Silver Lining in the Harper Overcast

There’s a story behind the story.

There’s a buzz in the air with same-sex marriage, on a justice department’s ruling on an attempt for two women, married in Canada, to get divorced. The law stated that for a divorce to occur, the couple needed to have lived in Canada for a year. The couple declined that option, and contested the ruling. At this point, the lawyer suggested an alternative; their wedding was never valid because their home nations (the U.K. and the U.S. respectively) don’t recognize same-sex marriage, and they never lived long enough in Canada to be citizens.

(I wonder if this alternative was suggested as a well-meaning attempt to give them what they wanted; out of the marriage.)

When the couple’s lawyer, Martha McCarthy, brought this to the attention of the media(1),  a new story was formed, that of Stephen Harper’s government trying to sneak in ways of preventing same-sex marriage. This took the web by storm. Almost as quickly, the facts came out, that this ruling wasn’t sourced from the current Government, but from the department of Justice. Harper had no idea the case had occurred until it came into the news, often being shared by those who are the staunchest critics of the current government. (I’d count myself in this group.)

This narrative, when it’s laid out, looks like a story about bureaucratic mismanagement, and an accidental spread of misinformation or blame by those inclined to believe it. In fact, in a networked culture, it is disturbingly easy for the wrong story, told well, to travel much faster than the truth. (2)

Behind all of this, though, is another story: we are so suspicious of our national leader, that we are willing to attribute stories like this to him immediately. A significant portion of our country distrusts our leader. That’s the story underneath the mistaken assumptions and clarifications of legal points.

It’s not like his past hasn’t given us reason to be suspicious; his attempt to loosen the chains on private sponsorship of campaign funding is hard to see as anything but an attempt to gain a monetary advantage over parties like the NDP, the Green Party, and even the Liberals, who are generally less likely to cozy up to big business and their interests. He helped form a coalition against the Liberal party to bring it down, and then called a similar coalition against him a “gathering of losers” (3).

This lack of trust is being felt by the Harper government. (4) A day after the story broke, and spread across the nation, the institution replied and addressed the concern. For a government as bureaucratic as Canada’s, that’s an impressive reaction time, and shows they’re worried.

I’m no fan of the current government, and though this story ended up not adding to the evidence of repression, corruption and brazen lack of regard for the common good, we were willing to believe that it would. And that climate is bad for this Prime Minister. Which is a silver lining for those of us who only see overcast skies since the last election.


(2) When Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces, social media began spreading a quote attributed to Martin Luther King about not celebrating death in any form… M.L.K had never said it, but it seemed like he had. A good (and seemingly likely) story travels faster than truth.


(4) The first time a leading party has named itself after the leader…


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