Saturday, September 19, 2009

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

The Quebec Liberal governments did well to allow a few thousand rabid separatists to mark the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham with a public reading of the hateful manifesto issued by the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) during the October Crisis of 1970.

This is not to suggest that the CBC was right to have broadcast the entire manifesto in English and French on October 8, 1970, at the demand of the FLQ kidnappers of British Trade Commissioner James Cross. As usual, appeasement failed: The criminal gang went on to kidnap and murder Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte.

Evidently, this tragedy is of small account to the Quebec separatists who gathered last weekend for a 24-hour marathon of readings in Quebec City’s Battlefields Park. They cheered two recitations of the FLQ manifesto.

Consider some extracts: “We will always be the diligent servants and bootlickers of the big shots, as long as there is a Westmount, a Town of Mount Royal, a Hampstead, an Outremont … We will be slaves until Quebeckers, all of us, have used every means, including dynamite and guns, to drive out these big bosses of the economy and of politics, who will stoop to any action however low it may be, the better to screw us.”

Quebec Justice Minister Kathleen Weil might have threatened to charge the narrator of this document under Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which prohibits the wilful promotion of hatred “against any identifiable group” upon pain of imprisonment for up to two years.

Instead, Weil prudently chose to allow recital of the FLQ manifesto to the gathering in Battlefields Park. In so doing, she alerted Quebecers to the persistence of a small number of separatist extremists. And she exposed the cynicism of Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois and former PQ premier Bernard Landry, who participated in the readings despite the FLQ recitations.

Even some federalists took part, including a Montreal playwright who read from an essay by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. That was a mistake. All decent Quebecers should have boycotted the event. They should also applaud the Quebec government for having denounced the spectacle and withdrawn $20,000 in funding upon learning of the planned readings of the FLQ manifesto.

In dealing with the FLQ in October, 1970, Trudeau was faced with an entirely different situation; namely, an apprehended insurrection that could have resulted in the loss of many lives. While there was no provision on hate-propaganda in the Criminal Code at that time, there was also no need for such a law: Trudeau used the War Measures Act to suppress all FLQ propaganda.

Under the circumstances, use of the emergency powers in the law and Constitution of Canada was justifiable. Today, there is no national emergency. There is no risk that anyone will act on the incitements to violence in the FLQ manifesto. There is no reason to ban declamations of this or any other similar, hate-filled political diatribe.

In a landmark opinion for the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1936 Alberta Press Bills case, Chief Justice Sir Lymon Duff noted that parliamentary institutions derive their efficacy from “the freest and fullest analysis and examination from every point of view of political proposals.” He also acknowledged that freedom of political speech can be, and often is, “gravely abused.”

Nonetheless, Duff insisted that within legal limits regarding such matters as defamation, sedition and incitement to violence, abusive political speech should be tolerated. He explained: “It is axiomatic that the practice of this right of free public discussion of public affairs, notwithstanding its incidental mischiefs, is the breath of life for parliamentary institutions.”

In recent years, Parliament has enacted the hate-propaganda restrictions in the Criminal Code as well as parallel provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act. As Lyman foresaw, these freedom-stifling laws have served to curb both legitimate and abusive speech. They repress the breath of life for our parliamentary institutions. They should all be abolished.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Godless immorality in the schools

The Interim
By Rory Leishman

At the beginning of another school year, the parents of children in the public schools of Canada might well earnestly reflect upon what their children are likely to be taught about the vital issues of faith and morality.

Fifty years ago, there was little reason for concern. Parents could have confidence that teachers in the publicly funded Catholic and non-denominational public schools would teach their students to respect the fundamental principles of Judeo-Christian morality that have underpinned the survival and flourishing of Western civilization.

Today, of course, parents can have no such confidence. Thanks to the 1988 ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Zylberberg vs Sudbury Board of Education, God was banished from the public schools of Ontario.

Prior to Zylberberg, every school day in Ontario began with recitations of the Lord’s Prayer and readings from sacred Scripture. From time to time, students were also instructed to respect the rules of morality summarized in the Ten Commandments and ordained by God for our well-being.

At the request of parents, students were exempted from the classroom during these explicitly religious exercises, but that is not good enough for the judicial activists who have dominated public policy in Canada for the past 25 years. First in Ontario, but soon in all other provinces, these overweening judges decreed that the longstanding practice of offering optional religious exercises in the public schools violated the guarantee of freedom of religion in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Those rulings are entirely illegitimate. There is nothing in the language or the history of the Charter to suggest that it was intended to banish God from the classroom.

Nonetheless, our elected legislators have gone along with this judicial distortion of the Charter. As a result, instead of expounding the principles of Judeo-Christian morality, teachers in the public schools are now required to try to teach their students to be good without God.

That’s fine with atheists like Richard Dawkins. In his bestseller, The God Delusion, he asks: “Is it always wrong to put a terminally ill patient out of her misery at her own request? Is it always wrong to make love to a member of your own sex? Is it always wrong to kill an embryo?”

Dawkins thinks not. “Fortunately,” he writes, “morals do not have to be absolute.”

In the past, teachers in the public schools would have disagreed. They could have been counted upon to explain to students that it is always wrong to kill deliberately an innocent human being or to indulge in sexual intercourse outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a women.

Today, any teacher who insists on teaching such moral truths to students in the public schools would be fired.

Not even the publicly funded Catholic schools can still be relied upon to uphold the traditional principles of Judeo-Christian morality as expounded in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The problem is that all too many teachers and supervisors in the Catholic schools have been imbued at university with essentially the same value relativism as their counterparts in the secular public schools.

Moreover, it’s not just our publicly funded schools and universities that have been morally debased. Today’s young people are also steadily bombarded with immoral exhibitions on prime-time television and through the internet.

What, then, can be done? Tens of thousands of Catholic and Protestant parents have abandoned the publicly funded schools in favour of providing their children with a morally enlightened and comprehensive education at home.

Other parents have resorted to private Christian schools while many seem to hope that regular attendance at Sunday School will counteract the pervasive influence of value relativism. Neither of these approaches is sufficient.

Homeschooling in at least the fundamental tenets of Judeo-Christian morality is essential to providing today’s children with a solid grounding in moral truth. Instead of relying entirely on the church and the schools, parents must provide systematic instruction in the home on the basic tenets of both faith and morality if they are to have any reasonable hope that their children will grow up with the vital protection of a clear understanding of the difference between what is right and what is wrong.