• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Liberals Acting Illiberally

The Liberal government of Canada recently announced new terms for the Canada Summer Jobs program (CSJ), and they are alarming.

Along with requiring any participating organization to adhere to Canadian law, which of course they (redundantly) should, the program newly adds a series of “values” to the list. I have italicized a few words for your special attention.

“CSJ applicants will be required to attest that 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 and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

The employer attestation for CSJ 2018 is consistent with individual human rights in Canada, Charter rights and case law, and the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.

The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies.

The government recognizes that everyone should have the right to live according to their gender identity and express their gender as they choose, free from discrimination. The government is committed to protecting the dignity, security, and rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.”

Notice this language of “recognition,” as if the government’s values are simply out there, simply obvious in the world—“truths we hold to be self-evident,” as one might say. But of course they are not self-evident, as many people disagree with them. And so this policy has to refer also to its own particular definitions of human rights—definitions that are not so defined in the Charter or any other Canadian legislation. They are, in fact, simply the values of the current government, which has chosen to place them “at the core” of its policies.

The Liberal government is certainly entitled to place any values it likes at the core of its policies, subject of course to Canadian law. But what it is not entitled to do is to require those values of everyone else who is going about their Canadian business.

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