Corbella: Omar Khadr's rights more important than Canadian charities' rights
Trudeau was heckled by a woman regarding the $10.5-million payout his government made last year to Khadr to compensate him for being tortured at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba …
Published on: January 17, 2018 | Last Updated: January 17, 2018 9:35 AM MST
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have his chance to prove that he treats Canadian churches and social agencies with the same respect he showed convicted terrorist Omar Khadr when those faith groups' applications for Canada Summer Jobs grants are processed in the next few weeks.
The federal government has effectively prevented faith-based social agencies and churches from applying online for some of the 70,000 subsidized wage grants for summer students as a result of an "attestation" on the online application that requires applicants to agree with the federal Liberal party's policy on abortion.
The government attestation states, in part: "Both the job and the organization's core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights."
If that attestation is not agreed to online by clicking the box, the application is rejected. As a result, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) is recommending that affected charity members who can't agree to that statement send in a paper application with a reworded attestation stating that "we support all Canadian law, including Charter and human rights law. We believe the minister does not have the jurisdiction under law to compel us to make a statement that conflicts with our conscience rights under the Charter."
During a town hall meeting last Wednesday in Hamilton, Ont., Trudeau was heckled by a woman regarding the $10.5-million payout his government made last year to Khadr to compensate him for being tortured at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where he had been sent for his role in a firefight in Afghanistan against Canadian allies and killing a U.S. medic.
"In Canada, we defend everyone's rights, whether or not we agree with them," Trudeau said following an impassioned defence of the government's payout to Khadr, who was one month shy of his 16th birthday during that August 2002 battle in which he fought on the side of the Taliban.
The Taliban, incidentally, is an Islamic religious group which does not allow women to work, even if they are widowed, or for girls to attend school or receive any medical care from a male physician.
Stephen Wile, the CEO of the Mustard Seed ministry, which feeds, shelters, houses, clothes, counsels and trains thousands of Albertans regardless of their faith, creed, colour or sexual orientation in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton, says the organization's history of more than 15 years of hiring interns through the Canada Summer Jobs program has led to many of those students remaining with the organization as staff and volunteers.
"When we hire summer students, it is less about what we receive from them and more about investing in the next generation of social leaders who have compassion and concern for the poor in our society," said Wile.
In the past, the Mustard Seed has received funding to hire anywhere from 12 to 17 students. That number will be cut in half if it does not receive funding, said Wile.
"The government's decision to discriminate against those who choose not to take a position on the controversial issue of abortion will hamper our ability to provide this service to the next generation, as well as penalize the most vulnerable we serve," added Wile.
Lead pastor of First Alliance Church, James Paton, says his large southeast church is also sending in paper applications but, instead of applying for anywhere from nine to 12 students, it is only applying for three positions because it doesn't want to leave its students hanging waiting on an answer.
"At the best of times, (the government) only get back to you at the beginning of April and you need to hire the students at the end of April, so they're desperate to find summer work and often they can't do it because we ask them too late," added Paton.
"So, even if the feds accept our version of the attestation, I think it could leave us unable to hire because we expect the paper application to take longer."
Trudeau said in Hamilton that he is not trying to stop faith groups from applying for the grants, he just doesn't want pro-life groups to apply.
Paton points out that any day now, the congregation of 4,000 is expecting the arrival of a Syrian family of 14 people that will cost the church almost $200,000 upon their arrival. The church has already sponsored hundreds of other Syrian refugees, including some Muslim ones.
"So, the federal government is quite happy to have us help them provide support for so many of their objectives but then they turn around and discriminate against us by denying us access to a federal program because of our conscience and religious beliefs — which are written rights in the Charter," he said.
"We don't protest abortion," said Paton. "We're not trying to stop it, but I cannot honestly, in a clear conscience, say that I support terminating human life."
Barry Bussey, legal director of the CCCC, says at first blush the attestation appears innocuous.
"However, behind that velvet glove is an iron fist.
"This should not surprise us," said Bussey, as the PM refuses to allow anyone who doesn't sign on to his pro-abortion agenda to be a candidate in his party.
"It now appears that he is using the same approach with government programs. This affects all Canadians, not just those running for political office," he said.
But this change doesn't affect Omar Khadr, or the Aga Khan, or China or Pakistan when they receive millions of dollars from Ottawa. It's ironic, wrong and infuriating.