“I am Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” These words were delivered by Conservative Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker in a speech on July 1, 1960.
Diefenbaker was in the midst of pursuing landmark legislation, the Canadian Bill of Rights.
A first on Canada’s federal scene, the Bill of Rights was introduced to guarantee civil rights for all Canadians. Diefenbaker’s bold vision for a Canada that respected the rights of individuals was perhaps the reason his Conservative government extended the vote to Indigenous Canadians, nominated the first Indigenous senator, James Gladstone, and appointed Canada’s first female cabinet minister, Ellen Fairclough. For a Conservative like Diefenbaker, it was important that he not only talked the talk; but also that he walked the walk.
Canadian Conservatives have a proud history of leading the way when it comes to protecting and defending the rights of Canadians. With this history in mind, it should come as no surprise that Conservatives have spoken out loudly and clearly against the Trudeau government’s attack on Canadian freedoms through their discriminatory change to the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program application process.
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For those who may be less familiar with the CSJ program, it provides federal funding to assist employers, including not-for-profit organizations, to create summer job opportunities for full-time students. It’s not the kind of program that is normally associated with controversy. But in the days leading up to Christmas, the Trudeau Liberals quietly changed the program’s rules to require applicants to pass a values test or else be rejected for government funding.
This change represented a marked departure from past practice as it required Canadians to agree with the Liberal Party’s values as a condition of eligibility for grant monies. And by the Liberals’ own admission, if you refused to do so, you would be denied funding. To their credit, they were telling the truth. Organizations that could not in good conscience agree with the values test received rejection letters telling them they had 10 days to fall in line or their application wouldn’t even be considered. Despite the good work these organizations do in our communities – caring for the disabled, refugees, or even providing day camps for children in need – their applications will be rejected simply for holding beliefs that differ from those of the people in power.
As a pluralistic society, Canada allows for diverse opinions and protects those who may think and believe differently. It was the strong foundation laid by the Bill of Rights that paved the way for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, securing freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, and expression for all Canadians. In fact, the Charter was designed to protect citizens from the government; not the other way around. Yet the Trudeau Liberals act in defiance of this heritage, arrogantly deeming their party’s political values above the rights of Canadians outlined in these documents.
More than 50 years ago, it was Conservatives like Diefenbaker who recognized the threat that governments could pose to fundamental freedoms if they were not kept in check. He believed in a Canada where individuals could live without fear that their beliefs will make them targets for discrimination. Today’s Conservatives still believe in Diefenbaker’s vision. That is why we must call out any government which fails to uphold our heritage of freedom for all Canadians and all mankind.
Ted Falk, Member of Parliament for Provencher
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