Conservative MP brings 'Faith and Politics' talks to Newfoundland
MP Brad Trost is encouraging religious Canadians to get more involved in political life
When Maureen Dymond looks ahead, she sees a dark future.
"I think that it won't be very long before people of faith are going to find out that a lot of their beliefs are considered hate crimes," she said.
Dymond was among a crowd of about 50 people who came to a St. John's hotel conference room to hear Conservative MP Brad Trost discuss integrating faith and politics — one of three public events he hosted in Newfoundland this week.
For the last year, Trost, who represents Saskatoon-University, has done about a dozen "Faith and Politics" talks across the country, paid for out of his budget as a member of Parliament.
Dymond wasn't the only person in attendance who felt that Christian values are being sidelined in Canada.
"I think people of Christian faith definitely feel a lot more isolated in wearing their faith on their sleeve," said 24-year-old Kirk Quilty. "I think we're seeing a lot more of that with Justin Trudeau."
Don't let Conservatives 'off the hook': Trost
During his talk, Trost encouraged people to bring their faith into their political decisions and to push the Conservative Party of Canada to be aware of religious values.
"Don't let them off the hook just because they're our team," he said.
He also distributed a list of organizations for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to consider getting involved with, including the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and the Centre for Life.
An MP since 2004, Trost made headlines in the last few years for his legal battle with the Conservative Party following an unsuccessful run for party leader as well as his socially conservative positions on issues like gay marriage and abortion.
He told CBC News he'd been speaking about religion and politics informally for a long time before he took his talk on the road.
"As I got more requests, I formalized what I did, and word of mouth spread. So I offered it across the country," he said.
Politicians are 'afraid' to discuss religion
Attendees expressed a range of reasons for turning up, from curiosity to dismay at how things are going in Canada.
"Politicians don't bring up religion because they're afraid of kickback from the left," said Terry Alexander. "You see it in the schools. Somebody doesn't like a cross on a building, 'Oh, get that down.'"
After listening to Trost speak, Quilty quickly laid out his issues with the current federal government.
"The summer jobs issue," he began, referring to the Trudeau government's controversial decision to ask that summer job grant recipients sign an attestation respecting LGBT and abortion rights.
"The closing of the Office of Religious Freedom, euthanasia becoming much more mainstream, and now they're talking about decriminalizing sex work and prostitution," continued Quilty.
His list echoed many of the issues raised during the evening's question-and-answer session, with attendees asking Trost whether a Conservative government will be able to roll back progressive legislation and about how to counter "free-speech suppression" on university campuses.
Evening was an 'eye-opener'
Trost dispensed advice and told anecdotes in response, advising a high school student who felt that conservatives at his school were being "shouted down" by left-leaning groups to do his research before he got involved in debates.
Attendee Justin Martin said that piece of advice resonated with him.
"Think before you speak, and make sure your message isn't hurtful, and that it's welcoming," said Martin, who described the entire experience as an "eye-opener."
"I think it's our God-given right to practise our religion and our free speech," he said. "I hope a lot of this reflects during next year's election."
Dymond said she also learned something.
"I was very impressed by [Trost's] even demeanour and the idea of having to maintain civil discourse, even though you may be very deeply offended," she said.
Though his time in Newfoundland draws to a close Wednesday after hosting an event in Marystown, Trost told CBC News that he will continue to hold "Faith and Politics" talks around the country in the coming months.