Photo illustration by Ena Goquiolay

Editorial: Hare-brained rule

  • March 15, 2018
It is a frightening world when those with power assume they can dictate to those without how they must think and what they must say.

There has been too much of that happening in Canada in recent times, so we applaud a judge who decided enough is enough. But who could have predicted the last straw would be the Easter Bunny?

Common sense scored a victory when Ontario Superior Court Judge A.J. Goodman ruled that Hamilton’s Children’s Aid Society had no right to demand that a Christian couple betray their convictions and lie to their two foster children about the existence of the Easter Bunny. This obvious attempt to coerce the couple into dishonesty “interfered significantly” with their religious beliefs, ruled the judge, and the government-funded agency was wrong to remove the foster children after the couple refused to endorse the agency’s Easter Bunny policy.

This wasn’t a case of foster parents waging a campaign against the Easter Bunny. They intended to give the children chocolate at Easter. But rather than pretend the sweets came from a mythical rabbit they planned to remain silent on the matter or, if asked, be honest about the chocolate’s origin. Despite warnings of possible repercussions, the couple still refused to comply when the government agency insisted they ignore their religious principles and lie about, or attest to, a widespread practice they reject. Sound familiar? 

Replace Easter Bunny with the Liberal Party’s position on a women’s “right” to abortion and you have the Canada Summer Jobs controversy. The particulars may vary but the underlying principle is the same. The Liberals, acting similar to the Hamilton’s Children Aid Society, have insisted that applicants to a government program abandon their religious principles  — in effect lie — and endorse a behaviour that betrays their beliefs. Various charities and other applicants have been warned that failure to comply will result in disqualification from the program.

The heavy-handedness of the government position has seemed obvious from the start and now there is a court ruling to encourage those who are arguing that the summer jobs application is discriminatory and contravenes the Charter of Rights. Judge Goodman’s ruling was emphatic. He cited Supreme Court decisions that make it clear that “no one is to be forced to act in a way contrary to his beliefs or his conscience” and “the right to freedom of expression prohibits compelling anyone to express opinions that are not their own.” 

The judge got it right. It is wrong for the government or one of its agencies to compel or coerce anyone, under a threat of reprisal, to endorse a policy or practice that offends their conscience or is hostile to their beliefs. That holds true whether the lie involves a jobs grant or the Easter Bunny.

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