Trudeau: Rejecting Canadian Theocracy

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Trudeau: Rejecting Canadian Theocracy

In the linked article entitled “In Justin Trudeau’s World, Christians Need Not Apply”, published by the right-leaning publication National Post, Canadian author and commentator Rex Murphy comments on the Liberal Party of Canada leader Justin Trudeau’s stance taken on the issue of abortion during the summer of this year. To give some context to the reader, earlier this year Trudeau announced in an interview that, in the future, legislators from the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) will be required to vote in favor of defending the abortion rights of Canadian women should the issue come up in legislation during his time as leader of the LPC. This demand is within his rights as leader of the party; party discipline is a key feature of the Canadian system of government and is central to its ability to pass legislation.

However, Trudeau has come under fire from some political commentators, such as Murphy, for applying a strict policy of party discipline in this particular case. Murphy, and others like him, take issue with Trudeau’s stance because they see it as a violation of legislators’ freedom to “vote with their conscience” on moral issues such as abortion where their personal religious beliefs may compel them to vote in a certain way. In Murphy’s words, “What kind of politics are they which require an MP to renounce his deepest moral commitments; indeed, to go beyond renunciation and declare himself positively in favour of ideas and actions which his faith condemns, his church forbids, and his conscience cannot abide?”

In my view, Murphy’s position is problematic to say the least. As voters we should not elect our representatives to be moral arbiters, imposing our personal religious views on the rest of society. If a legislator’s “deepest moral commitments” require her or him to try to restrict a woman’s ability to make her own decisions regarding her body, then it is the legislator’s patriarchal beliefs that should be disregarded, not Canadian women’s autonomy. The view that contemporary Western Christians are being persecuted, and that this is exemplified by their inability to impose their views on larger society through reactionary social policies, is both a dangerous idea and a highly delusional one. This sense of persecution is used to galvanize believers to causes such as the fights against marriage equality and abortion rights, as well as to try to push anti-scientific curricula into science classes.

Murphy’s hyperbolic title, “In Justin Trudeau’s World, Christians Need Not Apply”, makes it seem as if the LPC leader has banned Christians from his party altogether. The majority of current Canadian legislators are self-described Christians, so to pretend that Christians are underrepresented in our political system is ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst. That a small minority of legislators who hold beliefs that fall outside the mainstream of Canadian society should be asked to defend the rights of women to make their own decisions regarding their bodies is both reasonable and just.

KM #349


4 thoughts on “Trudeau: Rejecting Canadian Theocracy

  1. Party discipline is a difficult issue in Canada, particularly because it is one where it has influence over politics more so than in other comparable jurisdictions such as the UK or the US. On the one hand, with rigid party discipline, the party has strong solidarity and is able to pass legislation more efficiently, as well, is less likely to lose, in theory, on a vote of non-confidence, leading to a dissolution of government and the calling of an election. On the other hand, this does allow for a weaker voice for individual MPs. While it is true that they should not be “moral arbiters” of society, MPs are elected on a constituency-by-constituency basis, and so it could be argued that they represent the constituency for which he or she was elected in Parliament. If Murphy’s constituency just happened to be staunchly Christian and anti-abortion, and he was elected on that basis, should Murphy not represent the views of his constituency in Parliament? (Of course, I do recognize that Canada uses the first-past-the-post electoral system, meaning that if Murphy was elected, he was not necessarily elected on a majority basis).

    In the end, I do agree with your position as put forth with respect to this issue. The statements made by Murphy are highly reactionary and inflated. The Christian viewpoint is thriving quite well in Canadian politics and to hold otherwise is to take an already emotionally charged issue, like abortion, and bolster it with unnecessary exaggeration, simply to get media attention in favor of their side of the issue.

  2. I totally agree with your blog. To say argue that Trudeau is persecuting Christians is preposterous as best. When we live in a liberal democratic society like Canada, and we place beliefs such as separation of church and state as a priority, marginalizing major parts of society by supporting legislation that forces the beliefs of fringe groups is unfair, and I believe should be unconstitutional. If we are to have fair discussions we need to remove religious beliefs from the table when dealing with the law.

    In terms of it being amoral to force party solidarity on this, isn’t it amoral to force people who don’t subscribe to certain beliefs to adhere to laws made out of those beliefs? And haven’t we progressed to a stage in society wherein women have the right to choose what they’d like to do with their own bodies? Or are we still stuck in an age where fundamentalists are making the decisions for women? My worry for this is when we constantly allow for the protection of this minority of fundamentalists, how far do we go to protect their religious beliefs at the expense of others’ human rights beliefs?

    It’s a strange time we live in wherein these issue still continue to be so prevalent. I totally support Trudeau’s stance and I believe it is a step in the right direction.

    Thank you for this post, it was a great read.

  3. After reading your blog entry and the article by Rex Murphy, I have to whole-heartedly agree with you. I always find it humorous, in a sad way, that it seems to always be men having such a hissy-fit about abortion rights. Being that following the party line is very common in Canadian politics for decades, it shouldn’t be a surprise to any that Trudeau has told his party how to vote on any abortion legislation. As you stated, we do not elect our MPs to office for them to follow their religious beliefs when voting on legislation effecting all Canadians. They are elected generally as a party member by people that hold the same values as that political party. Therefore, with it being stated by Trudeau that the liberal party is pro-choice under his leadership, it is a clear reason to vote – or not to vote – for the liberal party of Canada. As a woman studying politics, this is the issue that irks me the most, and you make such a great case for my position in this blog entry. To be elected into office is to represent your constituents, not all may have the same religious beliefs as yourself, therefore you should not be able to vote based on your religious beliefs. That is one of the primary reasons the church and state are supposed to be separated. It also angers me when men, MEN, are arguing for pro-life. A women should have rights over her own body, and what she does, does not effect anyone else, therefore they should not have a political say in what she does with her body. I wholeheartedly support and applaud Trudeau’s position on enforcing party conformity when it comes to pro-choice abortion rights for Canadian women.

  4. Party discipline is very important in Canadian politics in order to show strength and a willingness to get things done consistently and efficiently. Justin Trudeau’s public demand that all Liberal party members must stand on the pro-choice side of the abortion argument shows strength and leadership. It also sends a message to everyone, including Liberal party members, that this is the stand the Liberal Party will take no matter what, and it doesn’t need the support of those who don’t agree with this philosophy.
    However, I also agree with Rex Murphy when he claims that MPs should fight for their constituency. MPs shouldn’t act like mindless puppets simply doing what their told, but there’s a right time and place for everything. One of the worst things a political party could do is show weakness and division to the public. This casts a feeling of doubt and despair, which in turn will only cause damage to the party’s campaign hopes. This is why debates within the party happen in private, where MPs can argue their opinions and fight for their constituency. However, as a party, consensus must be reached and a single stand must be taken, together not divided.
    Also, on the actual topic of abortion, the pro-choice stand does not actually discriminate against religion. It simply gives people, whether religious or not, the option to choose for or against getting an abortion. This doesn’t force anybody into getting an abortion they don’t want. People who refuse to get an abortion due to religious reasons are free to do so. The pro-life stand, however, does take away a person’s option to get an abortion if they wanted one, whether they be religious or not. As Canadians we claim to be respectful and considerate of every person’s religion, no matter what it is. What if you are an atheist? Shouldn’t that also be respected? How can a government offer its citizens freedom of religion but give them options that only agree with one, or a set of, religion(s)?

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