A Breakdown in Civility in Canada?

Stephen Carter, a professing Christian and distinguished professor at Yale Law School, suggested that the central crisis he felt that was facing Western culture was the accelerating breakdown of civility.

Maybe one of the greatest proofs of the accuracy of that statement can be answered by your response to a question: “When was the last time that you heard the word ‘civility’ used in every day speech?” My gut sense would be, “seldom, if ever.”

It seems like some words leave a culture forever and die through a terrible lack of use. The problem is that the activity associated with that word also tends to depart. The word that is erased from the mind is lost to speech, and words that are no longer spoken lose their power to influence society.

According to the dictionary, civility simply means “courtesy or politeness.” It refers to words and actions that breed good culture. Some would call it manners: ie. how we speak to the young, the words we use and the way we say them, how we treat our wives in public, or, the regard we have for others around us.

Remember when men would get up and give their seat to an elderly citizen or pregnant woman entering the bus? Remember when cars waited on pedestrians crossing the street before they turned? Remember when we heard “thank you” being uttered because people were truly thankful for service? Remember when men opened the door for their wives?

Civility is associated with two key words: civilian and civilization. I believe that they are interrelated. I believe the level of civility expressed by civilians creates the kind of civilization that causes us great embarrassment or the kind of civilization that brings a smile and strengthens our back with pride.

Carter noted that Western nations were caring less and less about their fellow citizens. No longer were fellow citizens seen as fellow passengers. He made the comment that “we may see them as obstacles or competitors, or [worse], we may not [even] see them at all…”

You and I have a responsibility to open our eyes to see those around us. If civility is going to make a comeback within our Canadian culture, it is going to need a kind word, a helping hand – yours, a smile. Maybe it will require waiting a moment without frustration or expectation – by the way, it’s not the end of the world. What about responding instead of reacting?

In October 2007 the Center for Research on Canadian Evangelicalism interviewed Reginald W. Bibby. Bibby chairs the Department of Sociology at the University of Lethbridge. He had written a press release on research entitled, “Good without God, Better with God?”

Bibby’s article created quite a stir because he connected the nation’s interpersonal relational health to the practice of faith. He implied that the connection between human values and the practice of civility in Canada was linked.

He stated, “To the extent that Canadians say ‘good-bye’ to God, we may find that we pay a significant social price” – ie. a breakdown in good manners. I happen to believe that.

I know that an assumption is required here: for someone to be compassionate we would have to assume that they value compassion. However, my understanding is that values do not emerge from a moral vacuum. Their source is some form of training – ie. conscience, parental, educational, or, spiritual tutoring.

I believe every community should contend for a comeback in civility. Each community can be a winner. What a grand goal!


Guarding Our Canadian Borders

No, this is not article about immigration and illegal aliens entering our country. Though Canada has the world’s largest shared border, we have not experienced the scale of problems other nations have, as seen in the hotly debated US Presidential elections.

However, guarding our borders is much more than questioning people, searching cars entering Canada, or checking the mail. From my perspective, the greater need has to do with protecting Canadian borders from the undermining influence of immoral ideas. You see, ideas recognize no borders, receive little challenge, and reject national sovereignty.

I care about the future of Canada. I am a grandfather now, and it is my desire to see my grandchildren grow up in a better society than the one I grew up in. I believe that it is the responsibility of each succeeding generation – your and my responsibility – to leave behind a better legacy.

Border guards have been given a tremendous responsibility. It is not an easy job. They are paid to be suspicious of people’s words. They are trained to spot inconsistencies in dialogue, and to probe deeper than what is stated superficially in response to questions.

But border guards can only do so much. It takes an entire nation of citizens to do a proper job of protecting our borders. We all have a responsibility to do more than sing the national anthem: daily we are called upon to take our place and “stand on guard.” We can’t leave it to the “other” guy – we will all be held accountable.

Ideas are out there. For example, Montgomery County, Maryland passed a new law that demands co-ed locker rooms and restrooms in all public accommodations. That law was designed to accommodate “trans-gendered people” – that is, men and women who say they perceive themselves to be the opposite sex.

It has started a “bathroom war.” Imagine that! People are calling it “potty politics.” You may laugh, but what has happened to common sense and decency? Pardon me, but this idea needs to be flushed.

However, it crossed the state border into the Colorado legislature. Unbelievably, they followed suit, opening all public restrooms – airports, arenas, restaurants, businesses, churches – to anyone who wants to use them.

Apparently, the comfort of trans-genders overwhelms the discomfort of the rest of the public who have to deal now with the violation of their privacy. Who is going to confront a “trans-gendered” person entering a washroom? Who is going to protect our children from molesters posing as “trans-gendered” people?

This idea is crossing borders. Will this idea make its way into Canada and become law? It could – unless someone stands on guard for the nation and its future generations against this idea.

Defying a Culture of Hate in Canada

Unfortunately, my city is not immune from what is now recognized as a global resurgence of a culture of hate. Not too long ago, hate-filled words were directed at the Jewish community and painted on the walls of their Center.

This was not an isolated act of graffiti. This was a senseless and serious offense, not just to our nation’s legal commitment to protect basic human rights, no matter race, color, or religion, but it was an affront to the good heart of our citizenry.

Our Mayor stated that our city would express a zero tolerance for this kind of criminal behavior. Though the messages and symbols have been painted over, they can never truly be erased. The marks left on hearts by hate propaganda are not easily removed.

Since the Supreme Court decision (1991) involving the criminal case of James Keegstra, those fighting hate propaganda have come to understand that our Canadian courts and judges are serious about ridding hate from the culture of our land.

In June 2005, the Supreme Court found that Rwandan leader Leon Mugesera’s speech referring to the Tutsis as “cockroaches to be exterminated” violated Canada’s hate propaganda laws under the Criminal Code. His words were described as “a crime against humanity:” as a result, he was deported.

Still, the line between freedom of speech and illegal promotion of hate is difficult to discern: “Under Canadian law, a person is free to think what they like, say what they like whether it is true of untrue, mean, vicious, or disrespectful, subject only to the laws of defamation and the promoting hatred against an identifiable group.”

Though the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is the major legal tool to address this, racist organizations are not presently prohibited in Canada. This violates the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: Article 4(b) states, “(b) [Members] shall declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination, and shall recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law.”

However, hate propaganda remains rampant, and racism is a growing phenomenon, regardless of Canada’s long-term record of tolerance. Neo-Nazi groups and White Supremacists pervade our culture. National leaders like Iran’s President Ahmadinejad fan the flame. He addressed the world, denouncing the Holocaust as a “myth” and preached that “Israel should be wiped off the map.” He was applauded, and not just in Iran!

Racist organizations are exploring cyberspace to get their message out to the public, easily and anonymously. The Justice Department has had to establish watchdog technologies to fight the emergence of cybercrime, looking for “posted messages that expose persons to hatred or contempt by reason of race, national or ethnic origin, color or religion.”

Ultimately, racism is a heart issue, and not a media or legal issue. The real question is, “Has it touched and contaminated your heart?”  We need to watch our hearts, and let’s work together to ensure that our cities are a place free from a culture of hate.




Respect for Our Canadian Elders

Consider these scenarios: a senior woman gives power of attorney to her son, who takes her life savings and moves to another province; a 74-year-old widower with a disability lives with an alcoholic daughter who routinely threatens to harm him or take his money; or, a senior, dependent upon residential care, goes unchanged and unfed for days.

Every year we celebrate World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. June 15th is now recognized worldwide as the day people consider and value the dignity of our senior citizens.

This day was made possible because of a meeting in Madrid in April 2002, when representatives from the world community met together and adopted the United Nations International Plan of Action on Ageing (INPEA). The initiative was aimed at identifying and addressing the global abuse of senior populations.

Canada has responded aggressively and has quickly become recognized as a world leader in raising public awareness of the abuse of older adults.

My wife and I are grateful that both sets of our parents have had long and prosperous lives and have lived close to our family. We are able to see them weekly (sometimes daily) and monitor their physical and emotional health. It is an honor to be able to be a part of their lives and watch them “grow” old.

They have also shared with us the blessing of having family around to take care of some of the things they are no longer able to do for themselves. I know that a visit from one of the grandchildren does wonders for their day. But I know that there are many seniors who do not have this luxury of family close by. Many do feel a growing defenselessness.

And, for good reason! Canada Stats estimate that between 168,000 and 421,000 seniors in Canada are experiencing or have experienced abuse or neglect in later years of life. It is a tragedy that an estimated 80% of abuse or neglect of older adults goes undetected, and therefore, unreported.

Some allegations of abuse do reach the papers, like the one reported against some elderly residents of the 80-bed Beacon Hill Villa in Victoria. Premier Gordon Campbell, to his credit, has issued warnings that quality-of-care requirements better be observed.

HelpGuide.org documented that “as elders become more physically frail, they’re less able to stand up to bullying and or fight back if attacked. They may not see or hear as well or think as clearly as they used to, leaving openings for unscrupulous people to take advantage of them.”

And, there are unscrupulous people out there, preying upon our seniors, physically, verbally, emotionally and financially. Unfortunately, many of these acts of abuse are perpetrated by adult children from family. It is also true that older women were found to be more likely than their male counterparts to be victims of family violence.

This is a sad state of affairs, and speaks to the self-centeredness of this generation. I am so aware of the Biblical principle of sowing and reaping: how one generation treats the aged may come back to bite them when they are facing their own twilight years. It is critical that we do unto others as we would desire they do to us. There is no better time to start living this moral axiom out than right now.

This issue is not going to go away anytime soon. Our Canadian population is aging. The baby boomers are no longer babies. Our senior population is becoming a significant percentage of what constitutes Canada, and they are in need of care with dignity.

I highly recommend, if you are an adult child of a senior still living, that you visit the Helpguide.org site and look at the signs and symptoms of specific types of abuse. They are outlined clearly.

Spanking, a Criminal Act in Canada?

Do you find some contradiction here? A child in the womb, entering into the birth canal, has no rights in Canada. That child’s life can be terminated by a few words, and within moments, hands from the medical community that vowed to protect and preserve life can remove its right to exist.

If legislators are looking at the issue of child abuse, should it not start from the womb, by protecting the most innocent of our children? I find the toleration of abortion in our society to be an expression of child abuse to the highest order.

So, when I hear that the Canadian Senate has now given consent to Bill S-209, I am aghast at the hypocrisy. This Bill needs House approval to be made into law. They propose the elimination of Section 43 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which allows parents, teachers and caregivers to use reasonable force to discipline a child and correct their behaviour.

Does anyone see the confused sense of morality? A child in the womb has no rights, and can be torn limb for limb from the mother’s body, but when it is outside the womb, it cannot be touched.

One law allows the most violent form of abuse, leading to death, and the other law restrains even the most honourable intentions of protecting a child from themselves. One law allows for murder and has been decriminalized; another law prohibits spanking and criminalizes any breach of it.

It appears we are becoming a nation of irreconcilable extremes. As one who has worked closely with individuals and family systems for close to 35 years now, I can attest that abuse in all forms is a growing social problem. No one I know approves of child abuse, and no one needs a law to recognize it.

However, has the recognition of child’s rights gone too far? Have we moved so far we are about to slip over the edge? What about parent’s and teacher’s rights? The law in vogue at this point in Canada gives them a defence when they use “reasonable force” to discipline a child under the circumstances. That defence was upheld as constitutional January 30th, 2004 by the Supreme Court.

The proposed law infringes on the rights of parents and educators to bring even the most minor physical correction. Look out Nanny! I have seen enough of Nanny’s programs to see her have to physically restrain a child from hitting another child or hitting her. Now, any attempt to intervene could open the door to a 911 call, turning in a parent to authorities for criminal prosecution and/or re-education classes.

We can all understand and appreciate the wisdom of the caveat created by the Supreme Court in their ruling. They specified that “the words ‘by way of correction’ in s. 43 meant that the use of force had to be sober and reasoned, address actual behaviour, and be intended to restrain, control, or express symbolic disapproval.”

Dissenters believe that spanking leads to a demeaning of the child’s personhood and can validate violent behaviour to the child. I was spanked (not abused) when I was a child. I felt secure in my parent’s love, and knowledge of what was appropriate behaviour and what was not was forged in me.

To say that “spanking” is violence is a stretch for anyone’s imagination. It may have been certain people’s experience, but it cannot be equated across the board. Making spanking a criminal act is a major encroachment on the rights of parents.

One parent reacted to the proposed legislation with unbelief:  “Raising a good child is a blessing but having a spank or tap on the hand for reaching towards a flame puts me in Jail?” This is truly unbelievable. Do we really want to fill our courtrooms with this?

If social activists are concerned about violence in our nation, maybe we should hear a similar outcry concerning cartoons and the violence shown on television and in our movie industry. Many children are spending over 50 hours a week imbibing the values of violence affirmed by the CRTC.

Nobody disagrees that children should be free from physical abuse and injury. However, debate is needed on defining the difference between physical discipline and physical abuse. On that matter of law there is little consensus.

Maybe time-outs will work for all kids at all times, but the way things are going, as one has stated, “soon time-outs will be illegal because of ´the damaging life-long effects of solitary confinement.’”

The Right to Life – It Just Won’t Go Away in Canada

In the words of my critics, they say, “Debate on abortion is not a ‘conscience pricking thing’, it’s a dead horse. Stop trying to beat it. It took far too long to legalize it in the first place, no need to try and send us back 30 years. We as a society are trying to progress and it seems all religion has to offer is regression.”

Well, it may be a dead end debate to some, but not for many others. Abortion is not legalized yet, because Canada does not have an abortion law yet. There is still an open door of opportunity for citizenry to let their voice be heard on this very controversial moral and social issue. Many people are not prepared to exchange innocent lives for what some deem to be progress.

Canada is not the only nation trying to come to terms with their conscience. Two bills intending on decriminalizing abortion came before the Brazilian National Congress recently. This matter has been under review for 17 years. Last week, the abortion debate came to an end.

The bills were solidly defeated, stating, “The right to life constitutes the supreme value of the Constitution, because all other rights are derived from it.” Leadership went on to say that the right to life cannot be abolished even by a constitutional amendment.

There are inalienable rights, liberties set by divine prerogative. There is a law above the law of man. Man’s law continues to change, based upon feelings, opinion polls and cultural preferences. However, God’s law will never change. There is right and there is wrong, and internally we know it.

It is not progress when a nation moves from right to wrong, forsakes its godly foundations and centuries of adherence to righteous standards. No human law can make the taking of innocent life right. Morality will never be able to be determined by majority vote.

The Governor General, in her installation speech quoted an observation by Montesquieu, a philosopher of the Enlightenment, who said, “The duty of the citizen becomes a crime if it makes him forget the duty of the man.” I totally agree.

We all have a responsibility, as citizens of this great nation, to “stand guard over its well-being.” But, we also have a duty, as men and women, to ask hard questions that challenge the decisions our leaders make. We are to be a principled people. It is irresponsible to “go with the flow” when that river is slowly moving us in the direction of self-destruction.

I believe that our nation is morally adrift, unanchored, and its future suspect. Currents are propelling us along at a pace that leaves little time for reason and debate. Winds of change are blowing and driving us – of that there is little question. But, has anybody asked, “Where are they taking us? Is that where we want to go?”

A good captain knows how to use the currents and the winds to his advantage, to help him get where he wants to go. There has never been a more critical hour for Canada to see solid, moral leadership emerge take the helm of the ship and lead us into a future that protects and values every citizen’s life, even those who are yet to be born.

May God bless and help Canada!

How Will Canadian Society Be Judged?

Intrinsically, each one of us knows – in our heart of hearts – that we will face some sort of judgment, either in this life or the next, for our actions. Some call it karma, some call it reaping what we have sown, some call it social justice, and others call it divine accountability.

Well, whether you believe this or not, I believe nations too will be judged. Nations are simply a corporation of citizens. Their corporate acts as a citizenry will resonate throughout history, for good or ill. History has a short memory of the moral or immoral acts of a nation’s leadership or its citizens.

One man has said that “a nation can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens.” We could make a valid and reasonable case and say that those most vulnerable in Canada would be the babies in our mothers’ wombs, the children, the handicapped, or the elderly.

How are we doing? Well, we still have problems protecting the most vulnerable – the babies in the womb. Abortion is rampant, and we are among the very few nations of the world who have no law in place to protect the unborn at any stage of the pregnancy.

As a matter of fact, in current federal law, an unborn child is not recognized as a victim with respect to violent crimes. This remains in vogue even though a vast majority (72% according to Environics Poll, Oct 2007) of Canadians support such laws to protect unborn children from acts of violence against their mothers that also injure or kill the child in her womb.

How about the protection of our children? EFC General Counsel Don Hutchinson, recently appeared before Canadian Senate’s Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, addressing the government’s Bill C-2 provisions which would raise the age of consent for sexual activity with an adult from 14 to 16 years.

He shared that “parents are shocked if they hear that their 14 or 15 year-old child is sexually active with an adult. They are even more shocked when informed, often by police, that under current Canadian law it is legal.”

This has made Canada a destination of choice for child predators and opened the door for a saturation of Canadian society in regards to child pornography. What a legacy for future generations, eh?

Well, Canadian children need adult protection, not adult predation. Their small size, their generally trusting and impressionable nature, makes them vulnerable to adult manipulation. Their sense of personhood is violated when adults use them as an object of perverted, sexual fulfillment.

I have seen the long term effects of childhood sexual abuse. Many carry the impact of this loss of trust from early sexualisation into their adult life and marriages. But for God’s grace, few are able to rid themselves of this deep wound to the spirit.

Canada took a big step forward. Nineteen courageous adult Senators passed Bill C-2, while 80 others either opposed, abstained or were vacant.  What a mixed blessing – the Bill passed, but was the result of what? Was it complacency, apathy, indifference, laziness, lack of courage or moral conviction? Where were the Senators of moral responsibility?

Maybe petitions do affect change. Three years ago 750,000 Canadians signed a petition requesting that Canada regain some international dignity and protect our children, which by the way, Canada affirmed to the United Nations, was 18 years of age.

Maybe judgment can be stayed – for a while at least. However, we have a long way to go to protect our most vulnerable Canadians. It’s not a time to rest, sit back and act as if the job is done, but it is a time to be grateful.

No Nice Way To Say It!

There has seldom been a time in my life when I could not “stand up for Canada.” I have always been proud to be Canadian, and attempted to represent our country honorably when traveling abroad.

However, this is not one of those days that I can say that. I can honestly say that I am ashamed (and a little angry) by the most recent announcement out of Ottawa, the awarding of the Order of Canada to the abortionist Dr. Henry Mortgentaler.

This decision will go down in infamy, and will discredit our nation for generations. The awarding of this Order to this man is a shameful, criminal and outrageous act. The fact that it was affirmed by our nation’s Chief Justice adds to my angst. This is blight on Canada’s future, and an offense to close to 9 million Canadians who stand strongly against abortion.

Say what you want about the Order of Canada (and much will be said now), this award is the centerpiece of our nation’s honor system. It “recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation,” those who have enriched the lives of others and made a difference.

The motto of the Order of Canada is “desiderantes meliorem patriam,” meaning “they desire a better country,” quoting from the Bible. Well, one has to ask, “Is Canada better off today because of Mortgentaler?” Unfortunately, close to three million Canadians will never be able to answer that question, half of them women who would be alive today had it not been for Mortgentaler’s “dedication and service to the nation.”

The honoring of Mortgentaler as a “great Canadian,” some “national hero” (according to Catherine Dunphy, author of Mongentaler: A Difficult Hero) devalues, degrades and dishonors the entire concept of citizenship.

When are Canadians going to stand up and do something to confront this farce and public reproach? This award creates a new value in killing innocent life by honoring what Marlon Bartram, Executive Director of Kelowna Right to Life, calls the “worst mass murderer in Canadian history.”

When a nation calls “evil good” and “good evil,” it has to be addressed. How can one, in good conscience, honor a man who has caused such loss of life and affected the destiny of a generation? How long is this travesty going to be allowed to continue? There is no protection for our most vulnerable citizens-to-be, the unborn.

When an individual does evil, his soul is contaminated by his sin. When a man sheds innocent blood, he is guilty of bloodguiltiness, and God will be his Judge. When a nation honors this bloody slaughter of innocents, it has tragically lost its moral bearings, and will be judged.

When Cain killed his brother Abel the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. Now you are under a curse…”

The blood of a generation is crying out from Canadian soil and has the attention of Heaven. The nation of Canada will come under a curse, or God will have to apologize to Cain.

Canada must repent for that curse to be lifted. Repentance requires a complete turning around, recognizing of sin, and restitution for its failure to protect innocent life. Maybe then it can find forgiveness and mercy for what leadership has allowed.

The feminist activist Judy Rebick has boldly stated that “…the abortion debate is over in this country, the pro-choice side won, and Dr. Morgentaler was a big part of that victory.” In other words, “get over it.”

Let me assure you Judy that there is another Judge who will make His ruling one day. It’s not over – and it never will be over – until He has spoken. Believe me – He will have the last and final word on this.

In the meantime, we must work for this award’s revocation. Only then can the nation start to cleanse its own soul.