Resisting "soft-totalitarianism" in Canada? (Part Three)
By Mark Wegierski
(This essay is based on the draft of a presentation read at the First Sir Thomas More Colloquium: Diplomacy, Literature, Politics, at the Akademia Polonijna (Polonia University) in Czestochowa, Poland, held on March 11-12, 2010.)
The second pillar of the system is the juridical environment. Laws against libel and slander may be one of the few legal instruments left to Christians. However, the Canadian Supreme Court has weakened the definitions of libel and slander. There was the case of a woman who had objected to what she considered as the teaching of pro-homosexual attitudes in the public schools of Surrey, British Columbia. Rafe Mair, a talk-show host in British Columbia, called her a "Nazi" and a "Klansman" on the airwaves. She sued for libel, but, after a lengthy process, the Supreme Court of Canada found that Mair's statements had constituted "fair comment".
At the same time, however, there are in place at the federal and provincial levels, so-called human rights tribunals and commissions, among whose tasks have latterly become the regulation of speech that is considered hateful or discriminatory.
A Protestant minister had a rather pointed letter about homosexuality published in the Red Deer Advocate (a major local newspaper) in Alberta. A homosexual activist complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commision, with the result that the minister was required to pay a hefty fine, write a letter of apology, and was ordered to never again publicly write his opinions about homosexuality.
A homosexual activist launched a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission that claimed that Catholic Insight (a magazine of tradition-minded Catholics), willfully promoted hatred against gays and lesbians. Although the publication was completely exonerated after fairly onerous legal proceedings, the legal costs the magazine had to bear amounted to upwards of $20,000 – money which a small magazine could ill afford. This pointed to a situation where the very process of defending against a human rights complaint constituted a significant burden on the accused.
In Ontario, there was the case of Christian Horizons. An employee of the organization "came out" as a lesbian (having earlier signed an agreement to remain in conformity with the organization's code of conduct, which prohibited homosexual activity among employees). She was fired by the organization, and went to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The Commission ruled that the firing was illegal, and that religious organizations were not allowed to set such criteria for their employees.
It may be fairly clear that in Canada's juridical system today, the chances of sincerely-believing Christians being appointed to more senior judgeships are rather curtailed. In appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada, for example, the media would pay enormous attention to whether an appointee might threaten the regime of unrestricted abortion in Canada. It may be surmised that an appointee opposed to unrestricted abortion would face a firestorm of criticism. Yet, opposition to abortion is often considered as one of the most important tenets of belief in, for example, the Roman Catholic Church.
The regime of unrestricted abortion also imposes ethical dilemmas for healthcare professionals who are trying to avoid participating in the culture of abortion and contraception. For example, there have been some attempts to make the study of abortion procedures mandatory in medical school. Thus a conscientious Christian would find it difficult to finish his or her medical studies in such a situation. At the same time, nurses may be required to participate in abortion procedures in public hospitals regardless of their personal beliefs. Hospitals once associated with the Catholic Church might be forced to offer abortion services. Pharmacists may be required to prescribe so-called "morning-after pills" regardless of their personal beliefs.
There have also been laws made to prevent peaceful protest in the vicinity of abortion clinics. Some anti-abortion protestors have defiantly carried out such peaceful protests, for which they were subsequently arrested by the police, tried in court, and have actually served months or even years of jail time.
Another method of pressure by the State against the churches is the possibility of revocation of tax-exempt and charitable status. By longstanding tradition, churches are exempt from most taxes in Canada. Charitable status means that donations to a given charity can be claimed on one's income tax form, which can in some cases significantly reduce one's taxes. There is thus an incentive to give charitable donations. During the acrimonious debate over "same-sex marriage" in 2003-2005, there were threats made by Revenue Canada that the charitable status of Catholic charities could be revoked, if the Catholic Church continued its vocal opposition to "same-sex marriage". Recently, the charitable status of a small, evangelical Protestant church in Alberta has been revoked. Although the main reason claimed for this by Revenue Canada is "financial irregularities" there were also added statements by the government agency that vocal opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion may constitute "political activity" – which is in Canadian law prohibited to charitable organizations. Also, Catholic adoption agencies that refuse to place children into gay or lesbian households, can be threatened with the revocation of their charitable status.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher. His collection of essays at Enter Stage Right can be found here.