PromiseKeepers meet with protest
Senate and BOG race heats up
Haskett denies Christian agenda
Sweatshop mandate hits hurdle
UPD warns of sexual deviant
Sexual predator at York U still at-large
Haskett denies Christian agenda
By Chris Lackner
Despite protests and concern from community members, London Mayor Dianne Haskett took to the podium of a controversial Christian men's group convention this past weekend.
Haskett, who spoke at a convention held by the Christian men's group the PromiseKeepers last Friday night. The group has recently come under fire from various community groups who claim the men's group promotes sexist and homophobic views.
"I was truly scared to be your speaker tonight," Haskett said, addressing the crowd. "With such a large gathering and so much public attention, by media and even by protesters who feel women's equality is at risk if men take up their spiritual role in the home."
Haskett said she prayed for guidance and God told her to speak at the PromiseKeepers' convention. She said she could not have survived her past six years as Mayor without prayer and God's intervention.
Haskett said despite her critics, she has never had a Christian agenda she wanted to impose on London during her term as mayor. "I know that ByLaws and legislation can never change the hearts of men, women and children," she explained. "A community can only be transformed by a radical change in the hearts and minds of people."
Haskett said today's society lives in a post-Christian era, in which the family needs the Lord more than ever before. "Tonight we seek to strengthen family by focusing on the commitment each of us first must make to God."
During her speech at the convention, Haskett said she was speaking as an individual and not as the mayor of the city, yet she still drew criticism from around the community.
"I think it's always been clear that her personal is political," said Debbie Lee, Safe City Project Coordinator for the HALO Community Centre. "City Council and other community groups, have urged her to separate them, but she has refused to. It's been detrimental to the city as a whole."
Lee said it is difficult for Haskett to say she represented herself during her speech when the PromiseKeepers' convention advertisements focused on her position as mayor. "She makes a statement for the whole city, which is simply not represented in her views," Lee added.
She said many of Haskett's actions over her two terms as mayor have given London a reputation as a place of intolerance and added one example was Haskett's refusal to support a London-based gay pride weekend in 1995.
Ward 6 Councillor Megan Walker, also voiced her concern over Haskett's title of mayor being used on convention advertising.
"I have never supported the union of church and state," she said. "We have seen in this city how detrimental that can be. A politician should not mix his or her politics with their religious beliefs."
Walker said London has a diversity policy which celebrates all faiths, adding the city enjoys a complex religious and spiritual community. "I don't care what someone believes in, whether it be God or Goddess, but bringing it into politics risks alienating people. That is never good."
David Sweet, president of PromiseKeepers Canada, said Haskett was an example of someone who showed it was possible to follow a religious life and also be involved in politics. "It's not a campaign year [for Haskett]," he said. "It would be different if she was an active politician."
Michael Veenema, Western's Chaplain, said it is positive for a leader to express something that is very important to them. "There needs to be some limits as to how much a public figure should compromise their personal beliefs while in office," he said.