OTTAWA – Canada’s Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Civil Rights League have been granted intervener status in an important religious freedom case to be heard later this year by the Supreme Court.

Published in Canada

OTTAWA – A Liberal private member’s motion calling on the government to condemn Islamophobia has divided Parliament and raised concerns about freedom of speech.

Published in Canada

George Weigel might just be the most important lay Catholic at work today. The American writer’s books, essays, newspaper columns and lectures address the importance of defending the Catholic faith, and religion in general, from the assault of radical secularism.

Published in Charles Lewis

TORONTO – Anti-euthanasia activist Alex Schadenberg has been honoured with the Archbishop Adam Exner Award for Catholic Excellence in Public Life by the Catholic Civil Rights League for his ongoing advocacy against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

TORONTO - The fight over assisted suicide isn’t over yet. A day after a government advisory group released 43 recommendations calling for wide access to assisted suicide, the Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) held its annual general meeting Dec. 15 to discuss its concerns and plans for the year ahead, a year when it seems likely Canada will legalized assisted suicide.

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OTTAWA - A Quebec bill that would give the province’s human rights commission expanded powers will only “amplify” these powers at a time when many are calling for a curbing of these commissions, critics say.

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OTTAWA - On July 20, 2005 same-sex marriage became legal in Canada. Ten years later, Canada has experienced a steady erosion of religious freedom and conscience rights, undergone negative changes in sex education and parental rights, while also seeing a shift in the rights of children, according to several observers.

Published in Canada
April 23, 2015

Equal platform

The institutions of society should always show respect and tolerance for people of every faith or no faith. The goal should be inclusiveness and accommodation. That’s how a genuinely pluralistic, multicultural society works.

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OTTAWA - The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario's draft human rights policy would trample religious freedom and freedom of conscience, say groups defending those rights.

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TORONTO- Concerns that there was insufficient parental consultation during the reform of Ontario's sexual education curriculum were formally voiced by a newly formed Toronto citizens' group Dec. 12.

And some in the group went further, predicting that much of what was shelved four years ago when the Liberal government tried to bring changes to the curriculum will be brought back, and they expressed concerns that an alleged child pornographer's hands are all over the development of that curriculum.

“What we are trying to do now is to make sure that the consultation will let all parents express their views,” said Peter Chen, co-ordinator of Citizens for Good Education, which hosted a press conference in Toronto to voice its concerns. “We would like transparency and democracy in this consultation.”

Citizens for Good Education is an umbrella group that represents more than 200 faith and ethnic groups, including the Catholic Civil Rights League, REAL Women of Canada and the Toronto Chinese Catholic Task-force.

In the days following Nov. 28 when the consultation process conducted by the Minister of Education closed, more and more of the groups came forward expressing concerns that surveying 4,000 citizens (one parent from each elementary school in the province) over two weeks in a province with four fully funded school systems and a population of 13.5 million was insufficient.

Chen said the group is seeking to defer the proposed September 2015 implementation of the new curriculum to allow for further consultation.

“We want to make sure the timing and the contents are appropriate for our children age-wise,” said Chen.

Gwen Landolt, founder of REAL Women of Canada, also criticized November's consultation as an online survey which “is not parent input,” and said it contained “loaded questions all leading in one direction.”

The government believes its recent consultation was sufficient and intends to involve parents again before the finalizing the document.

“In recognizing that parents have a strong interest in how this information is provided to their children, the province committed to consult with parents before the document is finalized," said Ministry of Education spokesperson Derek Luk.  

Luk said this new information will be used in conjunction with that gathered between 2007 and 2010, extensive consultations with those directly involved at all levels of education and expert advice.

Beyond the lack of consultation, Mary-Ellen Douglas, national co-ordinator for Campaign Life, is concerned with former deputy education minister Benjamin Levin's role in developing the reformed curriculum four years ago, which was pulled by the Liberal government at the last minute. She feels that much of the new curriculum, considering the tight timeline of the current reform process, will mirror that program.

Levin is facing charges of making and distributing child pornography, counselling to commit an indictable offence and an arrangement to commit a sexual offence against a child under the age of 16. Since the original charges were laid, Levin had five additional child pornography related charges laid against him.

“He is an alleged child pornographer and he is up on these charges and this is the man who wrote the program,” she said. “If convicted the man should be in jail and stay there for the rest of his life. This is a man who wants to exploit our children through the school system.”

Jack Fonseca, a Campaign Life spokesperson, also expressed concern over Levin's potential contributions.

“In 2010, parents first learned of this Grades 1 to 7 curriculum sex ed lessons that were too graphic at too young an age and made them feel uncomfortable,” he said. “Now that we know it was written under the direction of an alleged child pornographer... parents are even less comfortable. Levin’s hand in an explicit program that seems to sexualize kids has only heightened concerns, including my own, as the father of a kindergartner.”

Luk said Levin was simply one cog in the development of the previous curriculum.

“No single individual writes curriculum policy,” he said. “Review or development of all curricula is based on research, evidence and extensive consultation.”
Following the press conference, Chen said Citizens for Good Education would be bringing its message to Queen's Park.

“We will be launching petitions online, or on paper, formed by our member organizations and plan to collect signatures and present them to Queen's Park,” said Chen.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

OTTAWA - Canada’s Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act has found support among Catholic pro-family groups. 

Published in Canada

The legal battle over Quebec’s new “end-of-life care” law isn’t going to be a slam dunk for either side given the complexity of issues the courts will have to consider, says Catholic Civil Rights League president Phil Horgan.

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TORONTO - Gwen Landolt is only the third woman to win the Archbishop Adam Exner Award since the Catholic Civil Rights League established the honour a decade ago.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

TORONTO - A voice committed to faith and fairness has been silenced. Catholic Register columnist and executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League Joanne McGarry succumbed to pancreatic cancer April 28. She was 60 years old.

Published in Canada

The days may be numbered for union support of contentious political causes, something the Catholic Civil Rights League has been working towards for years.

While the league has been concerned about union support for same-sex marriage and other issues in opposition to Catholic teaching, the tipping point for political change may be the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s (PSAC) recent support for separatist candidates in the Sept. 4 Quebec election.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, parliamentary secretary to the transport minister, promised to urge his cabinet colleagues bring in legislation that would allow employees to opt out of paying union dues.

“I cannot imagine how it could possibly be in the interests of a Canadian public servant for the union to back a separatist party,” Poilievre told the Globe and Mail. “And yet that is precisely what PSAC has done.”

The rights league became involved in the union dues issue back in 2004 when it fought for the rights of Catholic PSAC member Susan Comstock to have part of her $800 yearly mandatory dues diverted to charity because the union campaigned for same-sex marriage, contrary to her religious beliefs.

“We’ve always thought that, with good reason, union members should be able to put their request in writing so a portion of mandatory dues could be diverted to charity,” said league executive director Joanne McGarry. “The ability to opt out of the union is another possibility.”

At issue is “the ability of union members to have a say in how their money is spent so they don’t have to fund something they find morally repugnant,” she said.

Industry Canada employee Dave MacDonald, a former PSAC local president who represented Comstock in her grievance process, said the changes Poilievre proposes are “important because the PSAC, among others, have ceased to be an organization focused on improving workers’ rights and become a political organization.”

“As a Catholic, I am offended that my union dues are used to fund court challenges on abortion and same-sex marriage, gay pride parades and similar causes which have no correlation to the workplace,” he said. “Moreover, the Comstock case showed the extent to which the leadership in the PSAC was hostile to their own members who did not endorse their extreme political agenda.”

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) built a war chest for Premier Dalton McGuinty, despite religious freedom concerns raised by the Ontario bishops and Catholic school trustees about the Ontario government’s policies that would impose Gay-Straight Alliances on Catholic schools. McGarry said she encountered Catholic teachers who insisted OECTA did not represent their point of view.

“I’m sorry, but they do,” she said. “That’s your money; they do represent you.”

Legislation is not the only way to make change, she said. She urged union members to become involved in the running of their unions so they have a say on policies. But McGarry stressed the importance of religious freedom and conscientious objection.  

“If someone’s in a position where union membership is a condition of employment, they should be able, for serious reasons, to divert their dues.”

MacDonald, who has a private immigration law practice outside his work for government, is concerned Poilievre’s proposals might end unions if everyone is able to opt out of paying dues altogether.

“I believe a good compromise, and one that I believe the Church agrees with, is to keep unions in line with the rights of charities (including churches) regarding political activities,” he said. “That is, they should be able to do some political activities providing they are related to the stated objectives of a labour union.”

Lobbying government on job security, wages, health and safety would be okay, as would communicating messages on these issues to members, he said.

MacDonald said reform would be welcomed by the vast majority of members because it would make “a union that was interested in protecting worker’s rights rather than espousing political viewpoints that are not shared by the majority of its members.”

Union leaders have reacted angrily against Poilievre’s proposal, with Canadian Labour Congress Leader Ken Georgetti accusing the Conservative government of trying to silence its critics.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Russ Hiebert’s private member’s bill C-377 that would bring more accountability to how union dues are spent passed second reading last March and is now before the House of Commons finance committee.

Published in Canada

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