November 18, 2018

Made in Canada, eh? “Respect” and a Summer Jobs Program

This is somewhat old news, but a story that Internet Monk readers may find interesting. The government of Canada had a complaint they had to deal with: If they were as committed to women’s rights as they claimed, then why were they allowing grant money for summer jobs to go to funding graphic protests at abortion clinics?

Someone, somewhere, high up, decided that this just wouldn’t do, and so for the summer of 2018, an attestation clause was added to the form used by businesses, charities, and non-profits to apply for grants under the Canada Summer Jobs program (CSJ). An application could not proceed without checking the checkbox next to the attestation.

The attestation (and its subsequent clarification) read:

CSJ applicants will be required to attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate 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, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

The employer attestation for CSJ 2018 is consistent with individual human rights in Canada, Charter rights and case law, and the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.

The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies.

The government recognizes that everyone should have the right to live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose, free from discrimination. The government is committed to protecting the dignity, security, and rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.

The objective of the change is to prevent Government of Canada funding from flowing to organization whose mandates or projects may not respect individual human rights, the values underlying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and associated case law. This helps prevent youth (as young as 15 years of age) from being exposed to employment within organizations that may promote positions that are contrary to the values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and associated case law.

Here is a an extract of the response by a coalition of conservative religious groups:

Groups applying for 2018 funding were required to endorse an attestation by checking a box, indicating their affirmation of certain beliefs held by the current government, described by many as a “values test.” Such a values test contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the freedom of religion and conscience (2a), of thought, belief, opinion and expression (2b), as well as “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination”(15 [1]).

Signatories:
Mr. Bruce Clemenger, President
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Rabbi Chaim Strauchler
Rabbinical Council of America

Mr. Derek B.M. Ross, Executive Director & General Counsel
Christian Legal Fellowship

Rev. John Pellowe , Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Council of Christian Charities

Mrs. Margaret Ann Jacobs, National President
The Catholic Women’s League of Canada

Dr. M. Iqbal Nadvi, Chair
Canadian Council of Imams

His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Toronto
Representing: The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

What if found most interesting was that both left and right wing media condemned the attestation.

…the government has overreached on this issue. Instead of focusing on what summer-jobs money would pay young people to do, it has made an issue of what the organizations that apply for the funds believe. – The Toronto Star Editorial Board

It’s one thing to decide you will not directly fund organizations’ work conducting political advocacy on this issue. It’s another thing to say you won’t fund a group for, say, their soup kitchen work just because they’re not willing to attest to being pro-choice… The Liberals need to do the right thing and eliminate this prejudicial, mean-spirited provision for next year. – Toronto Sun Editorial

Thousands of student summer-job grants, along with a brand-new community-service program, have been rendered unavailable to organizations and people of faith, thanks to an obnoxious new Liberal values oath. This oath is not only offensive; on its face, it’s a clear violation of the very Charter rights that it claims to defend… The government should scrap the odious clause from the application forms where it has popped up, apologize to Canadians for violating their right to freedom of religion and come up with something that doesn’t place people in an intolerable moral conflict. – John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail

Despite all the criticism, the government refused to back down, and their “clarifications” that this was about actions, and not beliefs, did little to appease those who were opposed. They did however say the attestation would be revisited for next summer.

As a result of the attestation, many groups did not apply for funding. Of those who did apply, over 1500 groups were rejected for having “incomplete applications” (they did not check the box).

So here is my take on all of this.

I think the whole debate hinges on the word “respect” in the application. Respect can have quite different meanings. Consider two of the definitions of the verb in the Oxford dictionary.

1. Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
‘she was respected by everyone she worked with’

2.2 Agree to recognize and abide by (a legal requirement)
‘the crown and its ministers ought to respect the ordinary law’

When the above religious groups and editorials used phrases like “affirmation of certain beliefs”, it seems to me that they are interpreting the word respect in the first sense of the definition. The Liberal government, by their clarification that they are targeting actions, not belief, seem to be using the second sense of the definition.

In this second sense, if I say that I respect the speed limit, it means that I keep within it. It does not mean that I agree with it, or won’t campaign against it.

Because the Liberal didn’t out and out say that they meant respect in terms of the second sense of the word, I think that groups were rightly suspicious that what they really meant was the first sense of the word. Even if the Liberals had said “here is what we mean by respect”, I think that it would not have convinced many.

As for me, I think I would have held my nose and signed it, as I have done with many other questionable documents. If called on it, I would have simply said, “here is how I understand the meaning of the word respect in this context.”

How about you readers? Where have you stood, or would you stand, on this requirement? Is the government trying to compel belief, is this much ado about nothing, or does the answer lie somewhere inbetween? My mind is definitely open on this matter, and in fact I have changed my mind slightly in the writing of this post.

Comments

  1. john barry says:

    I must first post a disclaimer my knowledge of Canada is somewhat limited even though I use to watch Sgt. Preston of the Yukon on TV weekly and always have Canadian bacon on my egg McMuffin. I have been to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and visited Canada exhibit at EPCOT , several times. Oh , I almost forgot Gisele MacKenzie, the Canada songbird from my earliest memories.

    I do think this was pretty well summed up by the newspaper opinion pieces. I have a neighborhood friend from Canada , he is a snowbird which is not the official bird of Florida, that would be the Early Bird. He is a closet conservative and a lawyer in Canada. Many times he told me that the problems with the Canadian court system is the lack of conservative minded lawyers in Canada hence the predominate higher courts are by nature liberal as the pool of candidates is limited. Of course this are all using the Canadian scale of liberal and conservative.

    That is my 2 loons worth of advice.

    All I can say is ———-Oh Canada

  2. Christiane says:

    ANY attacks on the dignity of ‘the others’ by modern Pharisees is NOT the same as ‘religious freedom’, no.

    The word ‘attack’ is defined as any attempt at ‘shaming’, intimidating, debasing, ‘fill-in-the-blank’ (there are plenty of words for ‘pointing the finger’ so have at it.

    It looks like the government of Canada doesn’t want applicants to use the money in any way that would lead to an open public display of disrespect for those who are not of the same ‘beliefs’.

    Now, in our country we have no problem seeing Fred Phelps’ people as going ‘too far’ in what they do in their protests;
    but the truth is that there are PLENTY of religious groups that have no problem disparaging ‘the others’ in displays of disrespect that are ‘tolerated’ legally even though they ARE offensive to the ‘others’.

    Not so in the UK, which prevents anyone from openly ‘pointing the finger’ at ‘that other sinner’, so to speak. In the UK (and I guess in Canada) it looks like that kind of ‘finger-pointing’ is seen for what it is: harassment, and it is forbidden to treat people by publicly shaming them or trying to intimidate them, or trying to rally others against whoever is being targeted.

    I think Canada needs to work this out according to THEIR values as a NATION.

    Our country doesn’t have the same values. An awful lot of in-your-face disrespect passes as ‘religious freedom’ in the USA and it is intended to be hurtful because it is done publicly and the targets may not know they are in for it until they seek services. But NOW, the whole pattern of ‘religious freedom’ to disrespect someone has morphed into a civil disrespect such as the treatment of Sarah Sanders when she was refused service in a public restaurant.

    Time to sort out terms: civility, incivilty, respect, disrespect, religious freedom that does not create a need for relief from how it is applied to it’s targets . . . .

    isn’t one goal of a dialogue the clarifying of terms?

    Have our USA ‘religious freedom’ attacks on ‘the others’ been taken up by similar groups in Canada who now expect to be able to be as uncivil as we are in our country???

    I know what real ‘religious freedom’ is, and it’s not something that people need government protection from in order to be treated with civility and with respect.

    • Robert F says:

      In the U.S., religious liberties are often legally defended not specifically on the basis of religion, but on that of free speech. Since free speech itself is fundamentally defended on the basis of the right to express political opinions without government censorship, some of the same near absoluteness that exists around political free speech naturally attaches to religious free speech by association, since significant overlap exists between the two. I personally do not want to trade the right to free political or religious speech off for a less offense prone social environment. I could be mistaken, but I tend to think that way lay government restriction of all kinds of speech, some that I might agree with and some not, and ultimately tyranny. I prefer the traditional U.S. government hands-off approach regarding all forms of speech, even when offensive.

      • senecagriggs says:

        AGREED R/F

      • john barry says:

        Robert F, Well said and a good analysis.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I personally do not want to trade the right to free political or religious speech off for a less offense prone social environment.

        Commonly called “Tyranny of the Most Easily Offended”.
        In Christianese, “Tyranny of the Professional Weaker Brethren”.

        I could be mistaken, but I tend to think that way lay government restriction of all kinds of speech, some that I might agree with and some not, and ultimately tyranny.

        But if you’re the ones in POWER giving the orders, well…

        “I Got Mine,
        I Got Mine,
        The world’s the way it’s meant to be,
        I GOT MINE…

        I Got Mine,
        I Got Mine,
        I DON’T WANT A THING TO CHANGE
        NOW THAT I GOT MINE!”

      • Heather Angus says:

        I agree too, Robert.

    • john barry says:

      Christiane, Free speech lesson 101 is that the 1st Amendment is designed to protect speech that is unpopular, not in tune with the government policies, offensive to perhaps the majority and so forth. It is not designed to protect popular positions. Fred Phelps and his kind, on both left and right lose in the marketplace of ideas in America. What happened to Fred Phelps?

      What about the recent and many free speech statements about the 45th President of the USA? Is anyone calling for a curtailment of free speech, even FU Trump is ok on network TV. President Trump is certainly a good example of free speech as he shows no restraint in his public speeches especially at his rallies. They may be offensive, childish, boorish, not presidential and many things but the same rights that protect the FU Trump people protect Trump and the crazy nut preaching women who wear pants are going to hell or men who wear dresses, I am trying to be even handed and PC here.

      Of course Canada needs to work this out as an independent nation do not think that is the issue.

      As Robert F. summarize in his comments , free speech is free speech and all the qualifiers that I think Canada and many other countries put on free speech lead to what? As G.W., Bush reminded us , he is the decider, who is going to be the decider of what is acceptable.

      We all know the do not have the right to yell fire in theater ruling and that should be the extent of control of speech.

      Free Speech is under attack in the USA from all places in many higher places of learning, This does not bode well for the future. As much as I dislike it , burning the flag is a form of free speech as is wearing a MAGA hat at Whataburger. We in the USA are on the beginning of the slippery slope.,

      I will take America’s concept of free speech over any other country I know of .

      • Michael Bell says:

        Interesting summary John,

        We do have restrictions on speech in Canada. Section one in our charter of rights states that granted freedoms may be restricted “only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

        So, hate speech is illegal in Canada: We have exclusion zones around abortion clinics. In the province of Quebec Bill 101 passed in 1977 promotes the French language, and restricts the use of English.

        Finally, our charter of rights has a “notwithstanding” clause, that provinces can use to override the other parts of the charter.

        So although our right to free speech may look similar, it is is reality quite different.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Who defines what is “hate speech”?
          Whoever is in POWER, of course.

          “Some will say what we do is illegal. Before that can happen, make sure WE are the ones who define what is legal and what is not.”
          — L Ron Hubbard

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Someone is quoting L Ron Hubbard?!?!?! Oh, my!

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              It illustrates an attitude.

              • Rick Ro. says:

                Oh, I know, HUG. I was just kinda amused by the source of the quote.

                • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                  Here’s another one I came across long ago:

                  “I thought I had a most morbid imagination, as good as any man’s… but it appears I have not.”
                  — Aliester Crowley, commenting on the occult antics of Jack Parsons & L Ron Hubbard

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Well put regarding issues of free speech. Who wants the government deciding what we can say? That ugly camel’s nose is already peeking under the tent. What’s next, deciding what we can read, with whom we can associate, who we can marry?

      • Christiane says:

        Free Speech IS under attack in our country, yes.

        The press and the media are being maligned.

        The football players taking the knee during the National Anthem in stadiums are being maligned.

        Groups of American mothers who speak up in support of refugee mothers whose infants have been taken from their arms,
        are told ‘this is a political issue, and can’t we stop talking about it here’. (Political issue? A sobbing baby?)

        yes, I suspect it depends on whose oz is gored as to how we see things.

        But it’s great to be able to publicly disagree because, if things get much worse, we may be afraid to speak our minds openly . . . . some already are. . . . . . mainly ‘christians’ who don’t understand that God’s law of love impels us to take a stand for the helpless ones who have no voice when they are persecuted even in the political arena.

  3. Iain Lovejoy says:

    “This helps prevent youth (as young as 15 years of age) from being exposed to employment within organizations that may promote positions that are contrary to the values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and associated case law.”
    It’s this last sentence that’s the problem. The remainder may only prevent employment in positions where young people will be interfering with Charter rights (which include a right to abortion) or engaging in political lobbying, but this sentence indicates the express aim is to prevent young people from being employed in organisations that do not agree that abortion should be a right, and might (and not necessarily even do) say so.
    That being said, whatever the actual intention, if the bit in bold is the actual rider being required to be signed what it says is that the organisation won’t breach the Charter rights (the narrower meaning of “respect”) which would exclude only organisations that tried to forcibly prevent abortions or harass the people involved.
    I would say I can’t see anything wrong with signing the Charter even if opposed to abortion and indeed lobbying against it by peaceful, legal means, but given what the government were actually trying to do, very publicly stating that that was the basis for doing so, as a warning to the government they were sailing very close to the wind.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    This is “much ado about nothing”.

    However like much such ado a competent administrator should have seen it coming a mile away.

    You are correct that “respect” is a perilous term. Everyone with a pulse knows that Religious Conservatives are baffled by the concept of “recognize and abide”, their world view is inherently aggressive, they will never do such a thing. The only way to resolve this to everyone’s satisfaction, sadly, is to terminate the summer jobs program; as any text will be interpreted – and thus fail – within that that aggressive frame.. American politics has taught us that, nothing will satisfy the Religious Conservative.

    • rhymeswithplague says:

      IMHO, FWIW (not much), Adam, is that one could replace the words ‘Religious Conservative’ with the words ‘’Anti-Religious Liberal’ in your comment and it would be just as true.

      Readers, please be kind ( i.e., non-snarky) in your answers, if any, as I am 77 and not accustomed to being openly disrespected (which may be part of the problem).

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        Sure, I am fine with that – we just have a lot less of those “LIberal” groups around these parts, or they do not have the resources to actually file suits [they do have plenty of tediously exhausting BLOGs which dissect infinitum every word and action].

        The point is that there are disingenuous groups whom one aroused can never be sated; at some point one either (A) pack up and go home or (B) just walk away and let them steam. Whether option (B) is an option depends largely on how effectively they can fund-raise. Option (C) is to become trapped in the agony of an endlessly looping argument over the etymology of words.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Sure, I am fine with that – we just have a lot less of those “LIberal” groups around these parts, or they do not have the resources to actually file suits…

          We’ve got a LOT of them (with tort lawyers) around here.
          Want to take them off our hands?
          Sort of a “Loser Gets Bieber” arrangement?

    • senecagriggs says:

      “”Conservatives are baffled by the concept of “recognize and abide”,” –

      exhibiting your own lack of respect Adam – dryly.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        You misquoted me, it was “Religious Conservatives”.

        And yes, I disrespect their positions; I doubt they have an intellectual framework **capable** of existing peaceably in a diverse democratic society. And I am baffled by why they are troubled by my disrespect [if they genuinely are, which I doubt] as they have no desire, again, to exist peaceable alongside myself or my neighbors. Only dominance will satisfy them; they are the ones who say that, not me.

        • Michael Bell says:

          Actually he didn’t misquote you. 😀

          He was selectively quoting you. There is a difference. 😛

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “… a competent administrator should have seen it coming a mile away.”

      My thoughts exactly. My initial reaction was, “It takes an extremely incompetent bureaucrat to piss off liberals and conservatives alike!”

    • Christiane says:

      |You are correct that “respect” is a perilous term. Everyone with a pulse knows that Religious Conservatives are baffled by the concept of “recognize and abide”, their world view is inherently aggressive, they will never do such a thing.”

      ADAM, thank you for bringing this up.

      i think THIS may be at the core of the problem: the PRAXIS of ‘respect’ for those who are ‘not of our tribe’, based simply on the fact that they are human persons, made in the image of God, and possessing a human dignity on that basis alone, regardless of ‘circumstances’ that separate and divide and alienate people from one another.

      I have seen enough of something called ‘truth in love’ to know that it is neither.
      So I think it might be VERY productive to sit down and talk about what IS at the core of unconditional respect for any human person, just because they ARE human persons.
      We might find out that is the place at which we in the United States have departed from one another and some of us find ourselves saying things like ‘this is not America’ and ‘we are better than this’;
      while the rest of the world stands in confusion and wonders what-the-hey is taking over in the American psyche.

      Thanks, Adam

  5. Burro (Mule) says:

    There is something about the Canadian national character which seems to me preclusive of radical politics. Somebody was probably listening to too much American AM radio.

  6. john barry says:

    Burro, Great, you had me scratching my head until I followed the link. At least I will laugh once today, Thanks, I needed that .

  7. Michael Z says:

    The statement is pretty clearly saying that the grant is not available to any organization that actively discriminates against gay or trans folks or that blocks women from accessing contraception or abortion. And the fact that the “core mandate” of the organization has to be in line with those values really does sound like they’re targeting beliefs, and not just actions.

    Even as a progressive, pro-life, pro-choice Christian, I would oppose a law like this if the US had one. If they had just said that the grant cannot fund a position that involves hate speech against LGBT folks or active efforts to block access to abortions, I might be okay with that, but it would still feel like a legislative over-reach.

    • Michael Bell says:

      Can you expand on why you would oppose it?

      • Michael Z says:

        This is obviously a really fuzzy issue, with good arguments on both sides.

        I would oppose the statement, as written, because it seems to be saying that an organization’s core values have to align with the government’s in these particular areas. That, to me, does feel like they’re judging people based on their beliefs and not just their actions.

        To pick a concrete example, suppose there’s an evangelical summer camp that’s part of a denomination whose statement of faith supports the traditional view on gay marriage. Even if LGBT issues are seldom or never mentioned at that camp, with the law as it is written they probably wouldn’t feel they could apply for the grant.

        The real problem is an unfortunate interplay between the “core mandate” language and the theological knots that conservative Christians have tied themselves in on certain secondary moral issues. For example, plenty of conservatives would say that they could not change their stance on LGBT inclusion without “throwing the whole Bible out the window,” and therefore the traditionalist stance is as “core” to them as their stance on the inspiration of Scripture.

        The legislature probably meant “core mandate” to mean the primary objective of an organization, i.e. they would give funding to a church that happens to be anti-choice but not to an anti-choice activist group. But as it’s phrased, it’s inevitable that conservative organizations will feel that the law is saying their core values have to line up with the government’s – and the legislators should have realized it would be interpreted that way.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          I think I agree with you. Whether it is or isn’t, it “feels” like a law targeting certain beliefs rather than actions.

          • Michael Bell says:

            As I was writing my post last night, and reading various commentary on the issue, I ended up coming to the same conclusion, which was not my original conclusion.

            • Peter Wolfe says:

              Yea, I agree. That certainly was the attitude of the organization I work for in Canada.

  8. 1. Religious Conservative does not necessarily equal Political Conservative.

    2. Not respecting a person’s viewpoint does not mean one has to disrespect the person.

    I’m told that our local church has people of greatly varying political views, but we worship God together in peace and love Sunday after Sunday.

  9. Christiane says:

    |You are correct that “respect” is a perilous term. Everyone with a pulse knows that Religious Conservatives are baffled by the concept of “recognize and abide”, their world view is inherently aggressive, they will never do such a thing.”

    ADAM, thank you for bringing this up.

    i think THIS may be at the core of the problem: the PRAXIS of ‘respect’ for those who are ‘not of our tribe’, based simply on the fact that they are human persons, made in the image of God, and possessing a human dignity on that basis alone, regardless of ‘circumstances’ that separate and divide and alienate people from one another.

    I have seen enough of something called ‘truth in love’ to know that it is neither.
    So I think it might be VERY productive to sit down and talk about what IS at the core of unconditional respect for any human person, just because they ARE human persons.
    We might find out that is the place at which we in the United States have departed from one another and some of us find ourselves saying things like ‘this is not America’ and ‘we are better than this’;
    while the rest of the world stands in confusion and wonders what-the-hey is taking over in the American psyche.

    Thanks, Adam

  10. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    In the end though, it is about getting free federal dollars. But to get it, government can’t he seem as supporting one or the other religious POV. So either you present a neutral stance, ie, support the Charter, or you don’t get Federal dollars. You are not prohibited from airing your views. Just not on the taxpayer dime.

    What is so controversial about that? It is closer to the US first ammendment than many a Canadian law..

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      As an aside, I am also against federal and provincial tax dollars go to religious school divisions. As they do here in SK, mainly to the Catholic school division

  11. senecagriggs says:

    Canadian product I really enjoy – Bachman Turner with Paul Shaeffer on the ivories. SPECTACULAR

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybtl9qVFAjc

  12. It’s not at all uncommon to have to toe the government’s line if you want the government money. So I don’t have any sympathy for religious groups on this one. Take the money and act civilly toward all (and no, you don’t have to agree with them or change your beliefs to do this), or don’t and don’t.

    It’s disappointing to see Canada’s christians following the lead of American culture warrior christians in this regard, because it’s the kind of behavior that turns people away. When you have plenty of political clout and yet complain about nearly every government regulation that affects you or gives your group some imagined slight, it’s a little hard to take seriously.

    What christians should do is take this as an opportunity to show grace and love to all, including women and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Christ and in the human race.There is a longer and deeper history of wounds against them by the church than ever really is admitted to.