Friday, November 17, 2006

Why don't they just make the dads pace the floor, too?

HT to my conservative colleague, Kathy Shaidle:

Mario Dumont, the leader of L'Action Démocratique du Québec, has flipped out over a Montréal neonatal class deciding to ban the fathers of the unborn babies so as not to "offend" the sensibilities of such groups as Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. This follows the firestorm that has erupted on the island city over some Hasidic Jewish store operators refusing to cooperate with female police officers with criminal investigations.

Dumont said, in part, that “Quebec police didn't kidnap anyone in the world to force them to come to Quebec.” He also pointed out the actions run counter to the spirit of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which promotes equality. Rather than being trying to encouage inclusion, some groups are trying to encourage the resegregation of groups. Funny that an avowed separatist would invoke the federal constitution to make his point ... and to be blunt, excluding men from birthing classes probably also violates both the provincial Charter as well as the Civil Code.

For most of history, giving birth was exclusively a womens' event, and was fraught with extreme risk. Even after it became much more sanitized and brought into hospitals, men were told to stay out of the delivery room. As a result, women were forced to go through the agony alone. But over time, those who studied bedside manners realized this was the time when women needed their husbands or boyfriends the most. Nowadays, thankfully, most hospitals are much more lenient on this and only ask the men to stay out if it is an emergency situation, such as a rush C-section. And it only makes sense: After all, it's the men that determine the sex of the baby, not the women.

Like the United States, however, there is an inherit conflict in Canada between freedom of religion and freedom from religion. We make some accomodations for religious symbols, such as crosses or menorahs on public property and teaching of religious classes in the elementary and high schools of some provinces -- stuff which would never be allowed in the States. Generally, however, we recognize that we need to govern for the good of all people whether they have a religion or not. And there is also an inherent social contract that says, we won't impose the majority religion -- Christianity -- on the minority; as long as the minority doesn't try to force their opinions on the majority. Free discussion of ideas, philosophy and values is perfectly acceptable. Coercion is out.

Years ago, a religious Christian tried to stop his wife from divorcing him on the grounds they took a vow to God to be married "until death us do part." The courts rebuffed him, saying the "death" part was a matter for religion and it would not interfere with the right of either half of a couple -- male or female -- to break the marriage contract.

Similarly, the neonatal clinic here is way out of bounds. Not just for religious but also secular reasons. If we are to survive as a society, we need kids being born. And it takes two to make a baby. If it was my kid at stake, I'd want to be there too -- it would be my moral duty to be a father from the very beginning. And I do mean the beginning, as in the conception.

When we travel overseas, we are expected to follow their rules. We should demand no less from those who come here. Sex equality, and it works both ways, should trump any religious considerations -- whether it's the beginning or the end of life, or dealing with the cops.

Sidebar: Dumont also announced yesterday if he's elected Premier he'd bring back the cash bonus for families who have three kids or more, something which Robert Bourassa introduced during the 80s but the PQ repealed in 1997. It's not a bad idea ... after all, Québec is a mostly liberal society and to deal with the strategy of conservatives to rule over the long term, by having as many kids as possible, progressives and liberals have to fight back and have just as many -- provided of course, they have the means to do so.

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