For decades if not centuries, social conservatives and devoutly religious types have led the charge in favour of discrimination against LGBT people. They have fought tooth and nail to ruin the lives of people like me. They regularly threw vulnerable LGBT youth out of their own families, homes, businesses, schools, churches and other organizations.
But in Canada in the 1990s, the mainstream culture started to change for the better. Why? For a whole slew of reasons, including the fact that more LGBT people continued to come out of the closet, thus humanizing the experience for many formerly ignorant straight people.
Another important reason was the arrival of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada. Courts ruled starting in the 1990s that LGBT people were entitled to equal treatment under the law, thanks to the Charter. In 2003 in Ontario, a court ruled that same sex couples have the legal right to marry, a decision which was confirmed by the Canadian Parliament in 2005, extending marriage rights to all LGBT people across the country.
During this entire period, let us not forget who fought progress every step of the way: social conservatives and the devoutly religious. For them, their religious beliefs trumped basic human dignity and equality under the law. From a position of power, they demanded that LGBT lives remain second class.
As we know, the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper called same sex marriage a "threat" to this country. Harper wasn't able to stop equal marriage of course. But he certainly undermined LGBT rights and all human rights in other ways, including cancelling the Court Challenges Program which provided vulnerable citizens suffering from discrimination with financial support to fight that discrimination in the courts.
I'm glad to say that the gains LGBT people have made in this country now seem fairly entrenched. But I'll never forget how hard those social conservatives fought against my basic humanity, dignity and equality.
So there is a certain poetic justice today seeing so many of the same religious folks now whining about alleged "discrimination" against them by the Trudeau government over its changes to its Canada Summer Jobs Program. Predictably, Conservative MPs who fought against human rights for LGBT people and still refuse to attend community Pride celebrations, are going to bat for their social conservative friends.
This is a gross recent trend we've seen from many conservatives: adopt the language of the progressive left to draw false equivalence comparisons between real historical oppression and the loss of power they're now sensing.
"Oh look, I have to sell a wedding cake to a same sex couple. I'm oppressed!"
And of course, there is a steady stream of conservative politicians like Donald Trump and Andrew Scheer more than happy to go to bat for them.
How soon these Canadian conservatives forget that up until they were forced to accept equality for all people in law, they opposed it.
On the issue of the Summer Jobs Program change, it does seem that the Trudeau government is playing a bit of 'culture war' politics here, using this minor issue to get a lot of attention. That's politics. Is it discrimination on the basis of religion that some organizations are being forced to check a box on an application form they think contradicts their faith? Perhaps. Is it just for Canadian tax dollars to fund summer jobs for students who are working on anti-abortion campaigns or fighting basic equality for all? I don't think so. Or if many of those jobs would do no such thing, yet the organization as a whole nurtures an anti-gay culture and environment? I wouldn't say I'm crazy about that. We have a lot of need in this society that is currently being met by religious charities. I do think a commitment to serve all people without discrimination is essential for receiving public tax dollars.
Yet our tax dollars fund Catholic public schools in Ontario which teach that women are not fully equal to men, that abortion is a sin and that LGBT people are sub-human. Of course, none of the conservatives squawking now about the Summer Jobs Program have much to say in opposition to that state of affairs. It's only when they feel the twinge of injustice against themselves do they now appeal to the very human rights laws they vigorously opposed just a few years ago.
I don't have much sympathy for them. If they feel they are being discriminated against, they should take the Trudeau government to court over it. And if they take that path, they'll be able to use the renewed Court Challenges fund (which the Trudeau government re-instated) to help in their fight.
****UPDATE January 23, 2018****
This story today clarifies the government's position very well, which in my mind means that these rules governing the Canada Summer Jobs program aren't discriminatory at all. In fact, I have to support them wholeheartedly. I do not want my public tax dollars going to organizations that plan to hire students to engage in discriminatory activities.