Trudeau’s Arabian Nightmare

I was even more right-wing in 2001 than I am now, and even then I knew wearing blackface was horribly racist. (I still remembered the very special “Gimme a Break!” episode about it from when I was a kid.) Our woke Prime Minister, on the other hand, had no idea.

To be fair, he was just a callow youth of (checks notes) 29 years old.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident.

The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher.

[…]

Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, following TIME’s publication of the photo, Trudeau apologized: “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.” When asked if he thought the photograph was racist, he said, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.”

Trudeau said he wore “makeup” in high school to sing “Day-O,” a Jamaican folk song famously performed by African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. “I deeply regret that I did that,” he said.

The temptation to hold Trudeau to his own side’s extremely woke standards, and demand that his political career come to an end over this, is overwhelming. And yet, I think the better course of action for Andrew Scheer (who hasn’t weighed in yet, as of this posting) would be to take the high road.

Scheer didn’t step aside after his own 2005 comments attacking same-sex marriage came to light, and he should say Trudeau doesn’t deserve to lose his job over this. His policies and performance in office, sure, but not something stupid he did 18 years ago.

Conservatives should hold to the principle that people shouldn’t be judged, cancelled and denied a chance at redemption because of one mistake, and let the voters think about whether Liberals would do the same. Frankly, seeing Trudeau’s supporters make excuses for this is far more devastating than anything Scheer could say about it.

If everyone with skeletons in their closet was forced out of politics, we’d have no politicians left.

But there would be bad things about that, too.

Values test tested

When the owners of an Alberta irrigation company applied for grant money from the federal government’s summer-jobs program, they refused to sign the “attestation” that their “core mandate” was to ensure that Charter rights are protected.

Wish makes sense, considering that the “core mandate” of an irrigation company would be to, you know, irrigate things.

Anyway, their application was denied, and now they’re taking legal action:

The applicants, Rhea Lynne Anderson and William Anderson, are a married couple residing near Brooks, Alberta. The Andersons are the sole owners of A-1 Irrigation & Technical Services (“A-1”), which offers ecologically responsible irrigation services to local farming operations.

Believing that they could provide a quality summer job to a qualified student, the Andersons submitted a CSJ application on January 24, 2018. However, the Andersons submitted their 2018 CSJ application without checking the “I attest” box, because they object to being compelled to express their agreement and respect for ideological positions as required by the new attestation requirement, which reads:

Both the job and my organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, and 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 or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

The federal government has defined “respecting” “reproductive rights” as including “the right to access safe and legal abortions”. The 2018 CSJ Application Guide states that the federal government “recognizes” that “the right to access safe and legal abortions” is protected by the Charter and human rights legislation.

[…]

On February 10, 2018, the Andersons responded to Service Canada, indicating that they would not be checking the “I attest” box because they viewed it as unconstitutional for the Government “to require a specific prescription of personal beliefs” to qualify for participation in a government program.

The court application seeks a declaration that the new attestation requirement violates section Charter 2(a) and 2(b) freedoms of conscience and expression. The new attestation requirement also breaches the duty of state neutrality, because it compels the Andersons to profess their agreement with, and ostensibly adopt, specific beliefs and values in order to qualify for a government benefit to which they would otherwise be entitled.

The court application further seeks a declaration that the new attestation requirement violates section 32 of the Charter by compelling private entities to assume the legal obligations of the Charter that only the government is required to honour.

The Andersons also seek a declaration that the new attestation requirement is ultra vires the authority of the federal government, and a court order to strike the new attestation requirement and to approve their CSJ application.

The “attestation” was ostensibly required because anti-abortion organizations received funding in the past. And if the Trudeau government had simply required applicants to confirm that they wouldn’t use grant money to agitate against abortion or same-sex marriage, they’d probably be on steadier legal ground.

That they instead decided to make applicants pledge fealty to Liberal party policy is no accident. This is exactly the kind of “wedge issue” politics that Conservative governments are constantly accused of playing.

I’ll admit, I’m kind of looking forward to this policy being struck down for violating the Charter, and seeing Liberal partisans respond by arguing that we have to violate the Charter in order to save it.