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Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail

White harsh critic of justice, immigration systems
Conservative MP says opinions expressed in controversial interview are personal
By ROD MICKLEBURGH AND MARK HUME
Saturday, June 26, 2004 - Page A10
VANCOUVER and ABBOTSFORD, B.C. -- A blunt, political populist often likened to the farmer with a pitchfork in the famous painting American Gothic, Randy White is no stranger to controversy.

His outspoken advocacy of law and order, and harsh criticism of the country's justice and immigration systems rocketed him to prominence almost the moment he was first elected in 1993 to represent Langley-Abbotsford, a conservative, Bible-belt region in the heart of the Fraser Valley.

Now, with his no-holds-barred attack on the country's judges, and relish for having Parliament override court decisions on social issues such as gay rights and abortion, Mr. White, 56, finds himself in the hottest water of his political career.

With only days to go before Monday's vote, Liberals and the NDP have seized on the views of Mr. White, a senior Conservative caucus member and former justice critic, as evidence that a Conservative government would endanger minority rights protected by the Charter.

A transcript of Mr. White's frank remarks, made in a documentary interview just before the election was called, came to light Thursday.

"To heck with the courts, eh?" he told the interviewer. "I think most people are getting sick and tired of judges writing the laws to suit themselves."

Mr. White expressed worry that "some obscure judge out there saying 'I need to make a name for myself' " will throw out the traditional definition of marriage, upholding the right of same-sex couples to marry.

"The unfortunate part is that this is exactly how abortion came into this country," he said, vowing that the Conservatives, if they form government, will not be shy about using the constitutional notwithstanding clause to nullify court interpretations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"[And] not just for the definition of marriage," said Mr. White, currently a special adviser to Conservative Leader Stephen Harper on the non-medical use of drugs.

"We are not going to be legislated by judges in this country, nor should we be. . . . I think people have to start drawing lines on these judges and motions in the House of Commons. I'm just sick of all that."

Later in the interview, asked whether he would ever take part in a gay pride parade, Mr. White said: "Quite frankly, we don't have heterosexual parades, so why do we have gay pride days? I thought this was all about equality for everybody."

Late yesterday, after uncharacteristically dodging the news media all day, Mr. White issued a terse press release, saying his views are not those of the Conservative Party nor leader Stephen Harper.

"They are my own personal opinions."

Earlier, in his home riding, which he captured last election with 70 per cent of the vote, people expressed surprise and astonishment at Mr. White's views.

"Government has no business dealing with moral issues," said Linda Kutt, as she prepared to do some grocery shopping.

"I'm now leaning Liberal. At least they're staying out of the bedrooms."

Richard, another shopper, said he, too, might shift to the Liberals. "Let the Conservatives be in opposition for a few years. Right now, there are too many unknowns."

And a man sitting outside Chapleo's Coffee Bar who would not give his name said pointedly, "The government should stay the hell out of my bedroom."

During his tenure as an MP, Mr. White has been as much a doer as a talker. He regularly assists victims of crime and frequently attends parole and immigration board hearings where convicted criminals are seeking leniency.

The banjo-playing former accountant has also been in the forefront of the spirited community fight to halt a natural-gas-fired power plant from being built across the border in Sumas, Wash.

Nor has Mr. White avoided controversy within his own party. Reform Party founder Preston Manning bounced him as House leader for not showing sufficient allegiance to him.

Later, as a strong supporter of Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day, Mr. White lashed out at a group of MPs who bolted the caucus, labelling them "the sore losers society" and calling for their expulsion.

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