William Watson: Trudeau used to celebrate our ‘freedoms,’ now he attacks them

On what grounds should such perfectly legal groups not be able to employ summer students to help them in their perfectly legal advocacy?

The debate about the now-infamous “attestation” that Canada Summer Jobs requires from applicants to its employ-a-student-for-the-summer program has been cast much too narrowly. It now seems to come down to the right of religious belief against the right to “reproductive liberty,” which, unlike the first right, is not actually mentioned in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Since the Charter’s birth, we’ve all come to understand that rights often have to be weighed. Does one person’s right to A outweigh another person’s right to B, when the two seem mutually exclusive? Or can some way be found to avoid the offence to one right while still pursuing the other? It’s all so (ho-hum) relative. Besides, religious rights, unlike other rights, tend to be practiced by people of faith, an outlook on life that we of secular bent find peculiar.

Government should not hand out money based on political, religious or other beliefs

So try casting it another way: As a question of equality before the law. Equality arguments, as any parent knows, deeply implicate the emotions (“He got more than me!”), so doing this helps move the analysis from brain to gut, where people’s most basic instincts and understandings reside. In effect, the government is saying to applicants: You over here get assistance because you have attested your “core mandate” is consistent with our progressive agenda, while you over there are denied it because you haven’t sworn such fealty. It is deeply offensive to most people’s understanding of liberty that access to government services depend on kowtowing in this way.

Of course, the government would argue that applicants are not being asked to sign on to any particular agenda, just to confirm they will “respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights.” But that’s a bit broad, isn’t it? Not just Charter rights but the “values underlying” the Charter and other non-Charter rights, as well. And it’s completely unnecessary. We have many mechanisms in Canada, including the criminal law, to deal with violations of people’s rights. If a job requires student employees to engage in such reprehensible activities, call in the RCMP or our various quasi-judicial tribunals, commissions and boards.

Another offensive feature of the summer jobs program, though of much longer standing, is that individual MPs vet which projects get approved. As the application guidelines so delicately put it, “Each Member of Parliament will receive the list of projects recommended for their constituency and is offered the opportunity to validate the list.” Do you suppose a project employing a kid who once worked on the local MP’s election campaign might have a higher chance of validation than others?

This is not rocket science. The government should not be handing out money according to people’s political, religious or any other beliefs. Advocating change in Canada’s abortion laws is not yet illegal. If a government tried to make it so, I bet even a Supreme Court run by the culturally cosmopolitan “court party” would strike that down. So on what grounds should such perfectly legal groups not be able to employ summer students to help them in their perfectly legal advocacy?

full story at http://business.financialpost.com/opinion/william-watson-trudeau-used-to-celebrate-our-freedoms-now-he-attacks-them


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