One of the differences between a free society and a repressive regime is the right to remain silent. In the 20th century – the darkest in human history – Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and other tyrants required citizens to display their support for the regime or its ideology. In contrast, a free country does not compel its citizens to express their support for an opinion, ideology, idea, or set of values. In a free society, even the Constitution itself can be criticized ruthlessly. Freedom of expression includes the right to say that freedom of expression, and other constitutional rights, are a bad thing.
In medieval England, King Henry VIII passed a law requiring all to declare their support for him (and not the pope) as the head of the Church in England. Thomas More had his head chopped off in 1535, merely for remaining silent and for refusing to say that the King was the Supreme Head of the Church of England. So insecure and thin-skinned was Henry VIII, that he could not stand Thomas More’s silence.
And so it is with Justin Trudeau, and his belief that abortion should be legal during all nine months of pregnancy. For our post-modernist Prime Minister, the silence of Canadians on the subject of abortion is not good enough. Like Henry VIII, Trudeau needs to hear his people say that they agree with him.
Hence the new “attestation” required for the Canada Summer Jobs program, which provides federal government grants to non-profits and to businesses, to hire summer students. This program was designed to create jobs for students, and also provide support for homeless shelters, soup kitchens, kids’ summer camps, and other charities which help the vulnerable and the needy. Starting this year, charities must explicitly state that they support abortion being legal, if they wish to access a grant.
Trudeau’s government also requires charities to state that abortion is a Charter right, in spite of the fact that Parliament can legislate to protect unborn life. In 1988, the Supreme Court in R. v. Morgentaler invited Parliament to pass new legislation to provide at least some protection to the unborn, particularly during the latter stages of pregnancy. Parliament did not and has not done so.
Thanks to the “attestation,” charities like the Mustard Seed, which helps tens of thousands of Alberta’s poor, homeless, and addicted, will hire fewer students. Its CEO, Stephen Wile, stated: “The Mustard Seed doesn’t take a position on abortion, but with the government making this a requirement for funding, it’s trying to force us from a neutral position to an affirmative position on abortion, and we’re not prepared to do that … We’re not willing to support the government’s position in order to get the funds; it’s just not worth it for us.”
In response to a public outcry, Trudeau and his Labour Minister Patricia Hajdu declared that their new attestation only applies to pro-life groups, not to charities who might happen to adhere to pro-life beliefs. As Trudeau put it: “Of course, you’re more than allowed to have whatever beliefs you like.” As Hajdu explained: “This is about the activities of the organization and the job description … This is not about beliefs or values.”
These assurances have now proven to be utterly false.
Since the Feb. 9, 2018 deadline for applying for Canada Summer Jobs funding, numerous charities have been told, in writing, that they will not receive funding unless they check off the “I attest” box on the application, to confirm their support for abortion as a Charter right.
Losing several thousand dollars of government funding is nothing compared to losing your head. But the underlying issue of government-compelled speech should not be dismissed lightly.
All Canadians should be concerned about compelled speech and ideological coercion, which are the antithesis of a free society. Put simply, free citizens should never have to express agreement with a particular opinion or ideology in order to share equally in the benefits of citizenship, including the right to access a government program or service.
How is this Canada Summer Jobs attestation different from requiring seniors to agree with Trudeau’s beliefs in order to receive their pension cheques? If some seniors spend their days doing volunteer work for pro-life groups, should their pension benefits be cut off, for disagreeing with the Prime Minister?
If Trudeau can get away with this, what stops a future prime minister from compelling Canadians to express support for his or her beliefs, as a condition of accessing a government program or benefit?