Monday, September 25, 2006

Social Conservatism By The Back Door

The Federal Government has just announced $1 Billion in spending cuts on the heels of a $13 billion surplus.

Now, re-evaluating government spending is not necessarily a bad idea, but in this case, it speaks quite loudly to how the HarperCrit government is going to go about implementing the socially conservative policies that have always been there, even if Steven doesn't want to talk about them.

A few of the "highlights" of these cuts that underscore my point:

Women's rights and equality: Administrative reductions to Status of Women: $5 million.

Considering that SoW is primarily a funding disbursements agency, I suspect that $5 million is a sizeable chunk of their staffing budget. Of course, you can't disburse funds if nobody's around to administer things, can you. In future years, we will see the CPoC declaring this department as "redundant" because they have "unused funds".

Medical Research: -End to medical marijuana science funding: $4 million.

Unsurprising - the CPoC thinks of marijuana as a criminal offense, and they aren't the least bit interested in understanding how it helps people with long term, debilitating diseases.

Environment: -Removal of unused funds for mountain pine beetle initiative: $11.7 million

I see - so the most dangerous creature to our forestry industry in Canada doesn't matter? Brilliant thinking there, but considering that Rona Ambrose thinks that 17 owls left doesn't constitute an endangered species, I'm not surprised.

Civil Rights: -Elimination of of Court Challenges Program: $5.6 million.

For women and minority groups, this is a significant cut. This program provided funding which enabled minority groups to challenge major injustices in legislation. This is a subtle, but nasty cut. Minority groups are often very small, and their ability to raise funds for such challenges independantly is limited.

In a broader view, this particular change signals that this is a government that is not willing to tolerate challenges to its legislative initiatives. They know that much of what they want to legislate cannot stand detailed scrutiny before the courts, so they want to make it as difficult as possible for the challenges to be launched and sustained through our legal processes.

Now, for all this, the government has achieved a $1 billion total cut in government program spending. This is less than 1% of the total government budget of some $212 billion in expenditures - kind of makes one wonder about the intentions of the government, doesn't it?

12 comments:

Gazetteer said...

Excellent post Grog.

Anonymous said...

The Court Challenges Program (CCP) was a biased program that did not support legal equality at all; it routinely only funded one side of a rights issue being challenged in the courts. It was made a non-profit crown corporation so as to be beyond the scrutiny of Parliament and the Auditor General.
Groups working for religious freedom have to pay for lobbying and court challenges from their own pockets whereas gays and lesbians get a free ride from the CCP and government funding.
The idea that gays and lesbians won't have money to fight for their cause is ludicrous; they have jobs just like everyone else. If there is a cause they want to fight then they can all contribute $10 each and have more money than the CCP would provide anyway.

Grog said...

Anonymous,

If you can cite - and document - one case where a religious group has had a legitimate charter challenge, and show that they were denied funding (as opposed to not applying for it), I'll be happy to listen.

So far, I can't think of a single case where a charter challenge of law has been raised by the religious. There's been an amazing amount of screaming that the "Notwithstanding clause" be used, but I cannot think of a single case offhand where the laws have tromped on religious freedoms.

(And no, I do not accept the bullshit argument about adding sexual orientation to 'hate crimes' as an example - that law makes specific reference to religious expression, and by inference back to the charter.)

If it really was a "biased" organization, why not just change its mandate to remove that bias? (Or was it just inconvenient that its services were utilized by a minority that the religious right finds distasteful?)

Anonymous said...

Grog,

One word: Vriend

Whenever rights come in to conflict there are always at least two sides. CCP only finds the party that wants to change the law and will not fund the party trying to maintain their rights (i.e that want to keep the law the same).
Taking a case to the Supreme Court can cost $500,000 or more. King's College had to pay the full cost of their litigation in order to have their decision to fire Vriend upheld. Religious rights are Charter rights too; Kings was defending their rights under the Charter. The opposing side had funding from CCP and a free ride all the way to the top.

Anonymous said...

Grog,


I cannot think of a single case offhand where the laws have tromped on religious freedoms

As far as that statement goes, look at this:
Brockie

Grog said...

Re: Vriend:

Talking Points on Vriend

Re: Brockie:

Brockie - and other talking point cases

Neither of those cases speak to the law trampling on religious freedoms.

The Brockie case amounts to little more than the experience of black people in the US during the 1950s - entering a place of business and being told "we don't serve your kind here" - that isn't a religious belief, that's discrimination.

Anonymous said...

Analogizing Brockie to the "we don't serve your kind here" is completely incorrect. Brockie was asked to print materials promoting something his religious views strongly disagreed with. There were no religious views associated with the faiure to serve soft drinks and some food to black people in the U.S. South. Brockie had printed materials for gay customers that did not deal directly with promoting homosexuality without complaint or delay. It was not the person(s) but the material being printed that was offensive to Brockie. He would not print pro-abortion material (or letterhead for pro-abortion groups) either.

Grog said...

Bullfeathers. Brockie agreed to print letterhead for these people, and then when he received the working materials, refused service.

During and prior to the early years of the civil rights revolution in the United States, there were plenty of people whose "religious beliefs" told them that blacks were inferior and that they therefore had no obligation whatsoever to treat them as equals - including providing them with basic service in a restaurant. What the hell is the difference - zip, zero, nada, in my view.

Using your analogy that Brockie's religious beliefs take precedence and justify refusal of service AFTER an arrangement has been made for service, the following are perfectly valid:

1) I could refuse Brockie service in my store simply because my religion sees his as apostate, and I am obliged not to engage the apostate. (after all, religion is a matter of choice, Brockie could change, couldn't he?)

2) Similarly, you actually wind up validating the "religious views" of groups like the KKK - who claim to have religious beliefs that support their racism.

3) Using your logic, it is perfectly reasonable to put up signs in store windows that say "No service for Gays/Jews/Catholics/... due to religious objections"

The issue with the Brockie case is twofold - first, Brockie's business itself did not make any identification of its religious affiliations, leading any reasonable person to presume that religion is not terribly important to the transaction of commerce in that shop. Second, he agreed to print letterhead (pretty mundane stuff) over the phone, and similarly neither inquired about the content of that letterhead, nor did he notify the plaintiffs of his policy at that time. (My guess is he cooked up that "policy" on the spur of the moment - it's notable that nothing of that nature appears on his company website even today)

Brockie had several "avenues out" that he could have used - including a simple dodge such as - "I'm sorry, my press schedule can't fit this in until next month".

It's not like he was being asked to print gay erotica or something like that - we are talking about something about as inoffensive as possible - letterhead {ya know - that stuff most businesses use to "officialize" correspondence}

Equally, he could have printed the job, and said "I'm sorry, my religious beliefs will not permit me to do further business with you". I suspect in that case, the plaintiffs would have simply taken their business elsewhere in the future.

I'm sorry, but Brockie made an agreement, and then broke it on the grounds that it had something to do with someone's sexuality - denial of service pure and simple.

If a business is not going to serve me because of who or what they believe I am, then I expect that business to be up front about that - period.

Anonymous said...

1) I could refuse Brockie service in my store simply because my religion sees his as apostate, and I am obliged not to engage the apostate. (after all, religion is a matter of choice, Brockie could change, couldn't he?)


First of all, I'm not sure what your religion is. If your religion sees Christianity as apostate and Brockie wanted to print a cookbook with no references to Christianity in it then you could not refuse. If, however, he wanted letterhead printed with 'Jesus Christ is Lord' on the top then you could refuse it because this would violate your religion. You see, the difference is based upon what is being printed not who is requesting the printing. You cannot refuse a printing job just because the customer is a Christian but you can refuse a job if the customer wants you to print Christian materials that offend your religious beliefs. Well, at least I think that's the way the law should work but the OHRC does not it seems.

3) Using your logic, it is perfectly reasonable to put up signs in store windows that say "No service for Gays/Jews/Catholics/... due to religious objections"


No, I think. The law does not (or should not) allow discrimination based upon the person. It does/should allow discrimination based upon what that person wants to do. If a Catholic wants to go in to a store and buy a pack of chewing gum then he/she should be allowed to do this. If a Catholic wants to walk in to a store and have a fax sent of the Lords' Prayer and this is objectionable to on religious grounds to the person behind the counter then the service person might refuse.
Really, based upon section 2 of the Charter (belief/expression) a gay person might refuse the Catholic service if the Catholic wanted to print/fax a brochure calling for a rally against gay marriage or homosexual activity.
See what I mean?

Grog said...

If, however, he wanted letterhead printed with 'Jesus Christ is Lord' on the top then you could refuse it because this would violate your religion.

You've danced around the point I was making.

Brockie was contacted by an individual with a request to print some letterhead.

Brockie replies something to the effect of "sure, just come on in and we'll take care of it for you". He did not say "bring it in, and I'll evaluate whether I can print it or not".

At no time, does anything in the discussion broach the fact that Brockie is going to impose his particular religious beliefs on the job.

When he finds out that the job is related to a gay organization, he refuses service that he has already committed to.

Which, by the way, is precisely the reason that as the case wound through the courts, he kept losing - he took exactly zero steps to notify prospective clients of his policies.

Really, based upon section 2 of the Charter (belief/expression) a gay person might refuse the Catholic service if the Catholic wanted to print/fax a brochure calling for a rally against gay marriage or homosexual activity.

Not if I have already made an agreement (verbally or otherwise) to do that. In that case, I take my emotional lumps, do the job, and put in place procedures to ensure it doesn't happen in the future. (e.g. Policy becomes "We will not broadcast fax literature promoting events)

Several other civil rights cases have made it clear that if your policy is clear from the outset (e.g. you are not cancelling an agreement after making it), your rights are perfectly protected. If you arrive at an agreement and then yank it arbitrarily, then you are in violation of the other party.

No, I think. The law does not (or should not) allow discrimination based upon the person.

Which is precisely what Brockie DID. Brockie imposed an arbitrary policy "on the spot" - nothing prior to that point gives any notion that the policy existed prior to that point in time.

The key point of the Brockie issue is notification. If you are going to implement specific policies based on religion, then as a businessman, you are obliged to notify prospective clients of those policies, as it will impact the character of doing business with you. (It cuts the other way as well - although I've never heard of a GLBT owned business refusing a religious group service)

Anonymous said...

From http://www.cdp-hrc.uottawa.ca/hrlc/hrlc2002/brillinger.html

On April 4, 1996, as the then president of the Archives, Brillinger sought a quote for the printing of Archives envelopes, letterhead and business cards from Imaging Excellence. The request was made to Brockie, who was willing to provide the quote and carry out the service, until he learned the name of the organization which Brillinger represented.
¶ 5 On learning that Brillinger was requesting the service on behalf of a gay and lesbian organization, Brockie refused to quote on, or to provide, the printing service.


Brockie never provided the quote - no offer was made, no consideration was involved and no acceptance of the offer occured. How was the contract formed? How was the agreement made? One cannot repudiate an unformed contract.

Grog said...

Okay - I had my facts slightly muddled on the particulars - I was under the impression that Brockie had quoted for the job.

However, if you read further through that decision, it's pretty clear to me that it comes back to my original analogy of "we don't serve your kind":

5 On learning that Brillinger was requesting the service on behalf of a gay and lesbian organization, Brockie refused to quote on, or to provide, the printing service. He testified that he is a born again Christian and that he refused the work on the basis of his deeply held conviction that homosexuality is contrary to the teachings of the Christian Bible.

If it was something like erotic or promotional literature that was involved, I might be more sympathetic to Brockie. It wasn't - it was nothing more than basic business materials (envelopes, letterhead and business cards).

Further, if you read paragraphs 8 - 10, the protections of the act extend to organizations (such as the Gay and Lesbian Archives).

Paragraphs 11-13 further illustrate why the refusal of service is discriminatory.

Does it "impinge" upon Brockie's "freedom of religion"? Not in my opinion. Brockie is perfectly free to have his beliefs, and to the expression of them. However, it is more questionable whether he is free to sanction others because of his beliefs. {Perhaps within his particular faith community, but arguably not outside of that community} Nothing about this ruling substantively alters Brockie's right to "disagree" with homosexuality on religious grounds, lobby against gay rights, or preach against it (should he preach).

If the "subtitle" of his business was "A Christian Printer" or some such, I suspect that he would never have been approached in the first place by the Gay and Lesbian Archives. Similarly, a policy statement to the effect of "Management reserves the right to refuse to print materials it finds objectionable or contrary to Christian Faith" would probably have been an adequate protection.

There's an interesting point about freedom of religion - it means that you are individually free to believe whatever you want. It does not free you to project your faith convictions upon others.