Opposition leader must act after member compared LGBTQ flag to swastika: premier

Opposition leader must act after member compared LGBTQ flag to swastika: premier

LITTLE BUFFALO, Alta. — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says if Opposition Leader Jason Kenney of the United Conservatives is serious about eradicating extremist views in his party, he can start with a member who compared the LGBTQ flag to the swastika.

"Mr. (John) Carpay has been very clear on his views, and I would expect Mr. Kenney to act accordingly, and we look forward to seeing him do that," Notley said Tuesday after a land claim announcement in northern Alberta.

"If Mr. Kenney wants to convince Albertans that they should not be worried about the long-term agenda of the UCP, then he needs to demonstrate it by suggesting that Mr. Carpay doesn't have a home in that party."

Carpay is a United Conservative party member who also heads the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, an advocacy group that is challenging in court an Alberta law enacted under Notley that allows gay-straight alliances in schools if students wish to have them.

On the weekend, Kenney and others from across the political spectrum denounced comments made by Carpay in a speech he made that warned of the threat to individual freedoms posed by totalitarian regimes.

"You've got to think about the common characteristics," Carpay said in the speech. "It doesn't matter whether it is a hammer and sickle for communism or whether it's the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it's a rainbow flag — the underlying thing is a hostility towards individual freedoms."

Neither Carpay nor Kenney could be reached for an interview Tuesday. Kenney has not said whether Carpay will be allowed to retain his membership.

Carpay apologized in a statement Sunday for drawing the comparison, calling it unintentional.

"Past attempts to enforce utopian ideals have often failed badly," he said. "We must always take care that, in our latter-day attempts to perfect the rights of any historically wronged community, we not trammel the rights of others."

Notley said Carpay "doubled down" on his original comments.

"The notion there's a similarity between people who promote the rights of the LGBTQ community — as they would any other minority group through a civil rights lens — with somehow being oppressive of the right to free speech is an outrageous opinion," she said.

Notley also criticized Kenney for lauding Carpay's group in a speech Kenney made in the spring of 2017.

In that speech, Kenney compared the Justice Centre's work to the groundbreaking actions of civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Parks violated racial segregation ordinances in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat on a city bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Ala., and was arrested.

"Courageous people challenged unjust laws," Kenney said of the civil rights movement in that speech. "(Parks) was not going to co-operate with injustice."

"Comparing John Carpay and Rosa Parks is what I would suggest is the second-most insulting thing that I heard of on the weekend," Notley said. 

The most insulting was Carpay's rainbow flag comments, she said.

Kenney has said bigoted and hateful views are not welcome in the United Conservative Party and the party is looking at some kind of database to screen out potential party members who advocate extremism.

He has said extremists are a tiny fraction of his membership and are difficult to extricate from what he calls a "big-tent" party of 130,000.

— By Dean Bennett in Edmonton

The Canadian Press