The New Canadian Values of Licia Corbella and the Calgary Herald
Recent events in Winnipeg have created a media backlash of sorts particularly from politically right of center columnists. About a dozen or so recently immigrated families to Canada are demanding the right to have their children excused from music class for religious reasons. As Muslims, they believe that music is un-Islamic. Or, as Lois Riel School Division Superintendent Terry Borys put it in the inane language and logic of our day, “Music was not part of the cultural reality.”
Charles Adler, daytime talk show radio host, went ballistic on air and in his blog calling for an end to Canada’s multiculturalism policy. “Let’s declare that Canada is not for sale on the corrupt and corrosive altar of multiculturalism.” Licia Corbella, Editorial Page Editor of the Calgary Herald (aka, Canada’s largest Christian Daily) expressed similar sentiments. In a piece entitled Time to change tune on official multiculturalism in the Saturday February 12, 2011 edition of the Herald, Ms. Corbella states:
The school division is facing the music in a typically Canadian way – that is , bending itself into a trombone to try and accommodate these demands, even though in Manitoba, and indeed the rest of the country, music and phys-ed are compulsory parts of the curriculum.
Later, she quotes Mahfooz Kanwar, whose basic opinion Ms. Corbella clearly shares, as saying:
I’d tell them, this is Canada, and in Canada we teach music and physical education in our schools. If you don’t like it, leave.
Two years ago a similar issue arose in Alberta when the government introduced Bill 44. It was a response to the demands of another group of parents that wanted to keep their children out of school because the teaching of certain subjects was offensive to their religious beliefs. Bill44 essentially provided the rules by which this could occur. It provided for the right of parents to be notified when certain subjects were being taught and to withdraw their children from class when parents thought appropriate.
You might think Ms. Corbella was as outraged at this group of Alberta parents as she is with the group in Manitoba. You might think she objected to the government bending our school system trombone-like in trying to accommodate the demands of this vocal minority. But you would be wrong. Ms. Corbella took precisely the opposite position, arguing that parental rights trumped the rights of the state in matters of education. Parents, she argued, had the right to decide what their children would be taught.
So what’s different? Well, in current Manitoba case, the parental group are fresh off the boat Muslims, whereas in the Alberta case the parental group were god fearing Christian’s (you know, our kinda people) and the subject wasn’t music – it was evolution. There are few things more humorous than watching seriously self-righteous religious fanatics dance the hypocritical two-step when arguing issues of human rights. Apparently, this dance reaches a fever pitch whenever evolution is involved. Basic human rights suddenly disappear or become, in the words of Pirate Barbossa, more what you’d call ‘guidelines’, whenever a group with less favored religious beliefs lays claim to the rights others enjoy.
Apparently, Licia Corbella and the Calgary Herald believe human rights should be reserved for Christians. Not surprising, as this belief is the most fundamental of all Christian values. There are after all, god’s chosen people (wait, aren’t those Jews?) and the not so chosen people, condemned to eternal hell and damnation because they would rather wear a condom that die from AIDS (okay, that one is definitely Christian). The religious call these sacred beliefs and values. In the secular world, judging people based on religious belief is called bigotry.
The last time I responded to some writing of Licia Corbella (See ASkepticRTN: Its Been a Wild Couple of Weeks), I found myself closing with the words of Thomas Jefferson. Some of those I would like to repeat here:
Our laws have applied the only antidote to [religious intolerance], protecting our religious, as they do our civil, rights by putting all on equal footing. But more remains to be done, for although we are free by the law, we are not so in practice. Public opinion erects itself into an inquisition, and exercises its office with as much fanaticism as fans the flames of an Auto-da-fé.