Illustration by Ena Goquiolay

Editorial: Simple solutions when values collide

  • February 8, 2018
Canadian society has come a long way in encouraging tolerance and accommodation. Generally speaking, laws and attitudes have evolved for the better when it comes to the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities, women, the disabled and others who historically have faced discrimination.

The flip side of that progress, however, is that often it seems that people who openly live a life of faith are becoming society’s new outcasts.

These people — not just Christians but anyone whose beliefs collide with modern secular values — are expected to practice their God-filled lifestyles behind closed doors. Society has opened its arms to diversity on many fronts, but keeps turning its back on accommodating religious values.

The most recent evidence of this came in court decisions on Jan. 30 and 31. First, the Right to Life Association of Toronto lost a case related to controversial changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program, which now requires applicants, often contrary to their principles, to affirm government abortion policy. Second, Ontario doctors who refuse on religious or conscience grounds to perform or abet euthanasia lost when they challenged a policy that compels them to provide referrals for patients who want to die.

The second case was particularly telling. The court acknowledged that its ruling infringed on religious freedom, but three judges agreed the transgression was outweighed by a greater public interest. Besides, the judges ruled, a doctor could always transfer to a field of medicine that is free of these moral conflicts. In other words, a conflicted doctor should accommodate society and not expect society to accommodate the doctor.

This used to be called taking a seat at the back of the bus.

Particularly troubling about these cases is both were avoidable. Simple accommodations could have been made to respect conscience rights.

In the case of the summer jobs, the government sought to target a small number of groups which use grant money to produce graphic pro-life literature. To achieve that, however, it fired a blunderbuss that dinged the Charter of Rights and disrespected thousands of people who refuse on principle to affirm the Liberals’ pro-abortion policy.

If the government has a beef with some groups, it should settle matters directly with them and leave others alone. It’s not complicated. 

Similarly, accommodating doctors who want no part of euthanasia is relatively straight forward. It is being done in several provinces which, instead of forcing doctors to refer, merely require they inform patients about resources that outline their options.

A diverse, pluralistic society that is committed to promoting respect and accommodation shouldn’t pick and choose when to apply these values. They should apply to everyone, always, including people of faith.

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