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Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.March 20, 2018
(Wikimedia/Marc Lostracci)

On Dec. 19, Canada’s Employment and Social Development Department announced a major change to its requirements for groups seeking federal funding under its Canada Summer Jobs program for youth employment. The program provides federal funding to entities—including small businesses and nonprofits such as charitable organizations—who hire students during the summer. The change has set off a firestorm in Canada that continues to this day.

Applicants for the grants must now affirm that “both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights,” including “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.”

According to the department, the inclusion of language on reproductive rights (including “the right to access safe and legal abortions”), sexual orientation and gender identity or expression is intended to “prevent youth (as young as 15 years of age) from being exposed to employment within organizations that may promote positions that are contrary to the values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and associated case law.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his advisors are misreading the Charter, which is supposed to protect citizens from being intimidated by the government. It is not intended to intimidate citizens.

Along with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jewish and Muslim leaders have expressed alarm at these changes to the summer jobs program. These faith communities in Canada consider sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and abortion as serious questions with ethical, moral, social and personal bearing. How we answer these questions determines our understanding of human dignity and the purpose and significance of human life. This new policy conflicts with the rights of these groups to freedom of religion and conscience.

The new requirement will have serious consequences: The services of many nonprofit organizations will be reduced; critical opportunities for young people to learn valuable work skills will be lost; even summer camps will close. These effects will be felt in faith communities across the nation. I am the chief executive officer of the Salt and Light Catholic Television Network in Canada, which has benefited in the past from these grants. We will also suffer the consequences of the loss of federal funding to employ young people this summer.

The Canadian government refers to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the basis for this new policy. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his advisors are misreading the Charter, which is supposed to protect citizens from being intimidated by the government. It is not intended to intimidate citizens.

Instead of focusing on what summer jobs money would pay young people to do, Mr. Trudeau’s government has made an issue of what the organizations that apply for the funds believe. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the government to meet with faith groups and inform them that some past recipients of the grants have been problematic?

Several solutions have been proposed to allow groups to continue to apply for the jobs program. Some say, “Just check the attestation box; no one will ask questions.” Others suggest making an application for grants and adding a statement of alternative beliefs regarding the issues.

We will not be bullied into the appearance of collusion on this most divisive issue. We cannot simply “check the box” and get on with life in order to benefit from the grants.

But many Canadians have decided to take a firm stand. We will not be bullied into the appearance of collusion on this most divisive issue. We cannot simply “check the box” and get on with life in order to benefit from the grants. By firmly saying no to Mr. Trudeau and his cohort, we also say no to any attempt to infringe on the freedoms of conscience and religion, of thought and belief, and of opinion and expression, as guaranteed by the Charter itself.

Mr. Trudeau and his colleagues have lost their moorings. They tout their liberal doctrine of diversity but in reality are agents of a new dictatorship of imposed ideologies. And ideology makes it impossible for people to confront individual issues on their own merits.

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Mike Theman
6 years 1 month ago

Pay attention, United States. This is what happens when leftists take over the government. Big Brother loves you.

Vince Killoran
6 years 1 month ago

I was nodding my head to some--not all--of Fr. Rosica's points until I got to his line on "a new dictatorship of imposed ideologies." That seems exaggerated and not the kind of language that invites dialogue of any kind.

Paul Schratz
6 years 1 month ago

I might be inclined to agree, but in this case it's apt. Religious groups have made numerous conciliatory efforts at conversation and dialogue with the government, which has held firm. It's also not the only example of this government's authoritarian bent on social/moral issues. It may be a soft dictatorship, but this is how it starts.

Paul Schratz
6 years 1 month ago

Well said, Father Tom!

J. Calpezzo
6 years 1 month ago

This is yet another issue where the voice of the church and certainly this guy is muted due to the continuing mishandling of the clergy abuse crisis. The church's reputation and credibility is stunted until real action is taken. Two words sum up the scandal: Roger Mahony.

Bob Hunt
6 years 1 month ago

Are you accusing "this guy" of mishandling the clergy abuse crisis? If not, what do you mean by "certainly this guy"?

I wonder, what would you have the Church do? It seems almost always that people who keep insisting that the Church's credibility is lost "until real action is taken" on the clergy abuse crisis never offer suggestions on what the Church needs to do. You offer nothing, as well. The point, I have to think, is not to goad the Church into taking real action, for any action the Church does take will doubtless be judged unsatisfactory, but to simply keep reminding people that the clergy abuse crisis happened, and that the Church ought permanently to lose her "voice" because of it. For my part, I'm not sure that the Church ought to keep silent on government encroachment on the liberty of citizens, even given the clergy abuse crisis. It is a convenient bludgeon employed by those who want to keep the Church silent on all issues, however.

So, may I ask, what would you have the Church do? Please be specific.

I can't speak for the situation in Canada (and, given your pointing to Cardinal Mahoney, I doubt you can, either) but, in the United States, the actions the Church has taken have led to a remarkable decrease in the number of children abused. In the 1970s there were hundreds of new cases of abuse every year. Since the early 1990s, about a decade after the Church introduced measures to combat the abuse, the number of new cases of abuse each year as averaged less than ten. Yes, one is too many. But, that is a remarkable achievement. It is an achievement, I might also point out, that no other institution in the United States, and I doubt in Canada, too, can claim. So, if we're going to talk about voices being muted among social institutions because of their aggression in tackling child abuse, such as government, schools, sports programs, etc..., it's near the point where the Church's voice is the only one left unmuted.

Thomas Farrelly
6 years 1 month ago

"They tout their liberal doctrine of diversity but in reality are agents of a new dictatorship of imposed ideologies" This is precisely what is going on with liberals in the United States.

John Walton
6 years 1 month ago

@thomas -- take a look at the Lindsay Shepherd story in Canada -- she is a graduate assistant at Laurier University who ran afoul of the diversity police. Canada has some of the worst "free-speach" regs in the formerly civilized world. Jack

Christopher Meehan
6 years 1 month ago

I fail to see the difference between the “imposed ideologies” of several faith based organizations and those of the government. If these organizations don’t choose to agree, don’t take the money. Same as the individuals that decide not to participate in a faith community.

Bob Hunt
6 years 1 month ago

The government will apply whatever conditions on the money they desire. This is why it's a good idea for religious organizations not to get into the habit of taking government money. It always comes with strings. But, it's not clear to me at all what ideologies the faith-based organizations are imposing. No one is forced to go to church, or synagogue, or mosque. As you say, individuals may simply decide not to participate. But, it's not so easy with one's government. Should the people opposed to this program stop participating in government or civil society? Also, the money the government uses to support these programs is taxpayer money. The people who are going to be denied funds from and benefit from this program because they don't comply with the government's ideology are taxpayers. But, religious organizations don't pay taxes! True (I suppose, I'm not Canadian, so I'm not familiar with their system), but those who work for these religious organizations certainly do pay taxes. And, the parents whose kids are going to lose summer jobs certainly pay taxes. The bottom line is: government programs in a free society ought to be open to assist all in that society, and not merely those who adhere to what the government thinks is right and proper. What does a summer job working at a TV station have to do with abortion and transgenderism, anyway? This is a clear attempt by the Canadian government to impose its will on its people, toward the goal of social engineering. Do you think it will stop at this?

Maureen Weber
6 years 1 month ago

I have a problem with the attestation attached to the application for the summer jobs program, and the government needs to listen to those who have legitimate concerns about it. But I also have a problem with faith groups lumping sexual orientation and gender identity together with abortion when they speak of ethical and moral problems. Abortion does pose some ethical and moral problems. Sexual orientation and gender identity do not.

Andrew Wolfe
6 years 1 month ago

Actually, the Church cannot deny the disordered nature of same-sex sexual orientation, and gender dysphoria (identity). That is why the Church ministers to them—one of several specialized ministries the Church has, in addition to the universal healing ministries of Eucharist and Penance.

The problem is that just holding this perspective is not acceptable to the Canadian government. And in fact, many U.S. employers would fire someone for reading the Catechism on same-sex attraction if there were complaints. Just the perspective is wrong.

There are faith groups that don't distinguish between feeling same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria, and acting on them. The feelings are disordered, and are no more sinful than the disordered feelings of all sorts that we all have. Acting sexually on same-sex attraction is a sin. Undergoing "gender reassignment" is pretty morally dicey as well. But abortion, as you rightly point out, is a huge ethical and moral problem rightly considered a mortal sin.

arthur mccaffrey
6 years 1 month ago

"new dictatorship of imposed ideologies"-- right on! Diversity is just another smokescreen for "conform or else!"
What amazes me is how these minority groups have managed to influence government policy so quickly! there are plenty of other social issues that have been knocking on government's door for years and still don't have a seat at the table. And yet in the span of a few years, LGBTQ has managed to get the attention of policy makers effortlessly. Do they have a powerful lobby, or private financing? How do they get to determine policy priorities so easily? Maybe its a fad and it has become fashionable for alt-left liberals to adopt someone else's agenda? God knows, they don't have one of their own!

Vince Killoran
6 years 1 month ago

"Maybe its a fad" Oh, right--and the well-documented discrimination against LGBTQ is concocted? And what's with the "so easy" assertion? There are decades of social movement activism and litigation behind the move toward protecting LGBTQ rights.

Mike McDermott
6 years 1 month ago

The Canadian Catholic Bishops have tried to cosy up to secular progressives like Trudeau for a long time. Now they are beginning to understand the depth of hostility progressives have toward Christianity and the Church.

Jim Lein
6 years 1 month ago

I don't see the government as forcing religious persons to act in ways counter to their faith. And others shouldn't be forced by the government to conform to particular religious beliefs. We can't legally make everybody act Catholic. That is Caesar's way not Jesus' way. In my humble and partially informed opinion.

Al Cannistraro
6 years 1 month ago

It seems to me that Fr. Rosica is asserting, under cover of current Catholic moral philosophy, a right to discriminate against Canadians whose rights the Charter is meant to protect. It's current Catholic moral philosophy vs. current liberal-democratic values. No doubt, Catholic moral philosophy regarding gender and also regarding the family will continue to evolve slowly, lagging well behind Canadian society-at-large.

I think the following article from another Catholic publication is apropos and well worth reading by readers of Fr. Rosica's article. "Where does Catholic thinking on 'gender theory' go from here?"

Ysais Martinez
6 years 1 month ago

Excellent comments Fr Rosica!

Michael Barberi
6 years ago

"The Canadian government refers to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as the basis for this new policy. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his advisors are misreading the Charter, which is supposed to protect citizens from being intimidated by the government. It is not intended to intimidate citizens."

If this is true then organizations that believe that Trudeau is misreading the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, then they can argue their case in a Canadian Court. That is what would happen in the U.S.

I don't know enough about Canadian Law, so my comments here may not be relevant.

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