Jacob Mason* sat at his dining room table flipping through the bills and the looming payroll for his six staff in his construction business. Stiffed by one of his clients who just went bankrupt, and with no jobs lined up past Thursday, he was digging himself into a deep hole. Normally optimistic during his daily walk with Christ, worry and anxiety had crept into his bloodstream, with each heartbeat reminding him of the building pressure in his life.
Now in the third month of COVID restrictions, he was just one of many business owners facing difficult decisions, scrambling for work, and laying off employees. And while he thought cautious government measures would have begun to relax by now, the market seemed to be embracing the panic of uncertainty rather than carry on as if this was a temporary blip. Demand for his Greater Vancouver building skills should still be there, he figured, but now the mirror across from him kept beckoning for him to turn for help.
Fortunately, the federal government had created the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA), giving struggling businesses a shot-in-the-arm stimulus with a one-year, interest-free loan up to $40,000 to pay for expenses, payroll, and other debt. Plus, the entire loan didn’t have to be paid back. A godsend for an entrepreneur like himself.
Jacob began the process, filling out the necessary paperwork to apply, but had a stunning revelation when he recognized the loan came with the condition he acknowledge and respect the trans-movement and gender identity demands. Something about the wording truly troubled him, and his conscience seemed to be telling him not to proceed. So he took a break.
His wife, Becky*, encouraged him to tick the box and not let it bother him. In fact, most applicants, she argued, probably just agreed with the attestation as a means of formality with no intention of attending any rallies or actively looking to hire from the trans community. Besides, they could either take the money or risk watching their business collapse.
After sleeping on it, Jacob woke up less confused but more convicted not to continue with the application. So, he filed it into the recycling box. The next day, he received a $4 million contract. Crisis averted.
The situation with Jacob was eerily similar to Darren Smythe’s* warehousing company in 2018 when he looked to take advantage of Canada’s Summer Jobs Grant. The program encourages companies to hire students for summer employment by providing wage subsidies from the federal government. Yet this year’s application carried another controversial attestation: Those who apply must agree their company’s “core mandate” respects a variety of rights, including abortion.
Darren ran three warehouses. His “core mandate” was storing goods for customers and charging them for it. If a member of his staff was pro-life or pro-choice wasn’t something he ever considered during interviews, and he didn’t care. Personally, he believed in keeping the baby, so he couldn’t agree to the attestation when he filled out the form. And of course, he was denied the grant.
Mason and Smythe are not two, fringe Christians whining about the intentions of the federal government. They represent our country’s newest, growing demographic, a reality where people of faith are forced to evaluate their personal convictions against the policies quickly being implemented to expand hostility against social conservatism.
One of the first forays into the new, Social Justice world by the Trudeau government was provided by rookie MP Irqa Khalid, tabling a motion in 2016 requiring the government to condemn Islamophobia in all its forms. While this hasn’t evolved into controversy so far, some feared a Christian pastor who claims Jesus is the only way to God could be guilty of an undefined term central to the motion: Islamophobia. The motion passed, but to date, no denunciation of pastors. Given the trajectory of government overreach into Christian territory, this may be an abuse brewing for action, especially after a United Kingdom pastor was fired and reported to Britain’s anti-terrorism watchdog for giving a sermon on loving your neighbour despite disagreeing with cultural practices.
Lost in memory to many of us, Trudeau’s emergence as a leader supporting legislation in conflict with the moral fabric of most Christians has been stunning. And rapid.
For example, Prince Edward Island was the last province in the country without an abortion provider. That changed in 2016 after then Health Minister Jane Philpott insisted the province change their stance, implying she would withhold federal money until they had abortion access. The message was received, loud and clear, and abortions are now available to all ages and all genders in PEI.
Status of Women Minister Patricia Hajdu announced later that year the government would increase funding for women’s groups across Canada, including those with views opposing Liberal policies. However, when asked if any pro-life organizations would qualify for money, she immediately clarified her stance by saying only women’s groups that support abortions would be considered.
A Gender-Based Analysis program loosely established during the Chretien administration was given a dramatic update during Hajdu’s early tenure with the Status of Women portfolio. Adding a plus to the end (GBA+), the program was infused with a strong dose of radical gender theory, requiring all federal employees to complete a course riddled with ideological talking points, and disregarding science and consciences which might object. This included an exam at the conclusion where participants needed 80 percent correct to pass. All future policy and promotions would need to refer to the GBA+ education as a “key consideration” before any decisions.
In March 2017, the federal government earmarked $650 million to go toward abortion access in developing countries. Later in the year, International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau defended the move by claiming the money is “a tool to end poverty.” Not to be outdone by his aforementioned minister, Trudeau, himself, was in Ireland in August 2017, to condemn their constitution which protected the rights of an unborn child. Shortly after his visit, the Irish Republic removed that right, making abortion legal.
The House Committee on the Status of Women created controversy in September 2017 when a pro-life MP was nominated to chair the panel. The Liberal members of the committee left the meeting, backed by Trudeau, without holding a vote, forcing the opposition leader to nominate another chair.
Again in 2017, our Prime Minister advocated for, and his government granted the “right” for prisoners to choose the jail of their choice based on how they identified their gender. Further, while teenagers still need to be 18-years old to get a tattoo without parental consent, puberty blockers became available through our medical system without a parent’s consent with no definition of an age floor. In fact, a Greater Vancouver father has recently been jailed for refusing to refer to his 16-year old biologically born daughter by the current pronouns of her/his choice.
Shortly after appointing his newest governor general, Julie Payette, she mocked all people of faith who believe in a creator, saying, “Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately,…we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.” To emphasize his stance toward God, Trudeau stood by Payette, telling reporters both Payette and the government which appointed her to believe in Science, therefore her statement was not controversial because Science, apparently, says God does not exist.
In November 2017, the Trudeau government introduced Bill C-51, which contained several clauses, including the elimination of Section 176 of the Criminal Code. Section 176 protects faith gatherings and services, those who conduct them, and those who attend from threats, harm, obstruction, interruption and denial to meet or celebrate. After substantial pushback, they dropped the proposed change.
Meanwhile, Bill C-7 expanded Canada’s euthanasia availability this March. In keeping with progressive tradition, the government introduces legislation with a narrow window for legal controversy against the faith community, then expands it substantially in following years. In this case, assisted suicide became law in 2016 after the Trudeau government implemented a rarely used tactic to limit debate to two days so it could be forced into law. Just five years later, C-7 removes waiting periods and the ability to give consent, as well as lowering the bar to include people with mental illness.
Legislation like C-7 often creates damaging acceptance standards among our youth as they grow into adults. Growing up as a youth in Canada, our teenagers are confronted with a changing moral compass because of what our law allows. Smoking marijuana, for example, is now legal and accepted. And when the Jean Cretien government made gay marriage legal, their insistence was focused less on giving same-sex couples equal rights to tax exemptions and inheritance, but more on hijacking the word “marriage” from its religious roots so today’s young adults universally confuse “marriage” in the eyes of the state versus “marriage” in the eyes of God. Our media dutifully helps our federal Liberals accomplish this, too. Media outlets across the country adhere to CP Standards to create uniformity with certain aspects related to reporting. And they always make changes against godly and conservative principles. For example, we are no longer referred to as “pro-life.” Instead, we are “anti-abortion.” Meanwhile, the “pro-choice” crowd are now patriotic warriors standing for “pro-abortion rights.” And just this year, to help cloud the stigma against adultery, media doesn’t refer to a “mistress” anymore, but rather a “lover” or “companion.” Expect adultery to be embraced as a moral norm in 25 years.
So now, as Bill C-7 has become law, as long as one person decides their life is meaningless, regardless of circumstances, the government approves of that decision. Thus, whether we speak of the generations being raised today or speak of our own, our ability to obey God rather than man has become muddied. As our nation enacts legislation that is increasingly immoral and contrary to God’s commands, we, as Christians, have just come to accept it. Not only that, but we have become compromised and, having neglected our duty to stand upon Biblical truth, our ability to obey God rather than man has been weakened. And Christians are now battling each other as half of us abandon our moral code to fit the backward, cultural definitions of right and wrong while the other half struggle to preserve Biblical teaching. And both sides believe they are right!
This leads to the current state of churches and the restrictions we face to gather. Our provinces and territories have all taken different approaches toward combating both COVID and more important, public opinion. And churches have faced some of the most scrutiny and punishment. For example:
- Springs Church in Winnipeg was fined more than $32,000 for holding drive-in services.
- Prince Albert’s Full Gospel Outreach received a $14,000 fine after breaking provincial health orders related to COVID.
- Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo set the Canadian record for the highest fine, totalling $83,000 earlier this year.
- A BC Supreme Court judge recently ruled against a coalition of churches and individuals arguing their Constitutional rights to religious freedom and expression were violated with the province’s measures. While agreeing their argument was accurate and their rights were breached, the power given to the Provincial Health Officer superseded their rights to religious freedom. Meanwhile, their collective fines as of the ruling exceeded $229,000.
- Quebec churches were ignored during consultations for COVID input, and when new measures were announced in September, churches were deemed “not essential” while liquor and marijuana sales were considered exactly the opposite.
- And arguably most egregious, the arrest of Pastor James Coates for holding gatherings at GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove, Alberta. His time in custody lasted 35 days.
- A further feather in the Alberta Health Services cap came when they changed the locks to GraceLife Church, fenced the property, and provide police hazard pay to guard it from the heinous, “dangerous,” church-going Christians who might want to go back on their own property, confiscated by the government.
- Perhaps needing to fill our empty jails, Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother Dawid were arrested in a demonstration by Alberta authorities showing only Christians, apparently, disagree with the COVID protocol.
Naturally, our government leaders continue to ensure they have their talking points down, if not the courage to move further. For example, in June 2020, RCMP Commissioner, Brenda Lucki addressed a question about systemic racism in her force. “I would say that we don’t have systemic racism,” she said. Two days later after a meeting with Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, Lucki said, “I do know that systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included.” Quick turnaround. And an insult to everyone under her command. Not to mention the broad category of “every institution.” Are we talking only government-run institutions, or the Church as well?
After meeting with the Prime Minister three times, Baptist pastor Steve Long concluded he wasted his time. “He (Trudeau) told me that evangelical Christians were the worst part of Canadian society,” he said.
Of course, this comes after the Trudeau government closed down Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom once they took power in 2016, maybe meant as a slap in the face to his predecessor, Steven Harper who established it? But given his controversial track record toward Christians, many argue this move was designed to strike the faithful instead.
Indeed, Christianity and its traditional values are facing a reckoning in Canada. Yet we continue to fight against each other rather than unify. In the case of the BC churches which went to court arguing their Constitutional rights were taken away, multiple open letters were written by other church and denominational leaders condemning their stance, while supporting the church closures imposed by the Provincial Health Officer, Bonnie Henry.
And as support for GraceLife Church and Pastor Coates has been broad among both Christians and unbelievers alike, the majority of the hate has come from our own Christian brethren, walking in faith allegedly, but with different definitions of loving your brother.
So we’re ripe for exploitation, condemnation, increased regulations and constraints. Few of our traditional, Christian leaders have been willing to stand up against the COVID restrictions on our churches, although many are struggling how to balance the inevitable judgment from the media and those who subscribe to it.
Still, when we read the Bible, some passages don’t always make sense, even after we read them dozens of times. However, Revelation 21:8 may be relevant today when we evaluate who God forbids from sharing his kingdom in the new Jerusalem: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
I keep asking, where do we stand?
* Names changed to keep identities private.