Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Remaking Canadian Society—But Where's the Blueprint?

July 1, 1989 -

Have you ever wondered why certain items suddenly burst into the news while others are completely ignored? And how the selection of the one over the other has nothing to do with true newsworthiness or real importance? Or that the rights of certain categories of people are declared to be sacrosanct while those of others are systematically denied? It's all very puzzling to those who think that certain long-held ideas about human behaviour and public law are still valid.

Unscrambling this puzzle requires that we realize this phenomenon to be part of a determined effort to remake Canadian society so that it becomes a completely "modern," that is, secular, pluralistic, and (the new buzzword) multicultural nation. It is revolutionary in nature. What is most remarkable is that there is virtually no thorough-going public debate about what is happening at the most basic level of our existence as a nation. There is of course plenty of controversial, even heated, debate taking place about all manner of things but very little about those changes that will fundamentally alter our society. Why is this so? Let me provide some examples, then make a few comments about what is at the bottom of it all, as I see it.

Making and Un-making News

Recently, two members of Parliament pointed out that, generally speaking, women tend to have different priorities than men, especially with respect to the family and careers outside of the home. They thought that this fact explains at least to some extent why, on average, women earn less than men do. There was an instant outpouring of righteous indignation against the two hapless politicians. This is the stuff of which NEWS is made! Even the Prime Minister of Canada got into the act and publicly rebuked them. They had unknowingly stumbled into the swampland of public life where facts are unimportant and where it is absolutely forbidden to say that there are certain differences between men and women and their respective roles that have nothing to do with discrimination. A vicious kind of egalitarianism (reinforced by radical feminism) now rules supreme, and woe to those who violate the rules of right thinking.

Meanwhile, a tiny band of British Columbian school teachers are taking a last-ditch stand against the totalitarian ambitions of the left-leaning BC Teachers Federation and its affiliated associations. These teachers have strong convictions (for example, that the life of the unborn should be protected and that strikes are often an irresponsible use of power) that run counter to the beliefs and policies of the BCTF. This Federation has immense power, including the power to destroy the livelihood of those who refuse to fall in line. The BCTF has insisted that the teachers who want to exercise their freedom of association be fired by their respective school boards. Quite a few of the objectors have now reluctantly fallen into line. They have received no help from school boards who signed away the freedom of their loyal employees, even though some of them weakly protested the Federation's ruthlessness. Lillian Schooley, a veteran teacher in Prince Rupert, stood by her conviction and was rewarded by losing her job.

Why is there no massive public outcry against this outrageous abuse of power? And what about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Why does it not protect these law-abiding Canadian citizens?

Cutting Our Roots

There are many other similar instances of strange behaviour. A powerful homosexual lobby is now busy changing public policy and morality. Not content with enjoying the same civil rights as everyone else, this lobby is now actively promoting its lifestyle in a variety of ways, including demands to adjust the school curricula and the legal definition of marriage and the family in line with their view of human sexuality. All of this is moving ahead speedily as lawmakers and administrative bodies bend over backwards to accommodate this new ideology. Witness a recent decision by a tribunal of the Canadian Human Rights Commission which ruled that equality now means that homosexual couples must be treated the same as a family (in connection with bereavement leave).

The successful homosexual grievor said that there should be no special privileges for being a heterosexual. "Everyone should be treated the same," he stated. Of course, he was after much more than equal treatment before the law, as understood in the common law tradition. He was not merely asking for the same kind of constitutional rights as everybody else, but for a drastic redefinition of the institutions of family and marriage. In other words, according to him equal treatment means that we cannot distinguish between a heterosexual family and a "homosexual" family. The implications of such a view are staggering and beg the questions: By what standards are such distinctions wiped away? Who determines that the standards of homosexual activists are right? Just raising such questions today risks immediate denunciation and public excommunication from civilized society.

Meanwhile what happens to those who wish to defend certain norms derived from the Judeo-Christian faith? For example, courts have ruled that prayers in public schools are now unconstitutional. The highest court of the land has decreed that laws which treat one day as a special day of rest are discriminatory and therefore invalid. Same with the previous laws which protected the unborn.

How is it possible that on the one hand new rights are proclaimed and old rights are eliminated? By what standard of logic and lightness is this development governed? At least one authority on Canadian law spoke the truth about this in connection with the case that led to the Supreme Court decision regarding the Lord's Day Act.

Mr. Justice Belzil of the Alberta Court of Appeal argued for the upholding of the Lord's Day Act, saying that such public policies are part of Western civilization that is molded by Christian values and traditions. He was of the opinion that it was not the task of the courts to strip away the vestiges of those values and traditions. He explained: "Such interpretation would make of the Charter an instrument for the repression of the majority at the instance of every dissident and result in an amorphous, rootless and godless nation contrary to the recognition of the Supremacy of God declared in the preamble. The living tree' will wither if planted in sterilized soil."

But Mr. Justice Belzil was overruled by his Supreme Court of Canada colleagues who reasoned that since the Lord's Day Act was rooted in the Christian tradition, it constituted a form of discrimination against those of different faiths and must therefore be struck down.

However one looks at Mr. Justice Belzil's observation about cutting off our own roots, the large question now looms: what are the new foundations for public policy and law? Who now determines what are the right criteria for public policies?

On this score, the current situation is a complete muddle. It amounts to declaring all religious values to be discriminatory, while elevating new, so-called non-religious values to be the new absolutes. But it is wrong to assume that the secular ideology (as now vigorously promoted by the new ideas of progressives) is neutral, non-discriminatory and therefore properly to be enforced by the state. It is instructive in this regard to think about the experiences of the conscientous British Columbian school teachers who insisted on exercising their freedom, in contrast to the degree to which homosexuals are accommodated.

Why the Silence?

Why in the face of these revolutionary changes are Christians so uninvolved and inactive? This is a cry from the heart issued by Toronto lawyer Peter Jervis who writes that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms "marked a profound change in Canadian political and cultural history." He calls the Charter's introduction the forerunner to "a fundamentally different constitutional framework in which the courts, rather than the politicians, would become the final arbiters of constitutional, cultural and political values." He complains about the fact that while a number of precedent-setting cases are now proceeding through the courts, Christians, except in the Borowski appeal, are largely standing idly by. Jervis writes:

In contrast, other religious organizations, feminist lobbies and political lobbies actively intervene in constitutional cases to ensure their voice in the constitutional forum.

It is essential that those who seek to maintain for Canada a legal, constitutional and cultural tradition founded upon Christian values participate actively in this process of constitutional litigation. (Peter Jervis "Charter Bringing Far-reaching Changes in Canada," ChristianWeek, May 30, 1989) 

Canadian Christians ought to heed Mr. Jervis' appeal. But not much will change until Christians begin to fathom the depth of the cultural and constitutional revolution that has been set in motion by the new kind of secular egalitarians who are now lusting for political power. And then start to train a generation that will be equipped to meet the "new totalitarians" on their own ground.

This article originally appeared in Comment magazine, a journal founded by Harry Antonides. Find all of Harry’s pieces, and thousands more, at http://www.cardus.ca/comment