Joanne McGarry

Joanne McGarry

Joanne McGarry is the former Executive Director of the Catholic Civil Rights League of Canada.


Earlier this month, the international wire services carried a story involving a fragment of papyrus written in Coptic that suggested Jesus may have referred to “my wife” in speaking to a group of followers.

Religious and conscientious freedom is at the heart of several ongoing news stories. Some of the stories involve institutions and others individuals, but they all raise the troubling spectre that these rights may exist more in theory than in practice.

The delay in the passage of Quebec’s Bill-52, which would allow euthanasia in certain circumstances, gives individuals and groups on both sides of the issue time to reflect on better ways to move forward on providing effective end-of-life care both in Quebec and elsewhere.

The recent incident at Toronto’s York University, in which a student sought exemption from group work due to religious beliefs that forbid contact with women, attracted much media attention but perhaps did not shine as much attention as it could have on how the Ontario Human Rights Code interprets religion and gender as grounds for discrimination. On at least one level the York situation was a conflict between competing rights.

Catholic story of 2013 was the retirement of Pope Benedict and the election of Pope Francis as his successor. During the period between those events, the media exploded with a mixture of ill-informed rants about the need for a new pope who would bring the Church “into the 21st century,” particularly on issues related to sexual morality, including same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion.

A wide-ranging cyberbullying bill introduced in Parliament on Nov. 20 covers far more than the distribution of sexually explicit images without the person’s consent. It also gives police new tools to investigate the use of the Internet for terrorism, organized crime and hate propaganda. Justice Minister Peter McKay acknowledged that Bill C-13 (Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act) goes beyond cyberbullying and will modernize parts of the Criminal Code that were written before text messaging and e-mail existed.

Now that the annual costume-and-sugar festival called Halloween has passed, I will comment on what I believe is a new low reached this year in the sale of adult Halloween costumes.

A YouTube video issued by the family of the late Dr. Donald Low, in which the doctor argued passionately for a law that would allow assisted suicide in Canada for the terminally ill, has re-ignited the public debate about euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Quebec government’s intention to draft a Charter of Quebec Values was announced last year, but many details of how the charter will impact religious freedom were only leaked to the press in August. Reportedly, the legislation would ban most religious symbols from public institutions, and public employees would not be permitted to wear religious items such as hijabs, kippas, turbans and “ostentatious crucifixes.”

Public deserves to know about $50-million expenditure

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