Wrinkling my nose against the acrid smell of sweat clinging to his hockey uniform, I carefully probed the teenager's impressively swollen wrist. I sent him off to the radiology department with his grandmother and turned my attention immediately to another patient in the endless emergency queue, completely forgetting to send a digital requisition for the needed X-rays.
The radiology technician, attempting to correct my omission, asked grandma which doctor had attended her grandson. “I can’t remember,” she said, “But it was the short, handsome, Latino man.”
One out of three isn’t bad, I suppose: I’m a card-carrying member of the pocket-doctor set, indisputably small.
Her generous assessment of my wrinkly mug as “handsome” was proof only that she had to be legally blind, surely beset by the densest of cataracts. My vacation-acquired tan penetrated her milky lenses just enough for her to kindly bestow me with Brazilian or Puerto Rican heritage.
Ironically, though my roots are thoroughly Dutch, I'm endowed with the mercurial temper for which Latinos are famous (a most ignorant stereotype, let me hasten to stress, before level-headed Latin Americans launch irritable volleys of protest in my direction).
The healthiest prescription for folks like me is to pay only the barest attention to “issues of the day”, so as to prevent dangerous spikes in blood pressure and Vesuvian eruptions of rage. But I’m helpless in the face of the ceaseless drumbeat of headlines, like a fly drawn by heaps of steaming manure.
Hence you can imagine my ire when confronted with the news that the Liberal Party of Canada is denying funds from the Summer Jobs Program to organizations who will not attest to support for “reproductive rights” (read “abortion”), under the auspices of “protecting the Charter rights of Canadians.”
This is a tactic that should elicit howls of outrage from all of us, hotheads or not.
The popular Canada Summer Jobs Program, endowed with roughly 220 million dollars of our money, supplies funds for about 70,000 student placements and is widely accessed by religious groups in their administration of drop-in centers, summer camps, and other programs.
Anyone is welcome to submit an application: that is, until this year, when unless you agree with the Liberal Party’s policy on “reproductive rights”, you need not apply. Toe the party line or that pool of funds - that you helped create - is unavailable to you.
We are to leave aside, I suppose, that “sexual and reproductive rights” and the “right to legal abortion” appear nowhere in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Following the Morgentaler decision in 1988, Canada actually has no law on abortion, a vacuum that no Parliament has since had the courage to tackle. But the fact that it is not illegal to obtain an abortion (at any stage of pregnancy) is not the same as saying that the “right to abortion” is enshrined in law – there is no law.
What is enshrined in Section Two of the Charter are fundamental freedoms of religion, thought, belief, expression and peaceful assembly.
It’s true that more than half of Canadians agree that abortion should be permitted whenever a woman decides she wants it, while almost a quarter support provision of the procedure but with some limits, according to an Ipsos poll last spring.
It is this majority to which Mr. Trudeau’s government is pandering in the process of stomping all over the rights of Canadians who are disturbed by termination of life in the womb.
I shouldn’t need to point out that one doesn’t have to be “religious” to be uncomfortable or conflicted on the issue of abortion.
I spent months in the neonatal intensive care unit during my training in pediatrics, at a time when by consensus the “age of viability” outside the womb was considered to be around 24 weeks of gestational age (these days it’s as low as 22 weeks – in Japan, for example, practically all “22-weekers” are resuscitated).
It was a period both poignant and precious, during which I was privileged to care for the tiniest humans, beautiful and delicate, some teeny enough to support in one hand.
We intubated them to help them breathe, nourished them through intravenous lines, nurtured them through the perils and pitfalls of prematurity, and rejoiced as they grew and thrived and eventually went home with their parents.
I was often struck by an uncomfortable but inescapable fact: only hours before these cherished babies were born and magically invested with all the rights and privileges and protections of Canadian citizens, just prior to being attended to with ferocious love and unmatched dedication, they were anchored by umbilical cords inside their maternal wombs, “property” of their mothers and amenable to being abruptly extinguished in place.
It’s an open question as to what “science” will bring us in coming years and decades regarding the “viability” of extremely premature babies, and consequently their personhood and by extension their rights. Each era is considered by the humans living within it to be an “Age of Enlightenment” before history consigns it to the annals as only slightly less ignorant.
We collectively and universally agree that newborn babies and children are to be carefully protected, and we go so far as to remove from families those children we deem to be at risk. Few crimes are more repugnant to us than the neglect, abuse, and murder of children, the worst of our condemnation and scorn reserved for parents who harm their own offspring.
It’s not difficult, therefore, to appreciate that prenatal termination remains deeply and morally disturbing for many people. And it’s darkly ironic that such individuals, fiercely protective of the littlest among us, are dismissively labeled as “intolerant” of human rights.
But Canadians with these qualms need not apply to the federal Summer Jobs program. Such citizens are out of step with “where we are as Canadians”, to use Prime Minister Trudeau’s words, by implication mean-spirited, ignorant, divisive, close-minded, and judgmental because they do not “believe” as the majority do.
It’s worth reflecting on the words of Winston Smith, hapless protagonist of George Orwell’s 1984, who rightly commented (before he was re-programmed) that “sanity is not statistical” - which is to say that just because something is popularly held to be true and right does not mean it is true and right; or, conversely, that those in disagreement are knuckle-dragging whack jobs. Sanity and correctness do not automatically reside with the majority.
“Diversity is our strength”, Mr. Trudeau tirelessly proclaims– unless, apparently, that diversity includes opinions that are different from his own. The Liberal Party’s vaunted “tolerance for all” does not extend to tolerance for Christians or to anyone else at odds with the thoughts of the state.
(Mr. Trudeau’s contempt for Christians is especially galling given that he has proudly taken as one of his banner achievements the welcoming of thousands of refugees to this country, while ignoring the out-sized role of the Christian community in housing and sustaining those very refugees.)
By invoking the Charter of Rights and Freedoms while simultaneously violating the rights and freedoms of millions of Canadians, Mr. Trudeau has demonstrated his mastery of saying one thing while believing and practicing another. He’s proving to be an artiste on this score, whether pontificating about reducing taxes for the “middle class” while actually soaking them more or waxing eloquent about legalizing marijuana to “protect our youth” while casually normalizing its use.
It’s the sort of behavior neatly encapsulated by Orwell’s doublethink:
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancel out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it.
The summer jobs fiasco sets us on the slipperiest of slopes. Liberal Employment Minister Patty Hajdu, asked if the government might be considering other programs to which it might apply its ideological litmus test, offered this: “At this point, my responsibility is for the Canada Summer Jobs program, this is a commitment that we’ve made to Canadians, and that’s about all I have to say.”
Be forewarned: be prepared to pay obeisance to the Liberal party line if you hope to access federal funds for any jobs, training, or social development programs on the Liberal government’s watch.
Ms. Hajdu clumsily defended her party’s heavy-handedness with nonsensical bunk about “core mandates”:
“We’re working very closely, as I said, with faith groups to make sure that they understand that as long as their core mandate is not in violation of Canadian human rights and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it’s not violating a woman’s ultimate right to control her own body, that they should have absolutely no problem receiving grant money, provided they, you know, fill out the application properly.”
She’s apparently oblivious to the fact that the “faith” held by these groups has at its core the sanctity of human life. “Just sign the damn thing and you’ll get your money” is the tenor of the minister’s advice - trade in your moral compass for cash.
This is no mere “kerfuffle”, as our Prime Minister disdainfully declared. This is a noxious attempt at thought control by the state, an egregious violation of our basic rights and freedoms, reprehensible and nakedly immoral.
Canadians should be united in being deeply offended by this and in demanding that our government rescind its “attestation” requirement.
Alas, many Canadians remain passive and in thrall to their Leader, blind to the peril this policy represents, their vision obstructed by moral cataracts of the most impenetrable sort.