Thaddeus Baklinski

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Wide-ranging political and religious groups condemn Quebec’s values charter

Thaddeus Baklinski
Thaddeus Baklinski

QUEBEC, September 13, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Parti Quebecois’ charter of values legislation, which proposes "to entrench the religious neutrality of the state and the secular nature of public institutions" in Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, is being condemned by all sides of the political spectrum, and by religious leaders across the country.

On Tuesday, Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney responded to statements about the proposed charter from Quebec Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville, saying "we are very concerned about any proposal that would discriminate unfairly against people based on their religion."

"If it's determined that a prospective law violates the constitutional protections to freedom of religion to which all Canadians are entitled, we will defend those rights vigorously," Kenney told reporters.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, speaking from the NDP's summer caucus retreat in Saskatoon, stated that his party completely rejects Quebec's plans for banning conspicuous religious symbols. He said that workers should not have to choose between their expression of faith and their jobs.

“To be told that a woman working in a daycare centre, because she's wearing a headscarf, will lose her job is to us intolerable in our society," Mulcair said. "There's no expiry date on human rights. It's not a popularity contest, this for us is completely unacceptable and the NDP will be standing up foursquare against this project."

Even at the risk of alienating Quebecers that overwhelmingly voted for the NDP in the last federal election, Mulcair pointed to what he believes is an entrenched discrimination against minorities in Quebec's civil service. 

"What we have today is an attempt to impose state-mandated discrimination against minorities in the Quebec civil service. That for us is an absolute non-starter," he said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accused Premier Pauline Marois and the Parti Quebecois of indulging in “divisive identity politics” as a distraction from more pressing economic problems.

"Madame Marois does not speak for all Quebecers when she puts forward an idea of forcing people to choose between their work and their religion, to set out an idea of second-class Quebecers who would not qualify to work in public institutions because of their religion," Trudeau said.

"Quebecers are better than this," Trudeau added, "and Madame Marois is going to find that out the hard way."

James Fitz-Morris of CBC News said that the proposed charter of values legislation is a red herring for Parti Quebecois separation aspirations.

"Is the Parti Québécois government attempting to set itself up for a political win-win?" Fitz-Morris wondered, saying that, win or lose, the separatists would gain ground.

"On the first front: If it is successful in entrenching secularism and religious neutrality in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, it will set Quebec on a new course quite different from the other provinces. That could make it easier down the road to argue Quebec is so different from the rest of Canada that it should separate," he said.

"If Ottawa were to interfere and block Quebec from proceeding, or defeat the proposed changes in court later, Quebec could argue the rest of Canada is incompatible with what Quebecers want and, therefore, push for separation," he added.

Religious and pro-family leaders across the country have expressed serious concern about the charter of values legislation's impact on religious freedom and human rights.

Montreal's Archbishop denounced the Marois government’s proposed legislation, calling the ban on conspicuous religious symbols worn by public employees a violation of their religious rights.

"I think it is a violation of the right to have a religion, and to be religious. Because it is not only about private religion, private life. It's also about public life," said Archbishop Christian Lépine.

Brian Lilley, senior correspondent for Sun Media on Parliament Hill, called the Parti Quebecois values charter "an outright attack on individual freedom."

Lilley wrote in his blog that while he can understand that support for the proposed legislation is largely due to "a fear and understandable discomfort with Muslim women covering their faces in public," because "the niqab and burka are foreign concepts to Canada and most people do not like them," he said that the PQ government's strategy to deal with the "sense of anxiety Quebecers are feeling regarding the burka and niqab," is taking a "sledgehammer approach to the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Quebecers."

"In Canada, we expect to see the faces of the people we pass on the street, that we meet in stores, doctors’ offices or at our local schools," Lilley observed. "But...when did it become a Canadian or Quebec value to have government bureaucrats set our wardrobe?"

Lilley argued that the PQ government's intention to pass legislation that would limit freedom of religion is "running roughshod" over the rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

"It is clear the majority of Canadians from coast to coast reject people covering their faces in public," Lilley stated, but added, "We will have to find a way to deal with that growing trend one way or another, but attacking freedom of religion is the wrong way to go about it."

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) condemned the proposed measure, saying the ban targets some religious groups of Quebec citizens, but not others, and strips the targeted groups of the opportunity to seek or retain employment with provincial and municipal governments, and potentially with private employers, as well.

“Premier Marois and government officials have claimed that such a ban treats all Quebeckers equally, and places them on equal footing, but that is not the case,” said EFC President Bruce Clemenger in a statement. 

“The Charter of Values does not require most Christians to choose between religious observance – the practice requirements of their faith – and government employment as there is nothing distinctive about what we Christians, or secularists for that matter, wear," he said. "The proposal does mean that adherents of those faiths that do require the personal display of symbols or that specific headgear or other clothing be worn are being asked to choose between their religion and being a civil servant.”

“This is not neutral nor an equal treatment of religion” said Clemenger. “Only some religious groups will be impacted and it does not treat religious adherents equally as it imposes the practices of some who do not wear distinctive attire on all.“

The Catholic Civil Rights League said the Quebec government’s plan to introduce the charter of Quebec values is an overkill reaction to existing tensions in the province that would not withstand a constitutional challenge.

"The proposed ban on religious symbols is clearly an issue of religious freedom, and also raises a second question: just how far the state can go in imposing religious conformity on its citizens," said CCRL Executive Director Joanne McGarry in a statement

"The fact that public institutions are expected to be neutral on religious matters does not mean the people working in them are. A sweeping ban on the wearing of religious or cultural symbols would limit employees’ religious freedom, and it would probably also increase the sense of exclusion of minorities and of religious believers," McGarry said.

"In a society that guarantees religious freedom, it is difficult to see how such a sweeping ban could withstand a constitutional challenge," McGarry concluded.


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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

LifeSiteNews staff
By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

Tony Gosgnach
By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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