Canada’s 44th Parliament is now in session.
The government has indicated it will continue many of the policy and legislative priorities from the last mandate. This means that some bills of concern to the EFC that died when the election was called will be re-introduced.
The EFC continues to build strategic linkages with existing and new MPs, Senators, and other government officials to ensure that biblical principles on current social issues are heard. We are hard at work, preparing to educate and advocate on many issues.
Banning “conversion therapy”
An early priority of the government will be to introduce legislation to ban “conversion therapy” for minors. The new bill is likely to be more expansive – banning all “conversion therapy,” including for adults.
Of course we support the banning of coercive practices that have no place in our churches and communities. However, we are very concerned that the government is using a vague and overly broad definition of conversion therapy that would not only ban coercive and harmful practices, but also has the potential to criminalize non-coercive conversations when Christian parents, pastors, or counsellors teach or speak to youth about the biblical understanding of ethics, sexuality, gender, marriage, identity, and belonging. Expansion of the bill may even criminalize private conversations of this nature between consenting adults.
As policymakers seek to protect individuals from harm, it is critical to ensure that conversion therapy is defined in a way that does not infringe on expression of religious belief, religious instruction, spiritual counselling/mentoring, or the provision of pastoral care. It is also important to ensure that persons seeking help to live out their sexuality according to their faith identity or personal convictions can continue to have access to professional and/or spiritual guidance.
Charitable status of anti-abortion organizations
The government may consider no longer providing charitable status to “anti-abortion organizations.” It named crisis pregnancy centres as an example of anti-abortion organizations that, in their view, provide “dishonest counselling” about women’s rights.
We are concerned by the mischaracterization of crisis pregnancy centres by the current government. Pregnancy care centres have social value and are a legitimate source of support for many Canadian women.
It is not clear whether the government will actually undertake this kind of action. If it did review charitable status, it would need to answer significant questions about what would be considered “dishonest counselling” and why it would only investigate groups that believe life begins at conception. A review of charitable status on the basis of views on abortion would raise concerns about a values-test, similar to the Canada Summer Jobs attestation.
The government had also promised to introduce legislation to combat harmful content online – including hate speech – within 100 days of Parliament’s return.
There is serious and legitimate concern that hateful speech online amplifies the divisions in society and may encourage some to violent action.
guarantees the freedom of religion, conscience, thought, belief, opinion, and expression for all Canadians. These fundamental freedoms are foundational to any free and democratic society and must be respected and upheld, even when the beliefs, ideas, or opinions expressed on any given issue are unpopular or controversial. These freedoms allow minority religious groups, like Evangelicals, to be able to express their sincerely held beliefs and biblical teachings in the public square.
These freedoms, of course, are subject to reasonable limits. We cannot condone the use and propagation of hate speech that seeks to dehumanize members of an identifiable group, or that threatens, incites, advocates, or justifies violence towards them.
When the government addresses online harms, it is critical to ensure that a law on hate speech is carefully worded and considered, so that it does not over-extend.
Every year, we count on the extra generosity of our donors over the Christmas season to help make up for any shortfalls throughout the year. As such, please know that your 2021 Christmas gift to the EFC would be greatly
May God bless you as you prepare to celebrate the joys of Christmas in the coming weeks!