Letter to the Editor of the Montreal Gazette, It appeared in the 2004-12-15 edition under the heading “Referendum way to express opinion”.
Your editorial (”Vote no on this”, Gazette 2004-12-14) decries referendums as divisive, and blames them for creating or widening wounds in the fabric of Canadian society.
In reality, referendums simply reflect pre-existing divisiveness. Unfortunately, the print media often play a role in fomenting division by adopting editorial positions which are not supported by large blocks of their readers. Several years ago, for example, the Gazette consistently favoured mergers and the creation of a megacity, even though many letters to the editor complained loudly and bitterly. The apparent refusal of the french-language papers to even take the anti-merger point of view seriously was at least partially responsible for opposition to forced mergers being seen as an english against the french thing.
It was clear from the referenda held in some of the premerger cities that opposition to forced mergers was pretty near unanimous. In spite of this, the Gazette and other newspapers continued to promote the megacity. In the face of this apparent collusion between the media and the provincial government, supported by the spokespeople for big business and big unions, it’s no wonder that angry and desperate citizens took legal action against forced mergers and elected a party which promised a referendum on the issue.
We now see a similar situation with respect to same-sex unions. Many provincial governments and the federal Liberals are prepared to throw out the traditional definition and meaning of marriage. Paul Martin fears allowing cabinet members to vote freely, because he knows the issue is already divisive. The newspapers appear to be lined up with the political big guns, and now the Gazette is engaged in fear-mongering, telling us how dangerous a referendum would be. In truth, holding a referendum would not make this issue more divisive, it would simply allow citizens to express their wishes anonymously, without fear of being labelled as homophobes or bigots.
Traditionally, newspapers have provided a voice for popular opinion and dissent by publishing letters to the editor. A referendum is just another way to express opinion, and therefore should receive the unstinting support of the Gazette.
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