"Give us the money, but not your rules"

Posted 2.8.18

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Now that the application period for Canada Summer Jobs Grant has been extended an extra week, to February 9, it's worth considering what is behind the brouhaha over the rule that all applicants agree that the funds won't be used to violate federal law, specifically the law giving women the right to seek help in ending an unwanted pregnancy (my non-legalistic terms).

Isn't it legit to ask that no public money be used in any way to violate federal law? However, it is also understandable that the wording of this requirement should not appear to force religious organizations to support women's abortion rights. Is this merely a matter of interpretation, with religious hard-liners insisting that any commitment on their part to respect a code that includes abortion rights is, somehow, a curtailment of their freedom to oppose laws they consider immoral?

The feds seem sensitive; they claim the application does not commit organizations to change any ideological/theological policies. The applicant and the project to be funded must "respect individual human rights in Canada including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, color, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression". Hard to imagine churches objecting to this, isn't it?

Yet the august Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated, "This new policy conflicts directly with the right to freedom of religion and conscience which are also enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

But look at the implications. Does the Conference of Bishops (all unmarried males) really believe that any appeal to "freedom of religion" trumps federal law? Where and when did we agree that our charters and legal heritage are subservient to religious beliefs?

Do the bishops really believe all religious beliefs are superior to civil law? Remember the uproar over "Sharia law" here a year or so ago? Are the bishops opening the door to extremist Muslims imposing Sharia Law on their Canadian followers? What about more extreme sects and cults and their beliefs? Should the Inquisition be considered acceptable in history because it was based on religious beliefs?

Surely, in 2018, we have evolved past self-serving attitudes like these.

And if church groups do close their summer camps and other helpful projects, that's egg on their face, not on the federal government for insisting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms be the primary law of the land. Pontiac/Aylmer's MP Will Amos is correct: the jobs program cannot be used (in any way) to undermine the rights of all Canadians.

Finally, despite today's claims, the history of the Catholic Church in particular (my own upbringing) is embarrassing: the official Church has supported virtually every non-leftist dictator from Franco to Pinochet, and the inhuman measures they took to seize and hold power. Does the Church have any right to lecture Canada on respecting human rights?


Copyright © 2018 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/2.18