By Jonathon Van Maren
If someone had told me last year that Canadian editorial boards and media outlets right across the political spectrum and the country would be expressing nearly universal outrage at Justin Trudeau’s decision to insert an “abortion attestation” into the Canada Summer Jobs application, I wouldn’t have believed it. I don’t think he would have, either. For years, Trudeau and Canada’s abortion activists have insisted that the debate is over, and that all enlightened Canadians of good faith were okay with that, seeing as how they must all fans of abortion, too. In the minds of these abortion radicals, all good people supported abortion, and the few pro-life Canadians who did exist were fringe crazies.
Then, Trudeau decided to put his money where his mouth was to loud cheers from Canada’s handful of aging abortion activists–and found out suddenly that Sikhs, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and a plethora of other faith communities were actually quietly pro-life while they went about doing essential community work and providing charitable services. In fact, his decision may have forced large communities of Canadians who had more or less ignored the issue to become educated on what the Canadian status quo actually is—and the Canadian media, to his astonishment, has been firmly rebuking him and demanding that he respect the right of pro-life people to express their views without facing government discrimination ever since.
In fact, Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail this weekend took her criticism even further, noting that Trudeau and his elitist ilk cannot tolerate real diversity—and as a result, have been attempting to force Christians out of the public square for some time now:
People of traditional Christian faith and values are being relentlessly marginalized in the public square. Last fall, Conservative MP Rachael Harder was ousted as chair of the status of women committee because of her anti-abortion views. Mr. Trudeau has decreed that all Liberal MPs must vote pro-choice. Trinity Western, a private Christian liberal-arts university in B.C., is waging what looks like a losing battle to gain accreditation for graduates of its new law school, simply because it will require students to sign a pledge saying they won’t have sex outside of heterosexual marriage. Law societies across the country evidently fear that this stricture will turn the law students into raging homophobes and taint them for life. The latest assault on belief is the demand that faith-based hospitals, such as St. Mike’s in Toronto – renowned for its deeply felt ethos of caring and compassion – be made to provide medical assistance in dying, despite the fact that this requirement would strike at the heart of these institutions’ core Christian values…
We are getting very near the point where people with explicitly religious values will have no more role to play in mainstream society. As the brilliant writer Yuval Noah Harari observes, “God is dead – it’s just taking a while to get rid of the body.” The idea that people are obliged to order their lives and society according to the moral codes established by a higher power is regarded by the educated elites as nothing more than primitive superstition. In its place, we have created a new religion based on individualism and self-fulfillment – something that the Christian conservative writer Rod Dreher calls “an emotion-based spirituality of self-fulfillment.”
I am as lapsed a Christian as they come. But I have a lot of time for people such as Mr. Dreher, who argue that the new orthodoxy of secular individualism is no more tolerant of difference than any other faith. We just don’t see it – because, like all true believers, we believe that people who don’t agree with us suffer from disordered thinking.
The law increasingly exists not to protect minority opinion but to impose majority opinion, Mr. Dreher has written. “Those institutions that hold to Christian orthodoxy are going to be increasingly isolated and stigmatized.”
That is why you will find Mr. Trudeau in mosques, temples, shrines and smudging ceremonies. But one place you won’t find him is in Pastor Jones’s or Ms. Redshaw’s church. Diversity is all very well – but only when it’s good for the brand.
Wente is precisely right. I noted back in October that Canada’s “progressive” politicians were increasingly attempting to distract from their economic failures by targeting Canadian Christians in order to create a scapegoat to demonize. That a secular Canadian journalist has utilized Trudeau’s most recent attempt to marginalize Canadians of faith to draw attention to the marginalization of Canadian Christians in general is another completely unexpected consequence of the ongoing “kerfuffle” over the Canada Summer Jobs Program.
But perhaps no editorial shocked me so much as that of the Ottawa Citizen, which followed on the heels of the National Post and the Globe and Mail in condemning Trudeau’s move: They actually compared Trudeau to Trump—unfavorably:
Canadians face a weird, looking-glass version of the shift taking place in the U.S.: a prime minister leveraging the abortion issue by stealth to make people sign on to his version of Canadian values.
Justin Trudeau’s government has changed the requirements for organizations seeking support from the Canada Summer Jobs grant program, which creates temporary employment for young people. In order to access funding, groups now must agree to respect women’s reproductive rights, including the right to abortion (spelled out in the guidance document with the application).
Faith groups that oppose abortions say they can’t meet this requirement. This, in turn, means some religious institutions won’t be hiring many young people this year.
Our editorial board is pro-choice, but opposing abortion isn’t illegal, and we believe that most of those who hold anti-abortion views sincerely seek a better world. Like capital punishment, or assisted dying, abortion is an issue about which intelligent people are often deeply divided. Political parties may have their own membership rules – the federal Liberals, for instance, require their candidates to support choice – but when governments dole out public money, they have no moral right to shut out taxpayers or organizations that do not endorse their values.
The change to the Canada Jobs Grant program was brought to light by the faith organizations affected, not by the government, some of whose members are now claiming the requirement doesn’t mean what the language says it means. How Kafkaesque.
Is it unfair to draw a Trudeau-Trump analogy on this issue? If the Trudeau government has overstepped, isn’t it only a minor transgression? No. Trump, in his bumptious fashion, at least acknowledges overtly that there are differing views; he wants his side to win. The Liberals acknowledge no divide; they assume – or act as if it’s axiomatic – that their values are everyone’s values. That’s insidious and dangerous.
The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, in response to all of this, is panicking and advising the government to revise the abortion attestation so that the backlash will perhaps die down a bit and only pro-life groups that do work on behalf of pre-born children will be targeted. Considering that ARCC’s executive director Joyce Arthur is a virulent atheist who has dedicated much time to mocking religion and religious people online over the years, this is obviously an attempt to mitigate a campaign that phenomenally backfired: Instead of a Canadian government affirming their misguided belief that abortion is somehow a Canadian value, the public is getting a good look at those who oppose Trudeau’s abortion agenda—including many charities and community outreach organizations—and the media is informing the Trudeau government that abortion is a Liberal value, not a Canadian one. It is no exaggeration to say that this is precisely the opposite of the discussion Joyce Arthur and her handful of keyboard warriors actually wanted to be having.
To sum up: In just a couple of weeks, Canadians from nearly every faith community have stood up and refused to sign off on a pro-abortion statement, the Canadian media has defended the right of pro-life Canadians to express their views in the public square, there has been much pushback to the idea that abortion is a “Canadian value,” and tens of thousands of Canadians have been educated on the abortion status quo and why abortion is not a “Charter right.”
Perhaps Trudeau and Ms. Arthur may have overreached.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.