The same-sex marriage bill is “a threat to any Canadian who supports multiculturalism,” said Stephen Harper in 2005, before the Liberal Party of Canada passed the same-sex marriage bill.
There is no contradiction between same-sex marriage and multiculturalism, but there is only the stereotype that non-white Canadians are inherently homophobic. A 2005 article in the Globe & Mail reported Harper’s rationale for his campaign tactics:
Mr. Harper’s tactics stem, in part, from a survey conducted by the Conservative Party before last month’s Victoria caucus meeting. According to party sources, the poll, which did not include Quebec voters, found that the governing Liberals were supported by 31 per cent of decided voters compared with 28 per cent for the Tories.
More importantly, however, pollsters asked how many of those voters would consider leaving the Liberal Party if it supported same-sex marriage.
What they found startled them.
A full six percentage points of Liberal supporters said they would consider exiting their party. By contrast, Tory support dropped by only two percentage points when supporters were asked whether they would drift away should the caucus oppose the bill.
[Conservative] Party officials concluded that the six-percentage-point drop for the Liberals was probably made up of small-c ethnic supporters, and decided at that point to begin running controversial newspaper ads opposing gay marriage.
Basically, the Conservative Party officials found evidence that 6% of Liberal voters would consider leaving the Liberals if the Liberals supported same-sex marriage, and then concluded, based on no evidence, that these voters must be the “ethnics”, i.e., non-white people.
Perhaps these Liberal voters were heterosexual, working-class white Canadians that want more social programs, but have conservative moral values. We do not know who these voters were—except that they were probably anti-gay—but the Conservative officials simply speculated about the reason, and Harper proceeded as if the speculation was fact.
It is disturbing enough that the political party that is currently in charge of Canada would make drastic decisions based on unsupported assumptions. However, Harper and the Conservatives took their presumption further, and assumed that they were speaking on behalf of non-white Canadians:
According to a senior [Conservative] party organizer, Conservatives believe they have potentially tapped into a well-spring of insecurity among ethnic groups, some of whose members feel the Liberal bill will force their clergy to perform same-sex marriage. Even if the same-sex issue is forgotten by the time the next election rolls around, the strategist says, the Conservatives figure that at least some members of the multicultural communities will remember Mr. Harper reached out to them.
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, criticized Harper’s presumptuousness:
“I think it’s funny that someone like Harper would speak on behalf of gay people when he’s not gay, and minorities when he’s not part of them,” Mr. Fatah said.
Terry Lum, the 33-year-old head of the Community of Chinese Canadians, was also bothered by Harper’s bizarre proclamation:
What bothers Mr. Lum, and others, is the presumption that there is this one huge community that speaks the same language and thinks along the same lines.
Even some Conservative party members criticized Harper:
[Harper’s] gambit has caused distress within his own party, some of whose members say Mr. Harper is wrongly assuming that ethnic groups are a monolithic bloc against same-sex marriage.
Stephen Harper is racist, because he assumed that stereotypes about ethnic minorities were true, and he treated all non-white Canadians like a monolith. Harper does not know what non-white Canadians are thinking, but he just makes assumptions and pretends to represent their interests.
Note: The rest of the article focuses on anecdotal interviews with pseudo-random Chinese Canadians, including a 57-year-old Chinese woman from Guangdong who thought that gays deserve a punishment similar to being tied in bamboo cages and drowned in the river. The article was supposed to be about Harper’s sweeping generalization, but the journalists decided to open with the hateful Chinese homophobe.