Feature: This week, we speak with ARPA Executive Director Mark Penninga about a controversy that erupted in Red Deer, Alberta over a pro-life presentation at a local Catholic high school.
Summer student job funding pulled from pro-life group: Ottawa applies an ideological purity test to summer student job funding; pro-life groups need not apply.
A useless amendment masquerading as a bold defence of religious freedom: The Ontario PC Party proposed a toothless amendment to Bill 89 and the new Child and Family Services Act.
Easter bunny goes to court: A lawsuit over government insistence that foster children be taught “the truth” about the Easter Bunny.
Introducing ARPA Canada’s new Alberta Director: ARPA has filled its Alberta Director position.
The federal government has applied what amounts to a “values test” to determine eligibility for funding on the Canada Summer Jobs Program. The program is supposed to provide wage subsidies for employers to help them train full-time students, and to provide those students with some income so they don’t have to rely exclusively on student loans to fund their education.
However, the government is looking at changing the rules to ensure that no Liberal MPs would be allowed to allocate money to any pro-life groups. The issue came to light after a Liberal MP allocated more than $56-thousand dollars to the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR). That money has now been retracted, and the government called it an “oversight.”
Jonathon Van Maren with the CCBR concedes that this is government funding, and nobody’s “entitled to it”, but he says the government is now imposing an “ideological purity test” due to pressure from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. He says it’s very clear that the government is making subjective value judgements on “which citizens of Canada do work which is worthy of support and which don’t.” And he says the work of pro-life groups is now considered something “unworthy of government support.”
Van Maren says they’ll do some fundraising to make up the financial shortfall, and they’re talking with lawyers to see if the government can actually discriminate with its funding on the basis of ideological concerns.
Ontario’s opposition PC Party has proposed an amendment to Bill 89; the Liberal government’s move to re-write the laws around child protection, adoption, and foster parenting. The bill has prompted a lot of concern that parental rights – particularly around freedom of religion – are being ignored. To fix that, the PC Party of Ontario has proposed an amendment to the Bill; the addition of three words: “creed includes religion.” The term “creed” is part of a long list of attributes that are spelled out; qualities that cannot be used to discriminate against children in the parenting, adoption, or fostering process.
ARPA lawyer John Sikkema says the amendment won’t actually do anything to protect parents or foster parents. “As the Minister said, where someone is not affirming their child in their sexual orientation or gender identity, that may be considered a form of child abuse because these things are being added as matters to be considered in promoting the child’s best interest.” But Sikkema says that begs the question of how parents are free to respond in a way that’s consistent with their beliefs and worldview. He says the proposed amendment does “absolutely nothing” to remedy that dilemma.
Committee debate is continuing on the Bill, and there’s still no firm date for a full debate in the legislature.
The Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton is being taken to court over a decision to remove two young children from a foster home. The decision to remove those children was allegedly made because the foster parents refused to pro-actively affirm the notion that the Easter Bunny is real.
John Carpay from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is taking on the case. “What’s important here is that if you’ve got foster parents who are providing a loving, caring home, and the kids are clothed and fed and given attention and affection, then it’s pretty scary when a social worker says that ‘because you’re not going to pro-actively teach the kids what I want you to teach them, we’re going to close down your foster home.’” Carpay says a decision like this can lead to a very slippery slope in terms of legal precedent. “If there’s (an) insistence on the Easter Bunny being real, and yet there’s no insistence on saying that the resurrection of Christ is real, you do see an ideological aggressiveness that’s there, and it has to be fought and resisted.”
Carpay says the foster parents aren’t looking for any kind of damages; they simply want a court to rule that the Children’s Aid Society made a mistake.
Editor’s note: We have received messages from foster parents in our Reformed circles who have a wonderful relationship with the Hamilton Children’s Aid Society. Please note that until the Hamilton CAS can respond to these allegations in court, we are only able to report on the information made available at this point. We pray for a resolution to this case that will both support the rights of Christian foster parents and protect children in care. May many Christian families continue to have the opportunity to show the love of God to children and families that are hurting in our communities.
ARPA has hired a new Alberta Director. The position had been posted on the website for more than a month, and in the end, the job goes to a man named Ed Hoogerdyk. He’s the long-time principal of Tyndale Christian School in Calgary.
Hoogerdyk has committed to one more year of work at the school, so the new position will actually take effect in the summer of next year (2018).
There was a major controversy in Alberta earlier this month over whether or not the pro-life position should be able to get a hearing in the Catholic school system. The issue started when a young woman made a presentation to a Catholic High School in Red Deer. On the feature this week, we speak with ARPA Canada’s Executive Director Mark Penninga about what’s really behind the story.
LN: Mark, this case involves ARPA, at least peripherally. Just before Easter, there was a young lady who was a member of – well, she’s been associated with – one of the ARPA chapters there; she was part of lifeTOUR. We’re not going to talk about her identity, because there’s some tension involved there for her, but talk to me about the story of her making a pro-life presentation at a Catholic high school, and what that resulted in.
MP: Yeah, this young lady – who’s (a) very kind, sweet girl – made a presentation in a Catholic School, very much like the kinds of presentations that we as ARPA staff make in schools all the time. It’s along the lines of what we call “Pro-Life 101.” And in that presentation she equated the pre-born children – and what’s happening to them through abortion in Canada – with the Holocaust. And I think for many of us, we understand that comparison. We saw how, in WWII, the Germans had made a real effort to dehumanize the Jews, and as a result that led to the Holocaust; led to the slaughter of millions of people. And we also see so many efforts today to take away the human identity of pre-born children, and to use that then to excuse and allow and even celebrate abortion.
So she made this presentation in the school. Someone recorded that presentation with their phone (and) shared it. News traveled very quickly all the way to the Minister of Education in Alberta. He was irate. He was upset, and within very little time (he) lashed out against the fact that this school allowed this presentation.
The media picked it up; not just the Alberta media. It spread like wildfire right across the country, even making headlines in the Globe and Mail. So, quite amazing that one presentation from a young Reformed girl, done in a very respectful way, could get that kind of national attention simply because of a rational argument being made about abortion.
LN: And beyond that now, the Minister is talking about some kind of governmental policy to screen all presenters in all schools in Alberta. Can they even do that?
MP: Well, he made a comment to the effect of saying how it’s unfortunate that the Province’s “excellent filters” didn’t catch this. And it’s a good reminder, he said, for everybody to be vigilant to make sure this kind of hateful propaganda doesn’t infiltrate our schools.
So the question is, is that allowed? Well, from a constitutional perspective we would say “Of course not.” The Minister of Education definitely has responsibility when it comes to overseeing the public education system in Alberta. But that’s very different than being able to demand that the topic that he doesn’t like is not talked about – so in this case the topic of abortion – is not talked about in a religious school. Freedom of association which is a fundamental freedom protected in Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms very clearly (and) emphatically protects the rights of an association like a school to be able to exist around the principles that it believes in.
So can he do that? Can he order that schools not allow a topic like this to be talked about? Not at all.
That doesn’t mean though, that he won’t do what he can to make it very unattractive for schools to invite speakers like this again. Even that Catholic school immediately expressed regret for not having reviewed her presentation ahead of time, and for that particular (Holocaust) argument within the presentation. So it does create that chill across the province, and that’s something we should all be concerned about.
LN: There was another angle to this. “Accessing Information, not Myths”. That’s an activist group in Alberta that certainly wouldn’t be aligned with ARPA, but they want a province-wide investigation into this whole thing in light of the presentation, and ARPA issued a press release shortly after that call, going “Yeah! Bring it on!”
There’s a whole bunch of other things going on in the context of Alberta education as well, right?
MP: It was rather surprising that these words came from the Minister of Education, these words of concern about “third parties” and their influence in the education system. We say it’s surprising because – for a whole year – we as ARPA and working alongside hundreds of Albertans – have been trying to raise awareness. We’ve been trying to get the ear of the Education Minister about how third parties are already infiltrating the school system. They’re already promoting all sorts of harmful, hurtful ideologies. We saw that this last year in regard to the way in which this radical gender ideology is being forced on to all schools. But we see it more recently.
Some of our listeners might be familiar with Ted Byfield. He’s been a reporter in Alberta for many years. On his own blog, he’s been covering how it’s been impossible for him to find out who is behind this massive overhaul of the entire curriculum in Alberta. Currently, there’s three to four hundred “experts” who are working with the Minister of Education to do what is considered by the Minister “the most sweeping reform that this school curriculum has ever seen.” But we don’t know who these three to four hundred people are. We have no idea. Even Freedom of Information requests are being denied. So we see all sorts of experts; we see all sorts of individuals who are having unparalleled influence in the education system. We don’t know who they are. And that’s very concerning. So yeah, we’d love to find out more about who’s “infiltrating” the public education system.
Another example comes more recently – just in the past couple of weeks. A different organization altogether – Informed Albertans – they’ve been uncovering how the Alberta government’s funding – it’s promoting – a website, and that website’s including links delivering very graphic, sexually graphic images, very disturbing content. And it’s delivering that to school-aged children from K-12. And it’s doing that through the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. That’s another example in which the Alberta government seems to have no problem at all allowing third-party influences in the public education system that are in accordance with its worldview, and yet suddenly it’s very concerned about third-party influences that might question something like abortion. It’s very hypocritical.
LN: There’s a quote from you on LifeSiteNews, talking about, you know, if the Minister says he just “doesn’t approve what was said in Red Deer, he’s (probably not) violating the Charter, but if Eggen orders schools not to allow (this), or penalizes schools” that allow this kinds of presentations he “can expect a lawsuit from ARPA.” That was the quote on LifeSiteNews. Have we done the legal research to go down that road?
MP: Over the last year, independent schools in Alberta have been doing legal research to see at what point they should consider a court case against the Ministry of Education in that province. And it’s difficult to know at what point to take that action. What we see is that the minister is doing a careful dance. He’s pressuring schools to promote an agenda – an ideology – that he believes is something we should be promoting. And he’s using very strong language. But we’re not quite sure how much teeth is behind that language. So if a school does not comply, what happens then? So we’re actually waiting to see how the minister responds to what the independent schools have sent him when it comes to the guidelines. So that’s a very similar instance to what we’re seeing here. If the minister demands that a school not allow a pro-life presentation, then he’s clearly crossed the line. It wouldn’t be a hard constitutional case to make at all that he’s violating our fundamental freedoms, and he could expect multiple court challenges, I’m sure about that.