A Liberal bait-and-switch

Kelly McParland on the Trudeau government denying summer job grant money to organizations opposed to abortion:

The Liberals, in their determination to force their abortion views on those who may disagree, say organizations applying for grants to hire summer students must attest that their core mandate is in line with the government’s position on “reproductive rights.” They have to check off a box confirming their acquiescence, and can’t submit the application unless they do. In other words, any organization that has qualms about Canada’s lack of an abortion law, or the Trudeau government’s whole-hearted support for unfettered abortion at any stage of the birth process, need not apply.


Neither Trudeau or [employment minister Patty] Hajdu appear to understand that there is no wording in the Charter that offers a constitutional right to abortion. Nor is there anything in the law, since there is no abortion law in Canada. The Supreme Court’s 1988 ruling on abortion threw out the legislation that existed at the time, but left a vacuum in its wake, which no government has had the nerve to fill. Suggesting Canada has “hard won rights and freedoms” that protect the right to terminate unborn children is simply not true. What it has is a total lack of rules, and a public unwilling to confront the commotion that would surely arise from any effort to re-open the matter.

This allows people like Trudeau to pretend that Canada has undergone a fierce debate over the issue, and “pro-choice” emerged victorious. He seized on this falsehood in his remarks in Hamilton, in which he used the term “rights” three times to describe a situation in which no rights have been codified. Simply because pro-abortion organizations habitually refer to “a woman’s right to choose” doesn’t mean it exists; women in Canada have the ability to choose — simply because there is nothing to stop them — but that’s not the same as a right. In fact, the 1988 decision indicated that the mother’s rights should be balanced against the child’s. People and organizations can oppose abortion and still be respectable, law-abiding citizens. It’s not clear whether the Prime Minister understands this distinction, or prefers to ignore it in favour of a less honest approach.

What Trudeau’s government is doing is to treat Liberal policy and pro-choice dogma as equivalent to Charter protection. It reflects the innate Liberal conceit that party policy inherently reflects national opinion, that if Liberals believe something, it must be right and true.

The government says there’s a difference between organizations which just happen to oppose abortion, and those whose very reason for being is to oppose and protest it.  If they want to deny funding to the latter, I think the Trudeau government is perfectly within its rights to do so: there is no right to government money, and I don’t think a government is obligated to fund those whose very mandate is to oppose its policies.

In practice, however, the government is effectively making applicants swear allegiance to Liberal Party policy:

The new “attestation” on the grant application is aimed at anti-abortion groups who have received the federal grants in the past. It requires stating that your organization’s core mandate respects “reproductive rights,” along with other human rights, and the online application can’t be submitted unless the box is checked.

But hundreds of churches, charities, day camps and other religious organizations who hire students for summer programming are upset about the attestation, saying they feel like they’re being forced to sign a statement that goes against their beliefs.

“As a small Christian church that was planning to apply for the Canada Summer Jobs program to offer a summer internship, the recent changes have been quite a shock and disappointment,” said Brad Jones, the pastor at Woodgreen Presbyterian Church in Calgary.

If the form was designed by mistake, it should be easily fixed.  If it wasn’t designed by mistake, the government is saying one thing and doing another, and it’s at least as much of a “dog whistle” to its supporters about scary Christian right-wingers as anything the Harper government did regarding Muslims.

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