March 15, 2011 Volume 24, Number 20
CBC slams evangelical involvement on The Hill
What passes as reporting is actually nothing more than hate
By Joe Couto | ChristianWeek Columnist
If we are to believe Bloc Quebecois MP Pierre Paquette, Canada is being run by shadowy evangelical Christians. These mysterious religious types, when they are not in their prayer meetings beseeching the Lord on Stephen Harper's behalf, are apparently pulling the strings of the federal government. And if the separatist member from Joliette is to be believed, all clear-thinking Canadians should lock their doors and pray to the goddess that proselytizing fundamentalist Christians don't get their children while they sleep.
I've been around political circles for more than two decades as a journalist, a political staffer and a lobbyist. Unless I've just been stuck at the Tim Hortons line all these years and missed them, I have yet to hear of one “evangelical" lobbyist who isn't at most a curiosity to those of us involved in the bare knuckle sport that is Canadian politics. That isn't to denigrate the work of evangelicals on Parliament Hill or elsewhere; it's just stating that it simply is not true that such groups or individuals have “privileged access" to the current federal government as Paquette claimed during one Question Period in February.
Now, if the charge made by Paquette was just him trying to embarrass the Conservative government before a possible election, we could just chock it up to an opposition MP being downright silly. But what should worry evangelicals, other Christians and all other faith groups is that Paquette got his “information" from a CBC Radio-Canada “reporter" who apparently thinks bigoted, one-sided talk shows constitute “journalism."
On February 10, CBC journaliste Brigitte Bureau launched into a 30-minute documentary that claimed to show how some evangelical Christians have undue influence in Ottawa, particularly when it comes to Conservative MPs and Senators. To call the documentary “reporting" would be an insult to all first-year journalism students across Canada.
One group specifically singled out for abuse by the CBC was the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC). The EFC has had an office in Ottawa since 1996 and engaged in public policy issues for more than two decades before that. Having worked for EFC for three years back in the 1990s, I'll put it out there that I may be biased in saying that I have a healthy respect for the work they do.
Good, well-meaning people who do good work in putting out their views on issues such as human trafficking, freedom of religion, abortion, and poverty? Yes. Masters of all that goes on Parliament Hill? Please.
The CBC's “documentary" - funded by your tax dollars, dear reader - was such an unbalanced, unsubstantiated, stereotypical portrayal of a religious group that, had that group been anything but Christian, we would have had human rights groups hollowing for journaliste Bureau's head.
Christians in Canada need to constantly remind their elected leaders that every Canadian has the right to be protected from hate. Not some. ALL. Politicians especially need to be reminded that it was the Supreme Court of Canada that affirmed unanimously in 2002 (Chamberlain v. Surrey School District) that, “...nothing in the Charter, political or democratic theory, or proper understanding of pluralism demands that atheistically-based moral positions trump religiously-based moral positions on matters of public policy."
Further, all Canadians need to remember that the CBC, which receives funding from Canadian taxpayers (including evangelicals), cannot get away with spewing lies and hatred against a group the broadcaster appears to disdain as a rule rather than the exception. So, the next time our cultural elites decry “cuts" to the CBC mother-ship, tell them to move along.
Finally, evangelical Christians need to continue reach out to Muslims, Jews, Hindus and other religious groups and defend their right to be heard. Encourage MPPs not to hide their faith, but celebrate it as they do their heritage and their lifestyles. Maybe we can't expect reporters or obscure MPs to respect people of faith. But a little tolerance is the minimum to be expected in a country where diversity is next to godliness.
Joe Couto provides public relations and media training through his Toronto-based company, Tourniquet Communications.