January 17, 2018

Canada Summer Jobs kerfuffle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at town hall meeting
in Hamilton, Ontario (January 8, 2018).
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, January 18, 2018

Canada Summer Jobs kerfuffle

According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, there has been a “kerfuffle” over the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program. Permit me to add my two-cents.

Recall that the CSJ program allows employers (non-profits and businesses) to receive wage subsidies to hire students, thereby helping employers (including many churches and charitable organizations) provide valuable work experience for young people, work experience that often benefits others, especially in the case of faith-based charitable agencies. So far, so good.

Problems arise, however, with the government’s new eligibility requirement, i.e., employers must now sign an “attestation.”

According to the CSJ guidelines, employers must “attest that both the job and the organizations’ core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights.”

Moreover, “These [rights] include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

The guidelines explain that “reproductive rights” include abortion.

Many of the rights listed are important and legitimate, but some are reasonably controversial. I see (at least) three problems.

1. Though women have the right to access safe abortions (when needed), it is not true that women have a carte blanche right to abortion (whenever wanted), contrary to what our Liberal “pro-choice” government seems to think.

As a matter of fact, in 1988 Canada’s then abortion law was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) not because abortion is a woman’s right, but because there wasn’t equal access across Canada to therapeutic abortion committees. The SCC struck down the extant law and asked parliament to make a better law for women and unborn children, suggesting a gestational-age approach.

Let me repeat: The SCC did not say that abortion is a woman’s right. (Note: that X is legal does not mean that we have a positive right to X.)

2. A problem arises from the reference to the “values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” to which the CSJ program asks employers to attest. The Charter explicitly explains the underlying values as follows: “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”

This means God’s revelations by Scripture or conscience trump government’s requirements for citizens to “attest” to whatever goes against these.

This also means many Canadians believe God has given all humans—unborn children included—the right to life. In other words, these Charter-abiding Canadians cannot “attest” that they agree with “reproductive rights” when those include the right to kill a child.

So at the get-go the CSJ program and its “attestation” requirement infringes on the rights to equal benefit of the law (Charter, section 15) of those employers who take seriously Canadian law and its underlying values. This is blatant and unjust discrimination—built into the CSJ program.

At this juncture PM Trudeau would object (as he has) that when it comes to abortion we cannot restrict “the right to women to control their own bodies.”

In reply, thinking Canadians should notice this fact: It’s one thing to control one’s own body; it’s quite another to kill the body of another!

Moreover, no pro-life or anti-abortion Canadians are against the right of any woman to control her own body. Rather, they are concerned about the body that isn’t the woman’s body, i.e., the body of the child who is destroyed by abortion.

3. The CSJ program’s non-discrimination requirement concerning “gender identity or expression” assumes an ideological position on the alleged truth of many such identities and expressions, an alleged truth not settled by science or even common sense.

Think about it. Facebook used to offer 58 gender options and now allows “unlimited custom identities.” Canadians must “attest” to this to be eligible for public funding? Seriously?

In conclusion, I recommend a revision to the requirements of the Canada Summer Jobs program.

As is, it represents poor thinking or an ideological power play—or, probably, both.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.

January 03, 2018

Attempts at humour

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, January 4, 2018

Attempts at humour

“A cheerful heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:2.

Laughter is good for the soul. I hope your soul will be blessed with the following attempts at humour. (Note/ confession: much of what follows is my own creation, but much is also plagiarized, uh, I mean, borrowed.)

I started going back to the gym to get into shape for the summer. Looks like it'll be summer of 2025.

The Apostle Paul talks about a thorn in his flesh. I have a couple, but when I laugh mine jiggle. (#Gym Humour)

Medical-philosophical news: Breakthrough medical procedure detects philosophical polyps in patients inclined to seek ideological control over other nations; tentatively called Colonialoscopy.

Related news: Harvard University, through a joint effort of its school of medicine and social science department, is offering a new major. But they can't decide what to call it: polypsical science or polypsychology.

What do you call a failed U.S. presidential nominee who pushes democratic socialism and likes chicken? Colonial Sanders.

Some people say I have a short attention span, but they

Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?

Solipstick: metaphysics by Mabelline; cosmetological underpinning of puckered-lip selfies.

Sadly, sometimes I contradict myself. Happily, when I do, I don't.

Othering others others others, including those accused of othering.

They're quite puzzling (sometimes even frustrating) without context.

Wife said she thinks I'm sometimes too combative. I fought tooth and nail to correct her.

Son: I'm going to roast Brazilian coffee beans. Wife: That'll take a long time.

Sidewalk sign (at local beauty salon/ barber shop): “Men's cut and beer $26.” Me (thinking): Only if you like a head full of hair.

Experience at new bathroom in mall: Dried my hands, but lost my hearing. (#Hand Dryers By Boeing)

Entry in my diary (during our recent cold snap): wWwennnnnnnnnnttt fffffffffffffforr a walkkk ](-+ outsssside.. mY fffingggerss R fffrozzn.

For chemists alcohol is not a problem, it's a solution (or solvent/ functional group: i.e., it works for them).

“A few days ago a very gorgeous but not so intelligent woman said that we should 'affirm people regardless of what they think their identity is.' So I told her I was her husband.”

A dentist tells a blonde that she needs braces. The blonde says, “Why? I can walk just fine.” When the dentist explains that braces are for her teeth, she replies, “But my teeth don't walk.”

Donald Trump walks into a Parisian cafe and says, “I'll have a covfefe, no cream.” The waitress says, “Sorry, we've only got milk. How about a covfefe with no milk?” (#Sometimes Jokes Are Funnier Before You Write Them Down)

Mexican spokesperson referring to Trump's wall: “At first we were sad, but we'll get over it.”

Communism: Always an execution away from utopia.

Pravda announced that it welcomes letters to the editor. All correspondents are required to include their full name, address, and next of kin.

Puns about communism aren't funny unless everyone gets them.

Of course communism doesn't work. There are red flags everywhere.

Some communist jokes lack class. (But they're funny when I'm marxing papers.)

Dear readers: I will be watching you. Sincerely, heNdriKVanDerbreggen.

New Testament scholars discover Mary's personal journal (in which she describes her Son's help with daily chores). Shortest entry: “Jesus swept.” (#Sometimes I Make Fake News)

I am a philosopher. One of my heroes is Socrates. Another hero is Jesus. I think my earthly future doesn't look bright.

When my friends learn I am a student of comedy, they tell me never to quit school. (#No Respect)

Happy 2018!

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. (When Hendrik was in his mother's womb, he thought he heard an angel say, “You will be a comedian.” Turns out Hendrik misheard. The angel actually said, “You will be a Canadian.” #Badum Tish)

Past attempts at humour:

December 20, 2017

Suspicion about today's King Herods

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, December 21, 2017

Suspicion about today's King Herods

Christmas is a time for celebration, but this season I've come to view it also as a time for suspicion.

By “suspicion” I don't mean concern over the usual suspects—consumerism, commercialization, over-eating, drinking to excess—though these are serious problems. Rather, I mean evidence-based suspicion of what I call “today's King Herods.”

Remember King Herod? He was a king at the time of Jesus' birth. He told the Magi, who were looking for the newly-born Christ child, that when they found Him they should report back on Jesus' location, so Herod could come and worship Jesus too.

But Herod wanted to murder Jesus. So when the Magi didn't report back, Herod set out the policy that every infant boy in and around Bethlehem should be killed.

In other words, Herod was a ruler willing to use stealth and death of innocents to maintain power.

So, who might today's King Herods be? I submit that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and many in his Liberal government are good candidates.

Ah, you say, Professor van der Breggen is getting cranky in his old age—and maybe he's drinking too much eggnog! I plead guilty on both counts. But bear with me as I give three reasons for my suspicion.

(Judge the reasons, not the old geezer with eggnog in—and on—his mug.)

First, our PM seems to admire power more than goodness. Remember last year when Trudeau praised Fidel Castro? Trudeau described Castro as a “remarkable” person who “served” and “had tremendous dedication and love for” the Cuban people.

But Castro murdered thousands of political dissenters by firing squad, locked up additional thousands of dissenters in brutal prison cells, forced thousands of men, women, and children to flee in rickety boats in shark-infested waters (while Castro's soldiers shot at them), and impoverished the millions of Cubans who didn't escape.

Castro was a murderous tyrant. But our PM says a murderous tyrant “served” his people? Our. PM. Says. A. Murderous. Tyrant. SERVED. His. People.

Now couple Trudeau's praise of Castro with the fact that our PM also will not tolerate pro-life persons as Liberal Members of Parliament. And throw these facts into the mix: abortion kills a human being (a human child); 100,000 abortions occur in Canada yearly; the vast majority of these are not due to the hard cases (rape, incest, serious threat to life of mother). (For perspective: annual homicides in Canada amount to about 600.)

Let that sink in.

Second, our PM employs stealth to pass bills that would be detrimental to opponents, especially those who hold moral views contrary to his.

Remember a few months ago when Trudeau's government attempted to pass Bill C-51? The bill seemed innocuous on the surface (updating sexual assault protection and deleting obsolete laws). But it would also remove the only explicit Criminal Code provision (Section 176) that would protect freedom of worship from disruption.

Let that sink in, too.

(Many thanks to our vigilant opposition MPs for catching this!)

Third, now our PM and his “pro-choice” government are bent on squelching the choice of pro-life employers to receive summer job grants for students. This program becomes public December 19, 2017.

To be eligible for summer job grants for students, employers must sign an “attestation” to express support for so-called “reproductive rights” (a.k.a. abortion).

Moreover, this “attestation” also requires employers to agree with the government's views on other controversial matters: e.g., gender identity and expression.

In other words, Canada's federal government is (to use a phrase from John Stackhouse Jr.) “ratcheting down on dissent.”  Doesn't this smack of ideological fascism?

Think about it: Obeying the law is one thing; requiring expressions of agreement (on non-Charter matters) is quite another.

And doesn't this (also) smack of stealth?

Like Herod's policy, the PM's policy comes into effect at Christmastime. In our Canadian context this means many of us are too busy with Christmas to think about our government's machinations.

And some of us are drinking too much eggnog.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.

For further thought: 

December 06, 2017

Profound thoughts (from others)

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, December 7, 2017

Profound thoughts (from others)

I often find deep satisfaction and even joy when I read a quip or blurb that shows profound thought in spite of the quip's brevity. Here are some short passages that have impressed me recently. Read and enjoy—and be challenged.

Robert P. George, Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University:

“Ideas are not all equal. Choices are not equal. Acts and practices are not equal.  Humans are equal—equal in fundamental worth and dignity.

Professor George, again, on the role of academics (and teachers):

“Keep telling the truth. That's our job, in season and out. Tell the truth when it's popular. Tell the truth when it's unpopular. Tell the truth when people applaud your truth-telling. Tell the truth when they jeer you for it.... [N]o matter what happens, it is our job—our duty—to keep telling the truth.

Here are some thoughts (paraphrased by me) from Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University and author of the book Not a Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth:

Movie Polar Express: The one thing about trains: it doesn't matter where you're going. Movie Schindler’s List: This train is going to Auschwitz.

In other words, just as trains have destinations, so do ideas. Destinations—not just journeys—are important; ideas have consequences; truth matters.

Gerard T. Mundy, Professor of Philosophy, St. Peter's University:

“The truth will always prevail in the end, but that does not prevent damage from being done in the meantime. When society is not in accord with truth, a dark void is created, covering the light of truth and extending a welcoming invitation to the evil that dwells in darkness.

Gregory Koukl, President of Stand To Reason (a Christian apologetics organization):

“So, we are at war. We battle otherworldly forces in the unseen realm with weapons that are effective to oppose the spiritual strategies and demonic plans in play against us. Our job is to resist those schemes by exposing them, doing everything we can to stand firm by opposing lies with truth.

Everett Piper, again, speaking about academia (and so-called “safe spaces):

“Aslan is not safe, but he is good. Maybe we should paraphrase that the great lion of the ivory tower (liberal arts education) isn't supposed to be safe, but it is supposed to be good. I'd rather have a good education rather than education that's artificially safe.

And here is Piper warning parents about sending their kids to educational institutions whose professors and teachers have turned away from knowledge of truth:

“Wolves in sheep's clothing are dangerous, but wolves in shepherd's clothing are downright deadly.

What follows below is all from Professor Robert George:

“Being human, we crave approval and we like to fit in. Moreover, we human beings are naturally influenced by the ways of thinking favored by those who are regarded in a culture as the sophisticated and important people.

“When push comes to shove, it's really hard to be true to Christian faith; the social and personal costs are too high. We Christians praise the martyrs and honor their memories, but we are loath to lose so much as an opportunity for career advancement, or the good opinion of a friend, much less our lives. So we tend to fall in line, or at least fall silent.

“We deceive ourselves with rationalizations for what amounts to either conformism or cowardice. We place the emphasis on whatever happens in the cultural circumstances to be the acceptable parts of Christian teaching, and soft-pedal or even abandon the parts that the enforcers of cultural norms deem to be unacceptable.

“We make a million excuses for going along with what's wrong, and pretty soon we find ourselves going along with calling it right.

“Jesus says, 'if you want to be my disciple, you must take up your cross and follow me.' We say, 'um, well, we'll get around to that at some point.' May God have mercy on us.


(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in Hendrik's columns do not always reflect the views of Providence.)