In Ottawa, last week was not a banner week for reason in regard to religion.
The CBC Radio-Canada television plumbed new depths in their program Enquête, with journaliste Brigitte Bureau creating “news” rather than reporting the news with a half hour documentary attack on select Christians engaging in the public square, particularly with Parliament.
Bloc Quebecois Member of Parliament Pierre Paquette (Joliette) must have mistakenly assumed the Radio-Canada creation was a reporting of the news. Mr. Paquette questioned the government in the House of Commons:
We learned that a number of evangelical leaders have privileged access to Conservative members and senators, and use that access to influence federal politics. Is it not worrisome to see all these fundamentalist groups circling around the Conservative government, trying to change legislation to impose their religious values?
Hmm, “fundamentalist” is a term not commonly associated with evangelicals for decades – and when used is usually described as because of a focus on the “fundamentals” or core beliefs of the evangelical Christian faith. In short, the term is not generally used in regard to Christians and is currently applied primarily to radical extremists who engage in criminal behaviour to pursue control through fear. Trying “to impose their religious values” or simply participating in the democratic process? The Supreme Court of Canada was exceptionally clear on this point just a few years ago:
… nothing in the Charter, political or democratic theory, or a proper understanding of pluralism demands that atheistically based moral positions trump religiously based moral positions on matters of public policy. I note that the preamble to the Charter itself establishes that ‘… Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.’ According to Saunders J. [of the British Columbia Supreme Court where the case was heard at trial], if one’s moral view manifests from a religiously grounded faith, it is not to be heard in the public square, but if it does not, then it is publicly acceptable. The problem with this approach is that everyone has ‘belief’ or ‘faith’ in something, be it atheistic, agnostic or religious. To construe ‘secular’ as the realm of the ‘unbelief’ is therefore erroneous. Given this, why, then, should the religiously informed conscience be placed at public disadvantage or disqualification? To do so would be to distort liberal principles in an illiberal fashion and would provide only a feeble notion of pluralism. The key is that people will disagree about important issues, and such disagreement, where it does not imperil community living, must be capable of being accommodated at the core of modern pluralism.
That was Justice Gonthier writing on a point of unanimous agreement for all nine judges in the 2002 case Chamberlain v. Surrey School District.
In response, Government House Leader John Baird observed the same constitutional position that “every Canadian is entitled to be heard by our government.” Mr. Baird went on to note the variety of Canadians and faith communities he had personally met with in recent months before closing with these words:
We think it is tremendously important in a pluralistic society like Canada to always reach out to people of different backgrounds, and we make no apologies for it.
Thank you, Mr. Baird. Well said.
In the same wacky week, Liberal Member of Parliament Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul’s) decided it was time to lead some of her colleagues in the singing of her own version of O Canada that excises the words “True patriot love in all Thy sons command” and “God keep our land” from our national anthem.
It seems a minority of zealous (overzealous?) activists at times impact societies by taking actions or shouting (singing?) words that go unnoticed by a seemingly silent majority. We sometimes take for granted that our lives will proceed as usual and we need pay little or no attention to skewed perspectives on “news,” bigoted comments by politicians, or anti-religious twists of words that betray a hidden agenda that does not belong in a modern pluralist democracy. Clearly, maintaining our rights and freedoms cannot be trusted simply to the constitution or legislators. As citizens, we are called upon to remain vigilant. It’s our Canada. It’s our land. Let’s not be passive about keeping it “strong and free” or in no time, it won’t be.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada's complaint as filed with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
February 16, 2011 4:00 pm
The CBSC has advised that they do not review complaints in regard to the CBC (Radio-Canada) because it is a public broadcaster. Accordingly, they have forwarded the complaint to the CRTC. In addition, the EFC will pursue this matter with the CBC ombudsman's office.