The Bogeyman Under the Bed? An Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau

The holidays may be near, but there is no rest for the weary. Changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program have faith groups reeling across the country. Unwilling to let this disappear under the glare of the holiday lights, many are registering their discontent. I offer my own initial perspective here, as a letter to the Prime Minister, and to my own MP, Scott Brison. You may wish to register your views with your own MP.

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, and Hon. Scott Brison;

First of all, thank you for the hard work you do to serve Canadians, and our country. You do a difficult and often thankless job at great expense to yourselves and your families. You are appreciated. Thank you for serving and sacrificing. Know that there are many who cheer you on from the wings and even pray for you as you seek wisdom to make decisions and serve well day to day. We do this even when we disagree with you.

Over my 50 years, I have lived in various parts of Canada, and as an expat for 15 years before returning 5 years ago. This experience has given me a perspective of Canada that makes me deeply grateful for our values, for our liberal society, and for the heritage of this great and gentle nation. It has also made me question my nationality as a Canadian as I have pondered the history of our engagement with Indigenous peoples, and the treatment of various groups including African Nova Scotians, who have sought to share the land we know as Canada. I understand the desire to prevent future injustices by working towards reconciliation with all people­ –  Indigenous, African Canadians, LGBTQ2, and others. I am grateful for inclusion and diversity.

As a returned Canadian, I have set out as part of my mission to help those who share more traditional values to understand that there is a place for people of faith in Canada, and that we need to participate in the public landscape rather than hide away in fear; in a mosaic like ours, we need to stop panicking about every little change, and learn to mature in our reflections and behaviours as we move into the future. I have repeatedly reassured the people of my community that there is no bogeyman in the basement.

Now, just when some have started to think it was safe to get out from under the covers, they discover that the bogeyman was not in the basement, but under the bed. And I find myself wondering, have I lied to them? Have I myself been duped into complacency?

The attestation that is being required of applicants for Canada summer jobs funding looks a lot like a bogeyman. I understand that in the first instance it is designed to ferret out organizations like those that place aggressive anti-abortion agendas at the heart of their work.  I understand that the actions of some groups are at times offensive and hostile. I get that you are not keen to provide federal funding for their work. However, with the addition of this required attestation, you have swallowed a camel to strain out a gnat.

The wording of the attestation leaves many Canadians feeling confused and insecure. Not because we wish to promote aggression or hate of any kind, but because it strains out disagreement and diversity in the name of liberal values that defy the name. I could easily sign a statement to uphold the Canadian Human Rights Charter. But that does not mean I must agree with abortion, same-sex marriage, or the active promotion of transgenderism. I may well agree with them. But should I be forced to agree in order to be part of Canadian society? If so, then democracy is dead.

(I know many people within my community who disagree with my role as a woman leader, even though it is soon to be 2018. I would defend to the death their right to disagree, no matter how much it pains me. Because if everyone isn’t free, then no one is free.)

The response is often expressed, ‘You cannot be free to spread hate!’ Yet even that great champion of freedom, JS Mill recognized the difference between freedom of belief and freedom of action. He recognized that to march en masse to the house of someone you disagree with, and threaten them with harm, is unacceptable in a free society. But freedom to disagree, to believe that they are wrong, freedom of conscience, is essential to the survival of a democracy. Are we reaching a point in Canada where disagreement is no longer allowed? When liberalism becomes a new fundamentalism, to the exclusion of all other views? Embracing diversity is the opposite of forcing everyone agree with you.

I beg you, Mr. Prime Minister, not to push those of moderate view into more strident views that otherwise, they would not choose to take. I beg you to not inflict wounds of division on our country. Canadians have a legacy of Laurier’s ‘sunny way’; it’s in our DNA. By contrast, the inability to hold an Aristotelian mean has led to terrible schisms south of the border. Fundamentalisms on both sides become irreconcilable when diversity is narrowed to a single view.

Many of the groups who will feel excluded or disoriented in this action are those that provide much-needed public services for marginalized groups, children, and elderly in our communities. They may not agree with you on what wider values characterize Canadian society. But they are Canadian, to the core. To disagree, and still go out and watch the hockey game together, has to be part of what it means to be Canadian going forward into an otherwise divisive future.

So please reassure me there is no bogeyman under the bed.

Ask your government to revoke this attestation immediately.


Anna Robbins, PhD

Wolfville, NS

Comments 17

Brian Steeves
March 30, 2018

Just getting caught up in my emails, and just found this and read it. Excellent! Many good thoughts. Much good analysis. Thanks!

Jesse Smith
March 26, 2018

I was rereading this letter in light of the recent vote to uphold the decision and some thoughts occurred. I still have not seen a single Canadian commenter or Christian intellectual make the connection between the limitations imposed by the attestation and the announcement of the Canada Service Corps. The Liberal government announced 105 million dollars in the 2017 budget for unspecified youth service opportunities, but only announced specifics in February. So during the entire time the attestation was being considered, this was also in the works. I take Trudeau seriously when he says he is committed to youth (evidenced by his holding onto the portfolio of Minister of Youth) and to a particular version of 2nd wave feminism (evidenced by Liberal party litmus test requiring pro-choice positions from all candidates and myriad statements/photo-ops).

Taken together, what we are actually seeing is not just what John Stackhouse calls a solution to Canada’s lack of abortion law (“governing as if there is such a thing”), though that is certainly there. The way these programs target youth, and the commitment Trudeau has to Canada’s youth-as-nation-builders, is evidence of a type of social engineering through spending. By defunding groups which do not share Trudeau’s values and giving more money to those that do via the CSC (in a way with much more top-down control that the CSJ) the Liberal government is trying to have it’s cake and eat it too with regards to institutions. Rather than actually denounce particular groups/organizations, as bad, they will just control the purse strings in a way that assumes it.
Bonus points: Katimavik is the secret decoder ring in all of this.

Gordon Horsman
February 5, 2018

Thank you, Dr. Robbins. Excellent! I’m just now writing–again–to my MP and others to express my thoughts. Your letter was a great encouragement for all of us to continue interacting with our politicians. Our MP’s, as our representatives, carry heavy loads and need our input and encouragement and prayer support.

Kevin Smith
December 23, 2017

This is an excellent article, Anna.

Hal Babcock
December 22, 2017

So I guess you are saying that we Christians who hold to a PRO-LIFE /Sanctity of every life position and stand up for the plight of the unborn need to be ferreted out. (Your words: “I understand that in the first instance it is designed to ferret out organizations like those that place aggressive anti-abortion agendas”)
Please tell me what criteria it is that you apply to deciding which children should live and grow and enjoy “Hockey nite in Canada” and so much more and which children deserve to have their lives terminated by an abortionist.
It seems that your point about the removal of government funding for summer jobs trumps the fact that someone with my views on the value of life would not be welcome to run for democratically elected office under the Liberal banner.
My parents worked countless hours and donated much financially to elect PM Trudeau the first and now they would not be welcome either.
I could go on about your letter but I will stop and hope that I get a response.
I sincerely hope that you discover the bogeyman you seek. Be prepared however to find him/her at the end of the three fingers that are pointing in a different direction that the one that you seem to be pointing. Hal Babcock BTh ADC 2012

Anna Robbins
December 23, 2017

Hal I think you misunderstand. Saying ‘I understand’ simply means that I know what the new policy was designed to achieve.

December 22, 2017

Canada Summer Jobs program grants are not inalienable rights. So if Canada wants to make sure that all organizations that they are giving (essentially) free money to uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that’s their prerogative. No one is forcing churches to affirm and marry same-sex couples, no one is forcing churches to stay silent about abortions. We still have the freedom to disagree, the freedom of conscience. The only difference is there will no longer be government hand-outs for organizations who openly disagree with the Canadian Constitution. Is it unfortunate, yes. I believe the church summer programming is invaluable in many communities. Is it a threat to democracy, no.

December 23, 2017

The article is really about cautioning the government to not polarize individuals. There should be room to recognize difference of opinion under the Canadian Constitution…..No? Does disagreement mean HATE?
Do the rights of FAITH (which are protected as well) take second place?

December 23, 2017


I am not sure what you are trying to ask with your first question. We can have difference of opinion about the Consitution, but at the end of the day it is law and will be upheld as such. I never implicitly or explicitly say that disagreement means hate. Our right to religious freedom is not impeded by this change of federal grants. It is true that individual ministries will be affected, which is a shame, but our ability to practice religion freely is not.

Ray Baillie
January 18, 2018

It’s not correct to assume that the beliefs of those who hold a pro-life position, and a position on human sexuality that is based on a traditional Christian view of creation, marriage and God’s design are in contradiction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter guarantees the rights of conscience and religion, thought, belief, expression and association to all Canadians. What the PM has done, is preferred a couple of ‘progressive’ rights, and enacted a policy that indicates that these rights trump all others. This is incorrect.
The charter rights of Christian groups are legitimate and are not ‘suspended’ somehow by other rights. Christian groups are fully free to operate according to their rights, and to hire persons who agree with and support their values.
Abortion rights are not in the charter, they are an ‘assumed right’ based on the current state of the law, which occurred when the Supreme Court defeated existing abortion laws, and left it to Parliament to create appropriate new laws, which Parliament has abdicated on for these many years.
The PM is not being consistent with the Canadian charter, he is acting on his own agenda, and denying substantial facts and case history which continues to establish our freedoms. To deny a public benefit to an organization because of it’s differing views on contentious public issues is totalitarianism.The Canada Summer jobs program is a ‘public benefit’, that everyone should be able to access. And the programs that Churches and faith based organizations that utilize the funding present, are a profound benefit to the communities they serve. From summer camps for ‘kids at risk’, community gardens for homeless or otherwise needy people, or other family support activities for children and families, the staffing made possible by the csj is profoundly beneficial.
The values expressed by Christian organizations in support of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, and the view of human sexuality found in scripture, are not discrimination, they are eternal truths, rooted in the realities of original creation and the intrinsic value of all who are created in the image of God.
The discrimination here is on behalf of the govt, choosing to discriminate against certain ‘charter based values’ (there is no reason for them to do this), while actively promoting others as the ‘preferred values’ of the progressives.
To quote Father Raymond J. de Souza in The National Post: ‘In any case, what the government is demanding is coerced speech, using its power to force assent to a political position’.

January 3, 2018

The problem with the current change is that Trudeau has made some additions that are not in the Constitution and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I agree that organizations that receive government funding should have to agree with the Constitution and the Charter.

Bob Moore
December 22, 2017

I am concerned that charitable status and tax receipting will be the next front for Trudeau’s exclusion of groups with whom he disagrees

January 18, 2018

Yes, that is a valid concern. It is a logical extension that the government will not want to provide funds via charitable tax status to groups who they see as not upholding the human rights of minorities. The challenge for the courts will be how to balance those rights with the equally valid concerns of religious communities. The challenge for churches and other faith groups will be to re-examine their beliefs and biases in light of a changing society, science and their own teachings that they are to extend God’s love to everyone. Perhaps God will open up new possibilities, just as happened with the church’s teachings on Gentiles, slaves, children and women.

Jeffrey Lutes
December 21, 2017

Graciously stated. This bodes well for the MacRae Centre.

Gail Whalen-Dunn
December 21, 2017

So well spoken Anna, thank you.

Shawn Kehoe
December 21, 2017

Very well said Dr. Robbins. I agree wholeheartedly.

David Elliot
December 21, 2017

What a brilliant article!

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