Kenney speechwriter said homosexuality is 'socially destructive' and called First Nation an oppressive regime
Government spokesperson said Paul Bunner's views have evolved over time
Further writings by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's speechwriter came to light Friday, columns stating that homosexuality was "individually and socially destructive" and characterizing an Alberta First Nation as an "oppressive, collectivist regime."
Calls by the Opposition NDP for the firing of Paul Bunner were resisted by Kenney on Thursday after a column from 2013 resurfaced wherein Bunner dismissed the "bogus genocide story" of Canada's residential school system and said Indigenous youth could be "ripe recruits" for violent insurgencies.
- Kenney speechwriter called residential schools a 'bogus genocide story'
- Kenney resists calls to fire speechwriter who said residential schools were a 'bogus genocide story'
Multiple other columns and articles written by Bunner, shared with media by Alberta's NDP, span a period starting in the late 1990s up until 2016.
Kenney hired Bunner in early 2019. Bunner worked as a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper from 2006 to 2009.
Harrison Fleming, a spokesperson with the premier's office, said the overwhelming majority of the articles released by the NDP were decades-old.
"As I am sure you can appreciate, societal norms have changed greatly over time. For example, NDP 'saint' Tommy Douglas previously called homosexuality a 'mental illness,'" Fleming said in an email to CBC News. "People's views have evolved over decades — and that includes Mr. Bunner."
Fleming said the matters addressed in the columns "have long since been settled law."
During a news conference held Friday, NDP Children's Services critic Rakhi Pancholi called for Kenney to fire Bunner and issue a public apology.
"Today, we know that Mr. Bunner has a long record of writing racist, sexist, Islamophobic and homophobic articles," Pancholi said. "The sheer volume of prejudice he has published over the years is stunning."
In a column posted in the conservative weekly newsmagazine Alberta Report in August 1997, Bunner wrote that "AIDS gets more ink than it deserves" and in a subsequent editor's note attempts to pre-empt incoming criticism for a cover story.
"The story is an attempt to figure out why [Ralph Klein's] government seems bent on delivering wards of the state to homosexual households, to summarize the arguments against gay parenting, and to search for some backbone in the ostensible social conservatives in the Tory cabinet and caucus," Bunner wrote on Aug. 11, 1997.
That same year, Bunner wrote that a columnist was correct in his assessment that "100,000 abortions a year in Canada is a social tragedy, that homosexuality is individually and socially destructive."
In 1998, Bunner wrote an editor's note reflecting on criticism the Alberta Report received for a 1993 cover story with the headline "Can gays be cured?"
According to Bunner, that cover story provoked a flood of critical letters and phone calls, while others launched a campaign against Alberta Report's advertisers to boycott the publication.
"The piece placed us about as far out on the 'cutting edge' of journalism as you can get," Bunner writes.
Citing a Newsweek story published in 1998 titled "Can gays convert?", Bunner appeared to celebrate the piece, writing, "If Newsweek is taking our angles, are we becoming mainstream?" and pondering whether then-premier Ralph Klein will notice a "golden opportunity for a thorough debate" on the future of homosexuality in the province.
"When [Klein] notices that the Republican party in the United States is standing firmer against the radical gay agenda than it has for years, and that an increasing number of bright, articulate homosexuals are either abandoning the lifestyle or urging their perpetually angry, dangerously hedonistic friends to tone down the political rhetoric and show a little sexual restraint," Bunner writes, "perhaps Mr. Klein will let voters in on a discussion that for too long has been dominated by lobbyists, academics and journalists, human rights tribunals and the courts."
Pam Rocker is the director of Affirming Connections in Calgary, a group that supports inclusive ministries and faith organizations.
Rocker said Bunner's comments were unsettling given his position in the government.
"It's extremely unsettling to know that somebody who is planning what our leader is saying and talking about, and how it's being talked about, [is] somebody who has this history," Rocker said.
On First Nations
In September of 1997, Bunner wrote about the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, writing about a provincial judge's "bold call" for an investigation into the "scandalous political goings-on" at the reserve.
Citing what Bunner refers to as "unsolicited calls" from members of the First Nation and from information provided by "dissidents," Bunner criticizes the First Nation and its leaders.
"A community of people who are willing to give up their personal freedom to an oppressive, collectivist regime is a pretty sorry excuse for a culture. Moreover, it is a perfect recipe for real genocide," he writes.
Two years later, writing about the same First Nation, Bunner refers to its leaders as "corrupt despots" who "keep their subjects ignorant, sickly and poor in order to control them."
Cora Voyageur, a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and professor specializing in Indigenous sociology at the University of Calgary, said Bunner's articles revealed a mean-spirited and unhelpful point of view.
"I think that Paul Bunner should be let go. Because what I've read in the various articles that he's authored, there's a trend there," Voyageur said. "And it doesn't necessarily show Indigenous people in a good light."
On gender roles and feminism
In 1998, writing about the Eaton's department store chain in Alberta Report, Bunner laments recent changes to the store's marketing and corporate image.
"Post-makeover, the new Eaton's men are either light-in-their loafers aesthetes, pathetic cuckolds or stay-at-home choreboys," Bunner writes.
"The women are executive ice queens or wanton nymphs, universally young, sexy, skinny, tough and liberated from the stifling roles of mother and wife. There is no doubt who's on top in the new Eaton's culture: estrogen rules."
That same year, Bunner expressed his doubts about the efficacy of attempting to recall childhood memories in the field of psychology, partly attributing such methods to feminist ideology.
"The hysteria surrounding child sexual abuse was swamping reason. And feminist ideologues were flooding into the counselling field, their barren hearts bent on overthrowing the patriarchy, whatever the cost," Bunner wrote.
Speaking Thursday and commenting specifically on Bunner's writings on residential schools, Kenney said that column did not reflect or change the policy of the government of Alberta.
- Inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women issues final report with sweeping calls for change
- Residential school survivors and their descendants show poorer health outcomes: survey
Kenney said his government had worked to solidify the relationship between the province and Indigenous communities, investing in projects like the Indigenous Opportunities Corporation.
Voyageur, a residential school survivor, said Bunner's writings were extremely unhelpful.
"I know what went on there. I saw it, I experienced it," Voyageur said.
"To have other people say this didn't ever happen, is … I don't even know what to think about it."
With files from Elise von Scheel