I must confess that when I found out about the Canada Summer Jobs program adding an attestation to their application to exclude pro-life groups from getting funding, I did not think anything could be done about it. I complained on Facebook and signed Campaign Life Coalition’s petition, but just accepted that this would be yet another way that the Liberals were going to keep pushing us pro-lifers down. I did not expect the backlash that the attestation would receive.
Ontario’s bubble zone law had been passed without incidence. Our civil liberties were violated, our right to protest in public at the site subject to our protest legally revoked. Last month, a man was arrested whilst wearing a sign reading, “Freedom of Expression and Religion, No Censorship,” within the bubble zone surrounding Ottawa’s Morgentaler Clinic. Do we live in Communist China? And yet still … crickets.
So, if a “kerfuffle” was not going to be made over taking away basic freedoms such as freedom of religion and freedom of assembly, I had figured, why would a kerfuffle be made over the denial of a government benefit? Well, I could facetiously answer that people like their government grants more than their rights, which, sadly, may be a little bit true, but I think the discrepancy can be attributed to two main reasons.
First, while I definitely considered the attestation an act of discrimination against pro-lifers, I neglected to appreciate the precedent being set, that is, the government choosing to bestow privileges only on those who share its ideology. The threat of withholding these privileges does coerce belief, which the government should not be in the business of doing. As has been pointed out in the discussion over this issue, the government may be able to enforce compliance to a law, but it should never force agreement to a law.
The second reason I think religious organizations and other employers made a bigger deal out of the change to the Canada Summer Jobs program application than out of the bubble zone law is because the attestation directly affected these groups. Essentially, they were being asked, point-blank, if they supported abortion. “Why would we be asked that?” I am sure many wondered. Justin Trudeau and company did not anticipate that this would be the issue over which Canadians grew a conscience. They had been able to get away with so much – banning pro-lifers from running for the Liberal party, sending millions of dollars to fund abortion overseas, bullying Rachael Harder out of chairing the Status of Women Committee – and, in Ontario their provincial cousins curtailed the free speech of pro-lifers and denied conscience rights to health care providers. Maybe these religious groups are not willing to pledge allegiance to “reproductive rights,” but their past behaviour, namely their silence, gave the Liberals no reason to believe they wouldn’t.
So, the Liberals hurried to reassure these groups not to worry, the government did not mean them, it was just trying to get rid of actual pro-life groups. To their credit, many religious groups have remained opposed to the attestation and have refused to attest to something they do not believe. Still, media coverage, including interviews with several of these religious groups, seemed to suggest that if the attestation was made more explicit so as to solely target pro-life groups like Campaign Life Coalition and the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, then there wouldn’t be a problem with it. The detriment to soup kitchens, summer camps, and refugee programs was bemoaned, but not the detriment to pro-life activity.
And that, my friends, is the entire problem. The denial of funding to pro-life groups like CCBR or CLC was never controversial. The trouble for many Canadians was that the attestation was overbroad, and affected groups it was not intended to affect. Religious groups were not up in arms about bubble zones, because it was not their free speech being taken away.
Please continue to oppose the attestation, but oppose it for the right reasons because no group should be punished for holding a position contrary to that of the government. And please, let no future politician ever think that you would so casually sign your support for abortion, by showing them that you do not support abortion. As Matthew 7:16 says, “You will know them by their fruits.” My suggestion Ontarians is to make Bill 163, the bill that pushed sidewalk counsellors and other pro-life activists away from those most in need of our message, an election issue.