Canada Signals Relentless Marginalization of Christians as “Second Class Citizens"

February 21, 2018
Source: District of the USA
Abp. Christian Lepine of Montreal greets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his wife Sophie on May 17. (Credit: CNS photo/Dario Ayala, Reuters.)

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party makes moves to only recognize as members of Canadian society those Christians who sweep their faith under the rug.

For Canadians, the Canada Summer Jobs program has been a bureaucratic afterthought, if it has even garnered any attention at all. Even for those who used the program, it was never seen as a political lightning rod. That changed in the past few months with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government announcing it would tie its funding to acceptance of “reproductive rights.”

Some Context on the Program  

The Canada Summer Jobs program has been a source of funding from the government to businesses—mostly smaller operations—that rely on seasonal labor. This offsets businesses’ losses due to hiring and training costs, and helps provide reliable employment for young adults and students.

Local MPs (members of parliament) have the authority to grant the funds, and as in every year, there is some competition among small businesses and nonprofits for the assistance. But the process was shaken up by reports of the government’s rule change regarding who can qualify for these federal grants. Under new rules, the applicant must check off a box stating that their organization and the specific job does not violate either 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.

Many faith-based groups, such as pro-life nonprofits and businesses that maintain Christian values, state that checking this box would be a violation of their religious values as well as their rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. In fact, several have filed suit against the government, stating that their application was denied after they filled out the form, leaving the box unchecked, and attaching a memo explaining their pro-life stance.

Historically, most who apply for the funds are “grandfathered in” for the following year, with their applications considered before new requests are granted. It is based on this historical data that the organizations in question have based their case against the government. While the local MP’s office did not explicitly reference religious views as the reason for the denial of funds, the fact that this is the first year many have not received the grant gives credence to claims of discrimination.

Why the Sudden Change?

Even under other Liberal Party governments and MPs, socially conservative and Christian groups have had a fighting chance to compete for the grant money. But eyebrows in the Liberal Party’s leadership were raised last spring, when a Liberal MP, Iqra Khalid, approved a grant in his district for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. This group uses stark images in its materials for outreach on the topic of abortion and its evils.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party had previously stated that everyone who runs as a Liberal would be required to vote in favor of abortion. With the publicity garnered by this “controversy” in April 2017, and the Prime Minister’s penchant for unapologetically shifting the country further to the left socially, the rule change fits the narrative of Canada’s changing tide.

Global News reports that the change is being contested from the Toronto Right to Life Association, which has filed suit:

[They are] asking for the decision to implement the attestation to be quashed, for an urgent interim injunction to stay the application of the attestation requirement, and for a prohibition from the court of any funding through the Canada Summer Jobs program being denied as a result of the attestation.

Not an Isolated Case

Last fall, the Quebec governing body passed a law (Bill 62) which requires all who receive public services to show their face. This was met with outrage by Muslims who wear headscarves. While not a matter directly affecting Christians, it is nevertheless a canary in the coal mine; a strong signal that the secular government is willing to pass laws that seem to violate the entrenched religious freedom statutes of the Canadian Charter at the expense of a forced “neutrality.”

In an interview with Crux, Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal said he feared both the example of Bill 62 and the Canadian Summer Jobs program are moving the country in the direction of relegating people of faith to “second-class citizens.”

It is a sign of diminishing freedom of religion and conscience. Some might say it’s not very much, but Pope Francis talks about 'polite persecution,' and it could possibly lead to that. I don’t think that is the intention of the law, but if neutrality of the state is used to exclude the public manifestation of certain religious beliefs, somehow, you are moving in the direction of creating second-class citizens.

Commentary

It is for this, and other reasons that most Society of Saint Pius X schools, priories, and churches shy away from government funding.  The strings that are attached to government assistance have either unknown origins or disappear in a web of bureaucratic confusion.

When on the rare occasion, funds are accepted, it is done so with utmost caution and a realization that at any point, they may need to be refused. This leaves traditional Catholics and many people of good faith in the sad position of being left out of assistance which is unjustly only available to those who are willing to give tacit approval to sin.