The recent events at York University regarding a male student’s request to not associate with female students on religious grounds raises an issue that has plagued me for many years. Freedom of Religion. Though raised in the Christian faith, I don’t regularly practice my religion nor do I shun it. I also respect the religion of others and wholeheartedly welcome them amongst us. The problem I have is when others try to impose onto us their values, traditions and beliefs in favour of our own.
As a result of complaints involving freedom of religion the Federal Government announced in 1990 that on-duty RCMP officers were allowed to wear Turbans in place of the customary Stetson headgear that has been an iconic symbol of the force since its inception in 1873.
Sometime around 2007/2008, the Canadian Armed Forces laxed their policy permitting wearing the Turban in place of the customary headdress, again, rescinding a Canadian tradition dating back several decades and completely shattering any “uniformity” implied in uniform.
In the spring of 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned a previous decision and allowed a Quebec student to carry a ceremonial dagger (Kirpan) to school when all other students are forbidden to carry such items as they are deemed dangerous weapons. This ruling was upheld despite a Globe & Mail poll conducted the day after indicating 75% of the respondents disagreed with the decision.
In the spring of 2012, Toronto Police announced a formal policy allowing the Kirpan in courtrooms despite a weapons ban for everyone else and despite an attempted murder involving such a device in April 2010.
There have been other incidents; the “hats off” policy at the Royal Canadian Legion, the Turban scandal at the Quebec soccer federation not to mention Quebec’s own attempts to pass their secular charter.
The recent events at York U demonstrate this will be an ongoing issue. While I applaud the decision and satisfied with the ultimate outcome of this recent event, I can’t help but wonder why similar, defiant, decisions weren’t made in the events above. Let’s look at this objectively. If you welcomed an individual to stay in your home and he/she began rearranging your furniture, altering your schedule, dictating when you rise, when you eat or what you wear based on his/her religious beliefs, would you permit it? I’m going to go on a limb here and say probably not. My castle, my rules. Most of us are somewhat flexible and understanding and often willing to make some concessions to help others but only to a certain point.
In many cases we welcome immigrants with open arms, often taking them away from oppression, providing food, shelter and medical care that would be unheard of elsewhere. Is it too much to expect a little reciprocity in the form of respect for our laws and time honored traditions? Please understand my position. As said above, I fully respect the religious beliefs and traditions of others and have no issue allowing them the freedom to practice in their homes or place of worship. I do, however, take exception when these people blatantly try to impose these beliefs ahead of our own and when the imposition of these beliefs consequently results in a sacrifice on our part. It baffles me that despite continual public outcries after such decisions are rendered that the wishes and desires of these individuals still take precedence over our own.
I believe the problem stems from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and in particular, the section pertaining to Freedom of Religion. While I’m no expert on the matter, I believe the intended purpose, for which this section was written, is clearly not the same as that for which it has been exploited over the years. Freedom of Religion is there to ensure the preservation and continuity of all faiths, and rightfully so without objection. However, it should not be used to impede or alter the identity of a culture that has fought so hard to create it. The Federal Government really needs to show some backbone and re-write this legislation so as to stop all this filibustering and gerrymandering once and for all; if not, I can assure you, many others will continue to test the waters and push our buttons to see what more they can gain.
As an immigrant who’s lived in this country most of my life, I’m very proud to be Canadian. I’m proud of this great Country’s achievements and standing in the world and I certainly welcome diversity, but, not at the expense of losing our own identity.
DIVERSITY / IDENTITY = NO (DIVERSITY over IDENTITY = NO)