November 24, 2000
Fry hit by backlash over attack on Day
Offends church leaders

Mark Hume
National Post, with files from The Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Hedy Fry, the Liberal MP who is fighting to retain her Vancouver Centre seat, has raised the ire of religious leaders across Canada by saying Stockwell Day's faith insults non-Christians.

At a rally last week featuring Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister, and Paul Martin, the Minister of Finance, Ms. Fry attacked the Alliance leader's beliefs.

''When he said that 'Jesus Christ is the God of the whole universe,' I say that is an insult to every Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh -- everybody else who believes in other religions,'' Ms. Fry said to a crowd in Vancouver.

Aziz Khaki, vice-president of the Muslim Canadian Federation, said Ms. Fry's attack on Mr. Day was ''ridiculous.''

He said Muslims are not insulted by a Christian expressing faith in Jesus.

''Mr. Day is proud of his faith, just as I am proud of my Muslim faith,'' he said in Vancouver.

Gary Walsh, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said yesterday he was disturbed by Ms. Fry's attack.

''It's one of the more discriminatory statements I've heard in a long time,'' said Mr. Walsh, who is from Markham, Ont.

''She just doesn't understand religion ... One is saddened she is so ill-informed. Surely she didn't intend to offend everyone of faith in Canada with her remarks, but she succeeded in doing so.''

Mr. Walsh, whose organization represents three million conservative Protestants, said it is a unifying tenet of Christianity that ''Jesus is Lord.''

He said his Jewish and Muslim friends respect that, just as he respects the unquestioning faith they have in their beliefs.

A Christian who has faith in Jesus does not disparage or show disrespect for other religions with different views, he said.

''Every faith community has some core beliefs about their deity. By definition, every one of those faith communities has lofty perceptions about that deity. I'm surprised she doesn't understand that.

''Her comments are an insult to every Canadian that has faith.''

Thomas Langan, national president of the Catholic Civil Rights League, said Ms. Fry went ''beyond the pale'' in her remarks.

''They're the mind-boggling remarks of a terribly uninformed person. I feel sorry for her,'' said Mr. Langan.

Ms. Fry defended her remarks in a statement released yesterday.

''Let me be clear. As a Christian and a Catholic myself, I certainly do not believe Stockwell Day's personal commitment to his belief in 'Jesus Christ as Lord and master of the universe' to be offensive,'' she stated. ''He is entitled, as am I and other Canadians, to a personal faith.

''However, I believe that politicians should be especially careful not to impose their religious beliefs on the public institutions and people whom they represent.''

She said her attack was a preamble to remarks she made about Mr. Day's opposition, while serving in the Alberta government, to a RCMP policy that allowed Sikhs to wear turbans in uniform.

She said Mr. Day's position was ''disrespectful of an orthodox Sikh's right to pursue his personal religious observance.''

But Mr. Day apparently did not utter the quote, ''Jesus Christ is Lord and master of the universe,'' to which Ms. Fry took such offence. A Toronto newspaper columnist recently used the term in describing Mr. Day's faith.