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Friday, November 4, 2011

An open letter to Justin Trudeau

Dear Justin,

Forgive my informality; it's just that I feel like I know you. I was a big fan of your father. I watched you grow up, have watched your family's ups and downs, have been saddened by your losses and celebrated your successes from afar.

I am sorry to see you've been having a rough time lately. Jane Taber indicates you can't catch a break, whether it's on the long gun registry or Catholicism or that stickiest of issues, abortion. Although guns aren't really the topic of this particular blog, let me just say for the record that I applaud your stand on the long gun registry. You are absolutely right to take every opportunity available to point out that most women killed by their partners in Canada are killed with guns. Thank you for that.

Now on to matters more typical for this forum. Dean Del Mastro, a Conservative who has been unleashed upon you, says you are not Catholic enough to speak to children at Catholic school, and asks if there is any Catholic teaching you do observe. Who does he think he is? Apparently, he seems to think he speaks for the Church, that he's the Pope's man in Canada, and it's his job to be your Inquisitor. I think not. He's hiding his partisan bullying behind a pulpit, something I personally find intolerable. Call him on it.

Del Masto's comments seem to misunderstand one of the most central tenets of the Catholic faith. In the Church, the individual conscience of each person is recognized as the keystone of moral decision making. As a result, we have the existence of groups like Catholics for Choice. They have no problem with being pro-choice and Catholic, (although clearly Del Mastro wouldn't agree with them) and make compelling arguments in support of their position. If you are unaware of them, I think you should visit their website at www.catholicsforchoice.org. There is a Canadian branch too, but this main one has a more complete website. Have a look at their issues section on abortion, particularly the notes on Canon Law. You will find plenty to add to your arguments and prepare you for further debate.

Further, Del Mastro apparently not only thinks he can speak for the Church, he also thinks he can speak for the school. Can the Catholic school in question not invite anyone they want to speak to their students? Del Mastro implies only Catholics can speak to Catholics, and only certain Catholics at that, Catholics who follow a certain line of Catholic thinking. Would he object to a Presbyterian speaking to the student body or a Muslim? Just wondering. This is a side issue, for sure, but it demonstrates the problem with fracturing public school into various special interests. There is a danger that our children will only have exposure to other children who are like them. This makes it difficult for them to cope in a diverse society, to appreciate other points of views, to be open minded, and to recognize valid approaches to problems and solutions that come from other sources. It means that they reinforce their own ideas over and over creating an endless cycle of homogeneity. Let's not fall into that trap. The children at this school will be fortunate to have such a distinguished guest. You have a good deal to say and could well inspire these young people to go into public service.

I want to remind you too that the current core of Conservatives are a bit too fundamentalist for the liking of most Canadians. Don't get sucked into a contest of who can be more religious. The last thing Canadians need is the kind of pandering to the religious right that has gone on in the United States. We see the results of this all too clearly in the current race for Republican leadership; every issue is filtered through the lens of religion and candidates bend over backwards to prove they are more religious than their opponent. Put religious zealots like Mr. Del Mastro in their place. Remind them Canada is a secular society and you believe every Canadian is entitled to their beliefs, even him.

Finally, I have one small and gentle criticism to make of your remarks through this whole thing. You say you are personally against abortion but pro-choice. Most people understand what that means. But you can leave out the first half of that statement. It is implied in the second half and utterly redundant. In stating the point the way you do, you give a subtle nod to the misconception that being pro-choice is only about ensuring women are able to have abortions if they choose. We pro-choice folk want women to be able to make any reproductive choice they want including having babies. We think women can and should use their individual consciences to make informed and conscious choices about reproduction that are right for them and right for their families.

So keep up the good fight, Justin. Don't be discouraged. If anything, be bolder. Take those bullies on. Don't back down. I'm with you, and I know many others are too.

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