Trudeau's Troubling Insistence That Charities Pick A Side On Abortion

One of the differences between a free society and a repressive regime is the right to remain silent.

02/22/2018 16:16 EST | Updated 02/22/2018 16:30 EST

A law that requires Canadians to say "please" and "thank you" would be a bad law.

Not because these are bad words, but because in a free country, nobody should be compelled to say anything. One of the differences between a free society and a repressive regime is the right to remain silent.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question about Child and Family Services at a town hall meeting at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg on Jan. 31, 2018.

In medieval England, King Henry VIII passed a law requiring all to declare their support for him (and not the pope) as the head of the Church of England. Thomas More had his head chopped off in 1535, merely for remaining silent and for refusing to say that the king was the supreme head of the church. So insecure and thin-skinned was Henry VIII that he could not stand Thomas More's silence.

And so it is with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his belief that abortion should be legal during all nine months of pregnancy.

That is the state of the law in Canada today. It has been so since 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada (R. v. Morgentaler) invited Parliament to pass new legislation to provide at least some protection to the unborn, particularly during the latter stages of pregnancy. Parliament has not done so.

We're not willing to support the government's position in order to get the funds; it's just not worth it for us.Stephen Wile, Mustard Seed CEO

For our post-modernist prime minister, the silence of Canadians on the subject of abortion is not good enough. Like Henry VIII, Trudeau needs to hear his people say that they agree with him.

Starting this year, charities must state that they support abortion being legal if they wish to access a grant through the Canada Summer Jobs program, which provides federal government grants to non-profits and to businesses, to hire a summer student. Charities must further state that abortion is a Charter right, in spite of the fact that Parliament can legislate to protect unborn life.

This means that the Mustard Seed, which helps tens of thousands of Alberta's poor, homeless and addicted, regardless of the client's faith, creed or colour, will hire fewer students. Its CEO Stephen Wile stated:

"The Mustard Seed doesn't take a position on abortion, but with the government making this a requirement for funding, it's trying to force us from a neutral position to an affirmative position on abortion, and we're not prepared to do that. ... We're not willing to support the government's position in order to get the funds; it's just not worth it for us."

In response to a public outcry, Trudeau and his Labour Minister Patricia Hajdu have declared that this new attestation only applies to pro-life groups, not to charities who might happen to adhere to pro-life beliefs. As Trudeau put it: "Of course, you're more than allowed to have whatever beliefs you like." As Hajdu explained: "This is about the activities of the organization and the job description. ... This is not about beliefs or values."

These assurances have now proven to be utterly false.

AFP/Getty Images
Minister for Status of Women Patricia Hajdu.

Since the Feb. 9, 2018 deadline for applying for Canada Summer Jobs funding, numerous charities have been told, in writing, that they will not receive funding unless they check off the "I attest" box on the application, to confirm their support for legal abortion as a Charter right.

"It seems," stated Mustard Seed CEO Wile, "like the government is saying, 'The issue of where you stand on abortion is more important than the work you do and the people you serve,' and that's really sad. At the core of who we are, we're really against fear and hate, and unfortunately, the government is taking a position that instead of decelerating division, it's accelerating it."

Losing several thousand dollars of government funding is nothing compared to losing your head. But the underlying issue of government-compelled speech should not be dismissed lightly.

More blogs from HuffPost Canada:

Pro-choicers should be just as worried about this policy as pro-lifers.

Even if a charity shared Trudeau's opinions about abortion, it would still violate freedom of expression to be compelled to state one's belief about abortion as a condition for accessing a government program that one is otherwise entitled to access.

How is this Canada Summer Jobs attestation different from requiring seniors to agree with Trudeau's beliefs in order to receive their pension cheques? If some seniors spend their days doing volunteer work for pro-life groups, should their pension benefits be cut off, for disagreeing with the prime minister?

If Trudeau can get away with this, what stops a future prime minister from compelling Canadians to express support for his — or her — beliefs, as a condition of accessing a government program or benefit?

Also on HuffPost: