allowing spanking. In 1995, the same committee attacked Great Britain for allowing parents to withdraw their childrens from sex-ed programs. As for the CEDAW committee, in recent years it has criticized countries which have failed to legalize abortion, attacked Slovenia for having less than 30% of children under three in daycare, instructed Libya to re-interpret Muslim religious texts to conform with UN perspectives, and chastised China for failing to legalize prostitution. Meanwhile, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), working primarily through pro-abortion NGOs like the International Planned Parenthood Federation, has orchestrated the implementation of "reproductive health" programs around the world. UNICEF, under the direction of executive director Carol Bellamy, a feminist politician from New York, is collaborating with UNFPA and the World Health Organization to promote sex- ed programs and other "reproductive health" initiatives aimed at " adolescents," a group defined by UN agencies as beginning at age ten. Canada is intimately involved with all these efforts. Former prime minister Brian Mulroney led the drive to ratify CROC, whose contents were framed in substantial measure by Canadian activists. In the run-up to the 1995 Fourth UN Conference on Women in Beijing, a Canadian delegate introduced "sexual orientation" for the first time into a formal UN negotiation. At the 1996 Habitat II conference in Istanbul, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls castigated the Canadian delegation for refusing to allow a reference to "the family" in the conference document ( Canada demanded the alternative phrasing "various forms of the family," code for recognition of homosexual "marriage"). More recently, Ottawa was a chief sponsor of this year's "Cairo+5" negotiations, organized by activists in hopes of further broadening the definition of "reproductive health." The objectives of the UN's leftist activists vary between the developed and developing world. In the secularized West, the chief aim is to supplement the existing sway of liberalism over bureaucracies, courts and other key governmental institutions by "universalizing" radical agendas as international human rights, thereby rendering them immune to repeal by democratically elected local or national governments. In the predominantly Christian and Muslim societies of the Third World, the intent is to attach a veneer of international legitimacy for unwanted intrusions into the delicate spheres of church and family. Kenyan pediatrician Dr. Margaret Ogola, medical director of the Cottolenga Hospice for HIV-positive orphans, says this ideological imperialism is especially disastrous in Africa. The promotion of condom use by UN agencies and Western NGOs has furthered the spread of AIDS by promoting promiscuity. At the same time, the campaign to persuade women to have small families or no children at all is rupturing the African extended family, which is the only social support institution available to most of the impove-rished continent's AIDS victims. Kenya alone has 800,000 AIDS orphans. "For me," says Dr. Ogola, "that is the tragedy of population control followed by HIV 'prevention.'" Against this backdrop, the first World congress of Families was convened in Prague in 1997. Last year, organizers drafted a cross-cultural definition of the natural family. This month's second Congress meeting in Geneva drew twice as many participants as Prague, with the most notable shift being the increase in the number of non-Christians. The Muslim contingent, led by Jehan Sadat, widow of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, was particular evident. But while the emerging pro-family alliance is dominated by adherents to orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, there is little dispute over religious doctrine. The reason, explains Rabbi Daniel Lapin, is that the family advocates share an understanding that recognizes the natural family as the core of every durable human society, and that acknowledges the necessary and healthy distinctions between the sexes. As well, the virulence of the UN-driven assault is a powerful goad toward unity. "The issue is not theological debate, the question is whether our cultures will survive," comments Rabbi Lapin, who hosts a nationally syndicated radio talk show in Seattle. Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council of the Family, also affirmed the transcendent character of the pro-family arguments. Speaking on the final day of the Congress of Families, he stressed that the nature of the family is not determined by political debate; "it is the design of God and the basis of everything. It has its roots in man's hearts." Along with staking out their territory on the basis of a shared understanding of human nature, family advocates must articulate their claims through a new "language of democracy," according to Toronto author and analyst William Gairdner. Currently, radicals win most political debates by cloaking their demands in a pseudo-democratic rhetoric, one that posits that every individual must contract independently with government for his rights. In reality, Mr. Gairdner points out, a social contract made solely between individuals and the state is a short-cut to totalitarianism. The coercive character of the state immediately manifests itself by usurping all the authority assigned in healthy societies to families, churches and the other voluntary components of civil society. Conservatives have been unable to communicate adequately their competing vision of "organic" democracy, wherein the claims of individuals and the state are both subordinate to the family because it alone is the foundation of authentic community life. But that may change, Mr. Gairdner suspects, now that social radicals are openly targeting the family. "Is the family the one institution with which we at least have a chance?" he muses. "I think that it is." In keeping with Mr. Carlson's appeal for "creative social engineering," panellists at the World Congress identified a variety of policy thrusts to support the family. At the national level, many cited tax cuts, along with an end to the discrimination against single-earner families imposed by the tax codes of Canada and other Western governments, as being crucial. Another important element, given the sociological and psychological evidence of the damage marital breakdown inflicts on children, is to dispense with no-fault divorce and to re-institute tough penalties against those who casually walk away from their spouses and families. A third approach, one already adopted by the Australian federal government, is the creation of a national family strategy. Australian MP Kevin Andrews, chairman of his government's policy committee on family and community affairs, suggests Australia's "next step" will be to emulate the Alberta government's "Family Policy Grid," which requires all government departments and agencies to formally review the impact of their policies and programs on families. At the international level, pro-family advocates are ready to get " creative" against the UN itself. Many seminal UN documents, most notably the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirm the family as "the natural and fundamental unit" of society, and can be used to trump the newer and less authoritative pronouncements being made by UN agencies and committees in favour of things like homosexual unions and state interference with parental oversight. Toronto lawyer Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women of Canada and a veteran pro-family lobbyist at UN social-policy conferences, suggests that national governments should simply ignore the "phony provisions" that UN monitoring committees are reading into treaties. Another approach is to insist that national delegations to UN negotiations be subject to rigorous parliamentary oversight. Roy Beyer, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, says this would help rectify the democratic deficit that so often characterizes UN-driven policymaking. " The most important thing is creating an awareness of the actions of our UN delegates, who are actually catalysts of the radical agenda," he says. Such suggestions may appear sadly inadequate to forestall further advances by the well-funded and deeply entrenched anti-family forces at the UN. But Cardinal Trujillo, speaking to reporters at a press conference, pointed out that many observers had considered the Soviet empire to be even more impregnable. But it had been built on a lie, and hence was quickly swept away, almost without a hand being raised. So too, the Vatican prelate confidently predicted, would the profound truth of the family's worth triumph over the false claims of its radical opponents. Results of the kiddie-rights vote Few issues in recent years have so galvanized Canadian parents against UN-sponsored activism as did last month's UNICEF-sponsored and taxpayer- funded "National Election for the Rights of Youth." The election, which was co-sponsored by Elections Canada and timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, asked students to pick from 10 "rights," ranging from "Rest & Play" to "Share Opinions." The final turnout of 3.8% of total students was far below the 10% to 15% predicted by UNICEF Canada president Harry Black. The kids' favourite choice was probably another disappointment to children's rights activists: 24.9% plumped for "Family," with "Food & Shelter" and "Health" finishing second and third. For drugs, a radically different prescription Speaking in Geneva, Dr. Joe Santamaria, an Australian specialist on addiction and the family, singled out Canada as one of the countries that is succumbing to the arguments in favour of decriminalizing drug use. A more fruitful approach, Dr. Santamaria insisted, is to strengthen families. Faced with the seemingly intractable drug scenes in cities like Vancouver, even some Canadian conservatives have accepted the "harm reduction" arguments of drug liberals. However, the experience of Zurich, home of some of the world's laxest hard-drug policies, provides little support for the "harm reduction" case. The city first experimented with drug liberalization in 1980, according to Diethelm Raff, a Zurich psychologist and drug-policy analyst. A few leftist doctors working at the "Autonomous Youth Centre" began covertly distributing heroin to addicts. They stopped a year later, Mr. Raff says, but not before Zurich had developed a substantial drug scene for the first time. The drive for decriminalization accelerated in the late 1980s, after a " Red-Green" coalition of leftists and environmentalists won control of city council. Police were ordered to stop prosecuting addicts and dealers, triggering a wild drug scene in a park dubbed "Platzspitz," or "Needle Park." Authorities eventually closed down Needle Park, but the drug scene merely gravitated to a deserted train station. There, dealers set up tables where addicts openly bought and injected heroin, with civic workers on hand to supply needles. Zurich's "progressive" council finally instructed police to shut down the station facility in 1995, after city residents had sanctioned a comprehensive regime of "harm reduction" policies. The regime features such things as city-operated "shooting galleries," where junkies can enjoy a cup of coffee while injecting themselves, and "accompanied living" apartment buildings, where they are housed at city expense and serviced by social workers who attend to all their addiction-induced difficulties. A massive needle distribution program, which includes street vending machines that dispense "flashpacks" containing needles and condoms, is another component. The most controversial element of all is an experimental heroin distribution program, implemented after trials were approved in a national referendum. When the program came up for review this spring, proponents claimed it would be vindicated by a report about to be released by the World Health Organization. A narrow majority of voters supported the trials' continuation, but when the WHO report was later released, it stated the trials were too methodologically flawed to prove anything. Dr. Raff says other "harm reduction" claims, such as an alleged reduction in the transmission of HIV, are equally flimsy. Moreover, courtesy of liberalization, Zurich has a population of addicts several times larger than when it followed an abstinence-based enforcement and treatment policy. Analysts like Dr. Raff and Dr. Santamaria don't claim their preferred alternatives, such as building healthy families, are a panacea. But, they stress, it is well documented that children from intact families have far lower rates of drug abuse, and that the intervention of families can be critical in the success of treatment programs. And, they point out, similar documentation of the benefits of "harm reduction" is notably hard to find. Joe Clark versus the family Last week, when Joe Clark announced his planned candidacy in the riding of Calgary Centre, the federal Tory leader was flanked by his wife Maureen McTeer and their daughter Caroline. But the imagery was more than a little deceptive, if Mr. Clark's intent was to portray his PCs as a family- friendly party. The day before his announcement, PC national director Susan Elliott circulated a "special report" via e-mail to party activists that characterized incumbent Calgary Centre MP Eric Lowther as a "single issue zealot" for his unflagging support of family issues. Mr. Lowther, who heads Reform's family caucus, was also negatively singled out by Ms. Elliott for being "closely affiliated with Focus on the Family, a Christian lobby group." A third shortcoming, in Ms. Elliott's view, was the fact that "the Family Action Coalition gave [Mr. Lowther] a 100% rating on a range of socially conservative issues." The antipathy of the Joe Clark Tories towards social conservatives is no surprise to those who have listened closely to Mr. Clark's pronouncements since he became PC leader a year ago. But Ms. Elliott's open hostility will surprise more casual followers of politics who have erroneously assumed that the Tories are seeking the allegiance of right-of-centre voters. Still, Mr. Clark's Red Tory credentials are hardly new; they were on constant display during his long tenure as Brian Mulroney's foreign minister. Indeed, it was on Mr. Clark's watch that Canada led the international campaign to draft and ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, one of the UN documents most frequently targeted by conservatives for undermining parental authority and as an enemy of parents and the family. For his part, Mr. Lowther says that Ms. Elliott's comments highlight Mr. Clark's continuing incapacity to grasp political, economic and social realities. To view support for the family as "single issue zealotry" is incomprehensible, the Reform MP adds, given that virtually every significant political issue bears directly on the welfare of Canadian families. Mr. Lowther is also unapologetic about his association with issues that concern Christians and other religious adherents. "Whether it's Christians or Jews or anyone else, to marginalize these people in the political process is wrong and I'm certainly not going to exclude them," he says. Ms. Elliott's remarks could give the United Alternative movement a major boost as it prepares for its crucial founding convention in Ottawa in late January. One veteran Tory activist e-mailed an angry response to Ms. Elliott and several other senior party officials after receiving her communique. "I fully support family values and Focus on the Family and find this type of smear offensive!" wrote the party member, who was identified on a leaked copy of the e-mail as a former riding president and federal candidate in the 1993 election. "I expect this from the media, but I cannot, nor will I support any party that will use such anti-family slander. If you want my support and my annual contribution, you will do something about it, and soon."
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