Recently the Government of Canada included on its summer student funding program a check box that asks whether the business (non-profit/agency/charity/etc.) applying for federal tax funding complies with Canadian law. Normally, that’s not a problem. Normally, if you apply for federal funding, you’re all, hells yes we comply with federal laws. It’s exceedingly rare for a business that’s all “fack no; I don’t even comply with traffic laws!” to receive support for any of their operations, much less to fund a summer student. But this year. This year it’s different.
It’s different because the specific law in question is the one where Canadians have reproductive rights enshrined in law. That’s just a fancy way of saying Canadians have the right to request and access abortion, among other forms of reproductive control. In Canada, if you don’t want a baby, you don’t have to be forced by federal law to have one, regardless of why or how you find yourself pregnant. This year’s applications for federal funding require applicants to attest their core mandate support reproductive rights, specifically the right to access legal and safe abortion.
I’m not going to get into the abortion debate because that actually isn’t what this is about.
Not only did a talk radio blowhard write a column in the daily papers in which they completely missed the entire point, but then promoted a line of discussion that goes so far off into left field, it’s out there picking dandelions and chasing dragonflies while the rest of the game is in full swing. The talk radio blowhard (and, to be fair, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon) have decided this isn’t something as simple as requiring applicants to comply with Canadian law, but that it’s a free speech issue.
Look, it’s not a free speech issue. It’s not a freedom of religion issue. It’s a ‘where do Canadians’ tax dollars go’ issue. Nobody is telling you you can’t believe in Jeebus. Nobody is telling you you can’t have ethical and moral objections to abortion. Nobody, in fact, is even telling you you can’t tell OTHER people to believe contraception and abortion are wrong. Nobody actually gives a shit what you think about abortion and contraception or what you say about it.
The only thing this addresses is whether the BUSINESS (yes, churches are businesses. They’re charitable, non-profit businesses, but they’re businesses nonetheless) applying for *federal funding* has a mandate which respects human rights as presented in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In fact, here’s the actual requirement:
Indicate your organization’s mandate and also provide a summary of its main activities. The core mandate of your organization must respect individual human rights in Canada, including 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, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.
On the application itself, you have to check a box that says yes, our mandate respects human rights, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why the hell should the federal government provide financial support to any business that DOESN’T respect human rights? Even when the dirty pinko snowflake social justice warrior liberals weren’t in power, you still had to comply with federal laws and charters in order to receive federal funding. If your business, Bishop of Saskatoon, ticked that box in previous years, either you were lying then or you’re just beating the bushes now trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.
The only thing that’s changed is that the Government of Canada has mentioned that reproductive rights are indeed human rights.
Look, nobody’s asking you to tell people that abortion is right. The government is, however, asking you to confirm that your corporation’s mandate respects the Canadian Charter and laws. They’re saying that IF YOU WANT FEDERAL MONEY, you have to follow certain guidelines. It’s not a freedom of religion thing. The Government of Canada is not telling you you can’t worship, you can’t give your money, you can’t pray, you can’t believe whatever the hell your Bishops tell you to believe. Nobody’s preventing the church from operating. Nobody’s preventing the church from spreading its message. Nobody’s stopping the church from the stupid dignity of life argument that completely ignores the dignity of life.
The government is simply saying that if your corporate mandate does not support the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including reproductive rights (and a shitload of others), you’re probably not eligible for federal funding. That’s normal.
In FACT, if you look at it, the Catholic Church itself refuses to provide services to people who don’t align their own beliefs with the Church’s ALL THE TIME. If you commit suicide, you can’t get a cemetery plot in the Catholic boneyard. If you’re divorced, you can’t get married again in the Catholic church. If you’re Christian (but not Roman Catholic), you can’t take Communion in the Catholic Church. If you’re a priest, you can’t participate in the sacrament of marriage. If you’re a woman, you can’t participate in the sacrament of holy orders. So this mandate thing SHOULD BE REALLY BLOODY FAMILIAR TO YOU.
The Bishop of Saskatoon (and his mouthpiece the talk radio blowhard) claim that this requirement from the Government of Canada amounts to “coercion”. He encourages Catholics to “contact elected officials to express opposition to such a requirement, which conflicts directly with the right to freedom of religion and conscience (as guaranteed in Section 2 (a) (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.)”. I mean, this is laughable at this point.
Section 2 (a)(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
And this requirement for federal funding does not violate or contradict those terms. You’re more than welcome, Catholics, to your conscience and religion. You’re completely welcome to your thought, belief, opinion, expression, and communication. Go hard. The ONLY thing this requirement does is ensure that the businesses and corporations receiving taxpayers’ money align with the ENTIRE Charter (not just section 2 (a)(b)).
The Bishop counsels Catholic businesses applying for this program to “leave that section blank” and perhaps add a letter explaining your position. I think this is a GREAT idea. That will make it much easier for the assessors to weed out the applications that simply don’t meet criteria. Your mandate doesn’t adhere to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? What makes you think you DESERVE funding from the country whose laws you don’t believe in?
If it’s important to you, Catholics, to have summer students, I’m sure you’ll be willing to pony up your own private donations in order for your church to hire summer students. I’m also sure that other Catholic-run businesses don’t want or need dirty federal funding, and have more than enough private support to hire summer students.
The Bishop of Saskatoon is giving bad advice, based on what appears to be a facile understanding of the actual Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and on what the mandate of the federal government of Canada actually is. The Government of Canada is not beholden to provide funding to organisations and businesses whose mandates do not align with Canadian law. Holy sense of entitlement, Bishop.
The advice you SHOULD be giving to Catholics is that religious groups, including churches, should no longer be the recipient of any government support, including tax relief. You should be telling your parishioners that in order to truly adhere to the Word and to the teachings of the Church fathers and God and Jesus, there must be separation of church and state. That the Church should have no business with the government, even when the Church benefits from things like Charters of Rights and Freedoms which enshrine your right to freedom of religion and conscience. You should be counselling Catholics to keep their religious beliefs to themselves and their religious community.
Here I’ll cite some support for this counsel: Mark 12:17 and Matthew 22:21. Romans 13:1-7; Matthew 6:1-34. The basic gist is “leave worldly things to the government and leave moral and spiritual matters to God”. THAT is what you should be counselling your parishioners to do.