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Politician, teacher
1946-

Member of Canadian Parliament, 1993-2006

Background information

Carolyn Parrish is the member of parliament for Mississauga-Erindale, Ontario. She was a member of the Liberal Party of Canada until November of 2004 and now sits as an independent. This is the same Carolyn Parrish who was the subject of continental media attention after reporters heard her make comments about Americans in early 2003. She was a vocal critic of the U.S. government's policies regarding Iraq and missile defense -- comments about these issues (and criticisms of George W. Bush) led to the controversies that resulted in her removal from the Liberal caucus.

Parrish received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto's St. Michael's College in 1969. She earned a Bachelor of Education from the Ontario College of Education a year later, and spent most of her early career as a high school teacher. She was also involved with the school board aspect of education. She is married and has two daughters and a grandson.

Political beginnings

Parrish entered politics in 1993, when she was first elected to the House of Commons. She represented the riding of Mississauga West until riding boundaries were redrawn. She represented Mississauga Centre from 1997 until 2004 when the boundaries were redrawn again and the new riding of Mississauga-Erindale was created.

The new riding of Mississauga-Erindale consisted of sections from Parrish's riding (Mississauga Centre) and the riding of Mississauga West. Both Parrish and the Liberal incumbent from Mississauga West (Steve Mahoney) wanted to earn the right to run for federal parliament in the new riding. A fierce nomination battle ensued. Each side accused the other of unfair play (which reached its climax when Mahoney claimed that steps had been taken to prevent his wife -- a Mississauga city councillor -- from voting). Parrish won.

She has served on several House committees, including the Standing Committees on Health, Transport, and (most recently) Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics. She also chaired several sub-committees during Jean Chrétien's time as Prime Minister.

Despite controversial statements and the fact that many Canadians aren't fond of her style, Parrish defended her seat in the 2004 Canadian federal election. Her margin of victory over her closest competitor was over 12,000 votes.

Controversy

Carolyn Parrish has always been known as a reasonably vocal individual. Regardless, few predicted the controversy she started in the spring of 2003 when (while leaving a scrum in which she had been answering questions about her stance on American military involvement in Iraq) she casually mumbled "Damn Americans, I hate those bastards." She later admitted that she thought all recording equipment had been turned off at the time. Many Canadian dailies ran the story on their front pages. The incident made American news. Parrish eventually issued an apology in the House for her langauge, specifiying that she was upset with policies. She refused to back down from her anti-war stance, however, and Opposition MPs attempted to turn her into a poster child for anti-Americanism.

During the 2004 federal election campaign, the Conservative Party of Canada attempted to use several examples of so-called anti-Americanism against the Liberal Party. Her main competitor in Mississauga-Erindale (Bob Dechert) based his campaign largely on the fact that Parrish's remarks were (in his opinion) "inappropriate." Parrish was speaking to reporters after a rally in opposition to missile defense during the campaign. She referred to the U.S. and the countries that chose to participate in such an endeavour as a "coalition of idiots." She then asked the reporters not to use that quote, as "I've been in trouble before." Nonetheless, this story got out too.

The most controversial events in Parrish's career came after the 2004 US Presidential Election. Prime Minister Paul Martin (likely hoping to prevent any further divide between the two nations that Canada's unwillingness to participate in military action in Iraq may have caused) specifically asked Liberal MPs not to publicly share their feelings about the election results. Parrish was quoted in the newspaper days later, insisting that she was "dumbfounded" at George W. Bush's re-election. She went on to refer to him as a "war-like man." The Opposition demanded her resignation but she refused to resign. Martin publicly condemned her comments but said he wasn't going to fire her.

A promotional spot for CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes then surfaced, featuring Parrish and a 22 Minutes personality (this show is fake news, not an actual newscast) in Parrish's office. Mark Critch handed Parrish a George W. Bush action figure. She dropped it onto the floor, stepped on it, and grinned. This did not sit well with a lot of people, particularly Bush supporters and the Opposition, who demanded that Martin remove her from the Liberal caucus. It didn't happen. Parrish insisted that she was making fun of herself and the anti-American stigma that surrounded her, and not necessarily the U.S. administration.

A reporter from the Canadian Press interviewed Parrish about these latest incidents and the response it was getting from the public, the opposition, and members of her own party. She said she had "no loyalty to this team -- they can all go to hell." She accused Martin of not intervening during the nomination race for Mississauga-Erindale in order to make the process fair. She was fired from the Liberal caucus the next day. Opposition leader Stephen Harper said that Martin's action was long overdue and that he, in his opinion, only fired her because of her statements about him and the party.

Parrish also appeared on CNN after the incident. She defended her position in an interview with Wolf Blitzer and went head-to-head with Tucker Carlson, formerly of Crossfire.

Carolyn Parrish in today's parliament

Parrish is generally socially progressive. She prefers same-sex civil unions to marriages, believes that consumer privacy should be protected, and supports initiatives that would create more control over weapons.

Parrish's website now states that she sits as an independent because of "her criticism of the government's ever deepening pro-American stance." She is now literally a backbencher; she sits in the very last row on the government side of the House. Her removal from the Liberal caucus means that her riding loses some of its federal funding for research. She will run as an independent in the next election. Her website offers a great deal of information about her stance on several issues, and includes the transcript from the infamous CNN interview in which Tucker Carlson tried to convince her that "the average Canadian is busy dog sledding."

She also encourages her constituents to become involved in the democratic process by providing contact information for other ministers and suggesting that they write to them to express whatever concerns they may have. Whether or not Parrish will survive an election as an independent remains to be seen, though the margin of victory in the 2004 election indicates that she might still have a shot. Some suggest that she was elected (despite the controversies) because of her political affiliation and that the most recent incidents and her lack of a party will be enough to hand the riding over to someone else.

Parrish indicated in 2005 that she may return to the Liberal Party. She didn't, however, and opted not to run in the 2006 federal election. She ran for Mississauga city council in 2006 and remains a councillor to this day.


Resource:
Carolyn Parrish, MP - http://www.carolynparrish.parl.gc.ca/index.htm 19 January 2004
Federal Political Experience - PARRISH, CAROLYN http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/key/bio.asp?lang=E&query=223&s=F 19 January 2004
All quotes are taken from Canadian Press stories. She's also my member of parliament, so coverage here is also extremely in-depth.

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