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Religious intolerance in Canada

Some examples of religious
intolerance from 2012 to 2013-AUG

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This is a continuation from a previous essay

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2012 to now: Examples of religious tolerance, freedom, liberty & intolerance in Canada:

bullet 2012-SEP-05, British Columbia: David Harty, a spokesperson for Corrections Canada -- the agency of the federal government that operates the federal prison system, -- said that they had put our a tender for a Wiccan priestess/priest to serve the spiritual needs of Wiccans in prison. The job included delivering Wiccan spiritual services, pastoral counseling, and crisis intervention. He said:

"This has been put to tender because there is a need. The requirement of these services is on-going. It has been used in the past."

About one hour after the tender was announced, Julie Carmichael, director of communications for federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews's office, said that the tender would not proceed until it is reviewed. She issued an email saying:

"Religious freedom is a paramount value in Canadian society. However, the government is not convinced all services offered through the chaplaincy program reflect an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars."

Meredith Kimber, 35, is Wiccan priestess from Nanaimo, BC. She said:

"Wiccan is so hush-hush, people hear the word witch and they freak out. There must be a high enough number within the inmates for this to be necessary."

Sam Wagar, 55, is a Wiccan priest who founded the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of B.C. He said:

"Wiccans are human beings. Some human beings screw up and end up in jail. They may still need the same kind of spiritual care as people from other religions who end up in jail. ... Everybody who isn’t a Christian differs from the mainstream. Big whoopee, get over it. We have a way of being spiritual, a way of connecting to the gods, a set of ethics, and beliefs and they help us to live our lives better." 5


bullet

2012-OCT-05, Canada: In the most outrageous and extreme government attack on religious freedom and tolerance in recent years, Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has announced that the contracts of all part-time non-Christian chaplains ministering in federal prisons across Canada will be terminated as of the end of March 2013.

The Canadian Anglican Journal commented:

"After that date, penitentiary inmates of minority faiths, from Buddhists to Wiccans, will have to rely on full-time Christian chaplains for interfaith services, religious counsel, and spiritual guidance.

'I could never pretend to be Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh and tend to the spiritual needs of all these different people,' says the Rev. David Price, an Anglican priest in Agassiz, B.C., who spent many years as a prison chaplain in ... [western Canada]. In his view, prison chaplains are essential and cost-effective 'midwives' who help offenders give birth to new selves and new lives before they are released back into society.

The cancellation comes after Toews, whose office oversees federal correctional institutions, said last month that he was not convinced part-time minority-faith chaplains were an appropriate use of taxpayer money and ordered a halt to the tendering of new contracts.

Julie Carmichael, a spokesperson for Toews said that while the minister strongly supports freedom of religion for all Canadians, including prisoners, the government 'is not in the business of picking and choosing which religions will be given preferential status through government funding. The minister has concluded … [Christian] chaplains employed by Corrections Canada must provide services to inmates of all faiths'." 6

An article about this event in the Globe and Mail received 200 comments -- an unusually high number in Canada. Some gems were:

Vlad The Inhaler: "Isn't this the government that just opened the Office Of Religious Freedom? I guess it only applies to OTHER countries. What hypocrites!"

Tim Bryson: "The meanspiritedness of Toews never ceases to amaze me."

mikes4: "Someone got the idea that they could fly a broom over the wall."

Mannlickher: "From creating an Office of Religious Freedom inside the foreign affairs portfolio to this in only six months. You have freedom of religion, apparently, as long as it's of the approved type. What a pack o' hypocrites."

Lthoth: "... if the concern is the use of taxpayers' money for this type of Corrections service, as the director of communications stated, why is the funding being withheld for only one religion? I'm afraid that religious bigotry has reared its ugly head. I don't believe that the Canadian people will let this stand."

Tewtree: "In the UK, most prison services have regular visits from Pagan & Wiccan chaplains. I met the local Anglican prison chaplain at an interfaith event recently, and he said that they regularly have visits from a Pagan priestess for their Pagan inmates. This has been happening for about 20 years, I think. Of course, right-wing papers sound off about it from time to time (and about Pagans in the military, and Paganism being taught in school-s - to promote religious tolerance, obviously) but it's getting better."

RobM7: "You're either with the Christians or you're with the pedophiles." 6


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bullet

2013-MAR-19, British Columbia: The West Coast Prison Justice Society, seven Inmates in federal prisons in British Columbia (BC), and one prisoner who was recently transferred from BC to New Brunswick are suing the federal government over its decision to terminate the contracts of part time prison chaplains. The inmates follow the Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Wiccan faiths. Their lawsuit against federal Attorney General Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews claims that only two non-Christian chaplains remain in all of Canada as of the beginning of 2013-MAR. There are none in in British Columbia. The lawsuit claims that: "Prisoners do not lose their right to freely express their religious and spiritual beliefs by virtue of their incarceration ..."

Julie Carmichael, a spokesperson for Vic Toews, said in an email:

"I can say that the Government of Canada strongly supports the freedom of religion of all Canadians. The government funds full-time spiritual advisers to provide services of any faith. Additionally, there are over 2,500 individuals who provide spiritual services to prisoners of many faiths on a voluntary basis. This approach supports the freedom of religion of prisoners while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are used wisely and appropriately."

The federal Government seems to be assuming that Christian chaplains can adequately counsel inmates of all religions. But many chaplains are from conservative Christian denominations, some of whom regard other religions as being led or influenced by Satan which are guaranteed to have the individual believers spend eternity being tortured in Hell. It is difficult to see how such a chaplain can remain objective about any non-Christian faith. 7


bullet

2013-AUG-08, British Columbia: On JUN-30, Russia passed a new anti-gay law that criminalizes "promoting homosexuality to minors." It also outlaws "gay rallies" and the use of the Internet and media to promote acceptance of, and tolerance towards, the LGBT community, The new law is being received well by the general Russian population who hold very traditional views towards human sexuality, partly because of the Russian Orthodox Church. Response from more liberal countries has been extremely negative. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has actively criticized this new law, calling it a "mean-spirited and hateful law" that is an "incitement to intolerance. ... Intolerance and hate breed violence."

REAL Women of Canada, a very conservative Canadian women's group, had taken Baird to task for his action, suggesting that he has abused his Cabinet post "... to further his own perspective towards homosexuality." Gwendolyn Landolt, national vice-president of REAL Women said:

"He has certainly been an activist in Canada and abroad on this issue. He's just put it out front and foremost. ... It really is offensive. The issue is really why is he interfering in a sovereign country's legislation. He really has no business to do that. ... I don't want other countries to get what we have here, where people's religious values and traditional values are being pushed aside and giving homosexuals priority. ... According to Mr. Baird it’s a protection of human rights but it’s not universally accepted. It’s not a Canadian value.'

She continues by saying that 'homosexual activists ... [have become] a tyrannical minority."

Rick Roth, a spokesperson for Foreign Minister John Baird, said that Baird speaks for the:

"... vast majority [over the] promotion and protection of human rights. ... [Ottawa was taking] principled positions to promote important issues to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. ... Canada believes that the criminalization of homosexuality is wrong, as is the suppression of fundamental rights like freedom of expression and freedom of speech. The expression of these rights should not be met with the death penalty, nor violence. ... This is not a left versus right issue. This is a position that is supported by a vast majority of Canadians." 8

His mention of execution is a reference to a proposed anti-LGBT law in Uganda that would sentence some homosexuals to execution.

REAL Women of Canada's National Vice-President, C. Gwendolyn Landolt, wrote on the group's Facebook page:

"It is a fact, that homosexual activists in Canada are intolerant of any resistance to their demands, and, as such have become a tyrannical minority.

Conscientious objections based on religion and traditional values have led, in Canada, to public officials, educators and business owners facing heavy fines and lengthy court battles for rejecting the homosexual lifestyle.  This is not democracy.  It is not equality.

This is the strange, intolerant world Mr. Baird wishes to impose on sovereign countries, despite their own cultures and religion which find this unreasonable and unacceptable.

Gwendolyn Landolt, National Vice-President, stated, 'Just who does John Baird think he is, using taxpayers’ money to promote his own personal agenda and endeavouring to set standards of the laws of foreign countries?  He argues that homosexual rights are a ‘Canadian value’, but this applies only to himself and his fellow activists and the left-wing elitists.  These are not conservative values and that of grass roots Canadians, who after all, pay the bulk of the taxes.'

Mr. Baird’s actions are highly offensive to conservative taxpayers.  He cannot and must not undermine other countries’ sovereignty and dignity, rooted in stable family structures and religious faith, in order to impose his own value system on them.

Mr. Baird’s actions are destructive to the conservative base in Canada and causing collateral damage to his party." 9

We tried to send an email to Real Women of Canada. But we received an error message:

"Bandwidth Limit Exceeded. The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later."

Apparently the Real Women web site had become so popular that it could not handle the increased traffic.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Canadian Press, "Five fined for preaching," 1997-NOV-9
  2. Various articles, United News, at: http://www.rockies.net/
  3. Lana Haight, "Rally hears of woman's tubal ligation fight. Debate over hospital includes fear-mongering, doctor tells crowd," The Star Phoenix, 2007-MAR-01, at: http://www.canada.com/
  4. "Catholics won't be allowed to run hospital," The Toronto Star, 2007-MAR-08, Page A8.
  5. "Federal Safety Minister Toews nixes Wiccan chaplain for B.C. prisoner," The Canadian Press, 2012-SEP-05, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
  6. Diana Swift, "Ottawa axes non-Christian prison chaplains," Anglican Journal, 2012-OCT-05, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
  7. Dene Moore, "B.C. inmates suing over Ottawa’s decision to cut minority faith chaplains," The Globe and Mail, 2013-MAR-19, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
  8. Bruce Campion Smith, "John Baird’s defence of gay rights ‘offensive,’ women’s group says," Toronto Star, 2013-AUG-07, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  9. "MEDIA RELEASE," REAL Women of Canada, 2013-AUG-07, at: https://www.facebook.com/

Copyright © 2002 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002
Latest update: 2013-SEP-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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