Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) June 24 penned a letter to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom requesting that its members consider adding Canadian government to its watch list due to the country's COVID-19 lockdowns, fines, and arrests of worshippers across the nation.
’I am troubled that our Canadian neighbors are effectively being forced to gather in secret, undisclosed locations to exercise their basic freedom to worship,’ Hawley wrote. ‘Frankly, I would expect this sort of religious crackdown in Communist China, not in a prominent Western nation like Canada.’
Indeed, Hawley is correct to cite the federal Canadian government, and many of the provincial governments and city officials for their blatant disregard for religious freedom and free association, both of which are supposed to be insured by Section Two of the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads:
2 Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
- (a) freedom of conscience and religion;
- (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
- (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
- (d) freedom of association.
In his letter, Hawley writes:
Canadian authorities’ arrest of faith leaders and seizure of church property, among other enforcement actions, appear to constitute systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.
Bingo. The Canadian government most definitely HAS engaged in that kind of activity, and it has cracked down on churches in ways that are eerily reminiscent of Chinese authoritarianism. Just Monday, June 28, a Court of Queens Bench, Alberta, judge found Pastor Artur Pawlowski and his brother, Dawid, guilty of contempt for citing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and keeping their Calgary church open in defiance of unethical government lockdowns. Likewise, the same judge found a restaurateur guilty of contempt for holding a pro-freedom rally in the parking lot of his OWN establishment.
And then there’s the Canadian government’s restriction of movement, restriction that comes without trial, and without due process below the trial level, restriction that stands in contravention of Section Six of the same Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which reads:
Mobility of citizens
- 6 (1) Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.
- Marginal note: Rights to move and gain livelihood
(2) Every citizen of Canada and every person who has the status of a permanent resident of Canada has the right
- (a) to move to and take up residence in any province; and
- (b) to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province.
Just to ring the memory bell of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – he who once praised China’s dictatorial approach to civil liberties – by April of LAST YEAR, eight provinces had established border shut downs, East Berlin style check points, and quarantines.
And, just for memory sake, let’s remind folks what Trudeau said about China in 2013:
There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China. Their basic dictatorship is actually allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime and say, ‘We need to go green, we want to start investing in solar’.
Hawley, on the other hand, seems a lot more sensitive to fundamental religious freedom and the right to freely associate. Notes LifeSite’s McLean:
Hawley was particularly moved by the June 15 arrest of Pastor Tim Stephens, whose children wept and clung to his hand after he was hauled into a police car. The evangelical minister was arrested for holding a prayer service outdoors, a gathering the police needed a helicopter to find. Although outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is very rare, the service violated Alberta’s COVID-19 restrictions.
And she also observes that Hawley is familiar with, and alarmed by, the attacks on Pastor James Coates.
Hawley also cited the arrest of Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove, near Edmonton, Alberta, and the bizarre police blockade of the place of worship, which has led to protests and the community attending underground services.
Hawley also sent a copy of his letter to Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, Kirsten Hillman, showing consistency with his stance last year defending Americans from COVID crackdowns in numerous states. In September 2020, McLean notes, Hawley wrote to then-Attorney General William Barr, asking him to file suit against jurisdictions that were infringing on the First Amendment (and many more Amendments and provisions of the Constitution) by locking down churches, stating, in part:
Over that period, they have faced countless harms: missed holidays and religious celebrations, canceled weddings, and unattended funerals, to say nothing of the painful absence of regular worship. These continued violations of the First Amendment are outrageous. I ask that the Department file suit against these jurisdictions and others to uphold Americans’ rights.
Of course, William Barr offered more sound than substance, and the state-level attacks on US liberty continued, all because Donald Trump pretended he had the Constitutional and ethical power to “declare an emergency,” which he doesn’t, but which triggered state statues that let many governors and city officials proceed with their lockdowns.
All of this, on the Canadian and US level, might make one wonder if constitutions actually work to hold back the power-hungry.
Likewise, many might wonder if Hawley is engaging in a stunt. But, based on his previous activity in the US, he appears to be driven by his convictions and at least a moderate interest in holding back the onslaught of oppressive government.
It’s a shame more politicians – all over the world -- weren’t inclined to do the same.