OTTAWA, January 11, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is facing a growing backlash from churches, charities, and religious groups for requiring employers to sign an attestation supporting abortion and transgender rights to receive summer job grants for students.
The Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) has been “overwhelmed” by calls and emails from members who say they can’t in conscience sign the attestation, says Barry W. Bussey, the association’s director of legal services.
“People are very concerned,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“We have 3,400 members across the country and we have a number of them who rely on the Canada Summer Jobs,” Bussey said, but “in fact, most of them are saying, no, they’re not signing.”
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada heard from 160 groups, the National Post reported.
“[T]hose who can’t check off that attestation are being denied equal access to a public benefit solely because of their religious belief,” Julia Beazley, the EFC’s director of public policy told the National Post.
Meanwhile, Toronto Right to Life Association has filed a lawsuit against the Liberals' new policy, claiming the attestation requirement violates the Charter rights of freedom of religion, expression and equality, and should be quashed.
Liberal employment minister Patty Hajdu added the requirement for 2018 applicants after making it clear last year that the Liberals did not want pro-life groups receiving Canada Summer Job grants.
Non-profit groups, small businesses, and public sector employers can apply for funding through Canada Summer Jobs to create jobs for students from 15 to 30 years of age. Formerly it was up to individual Members of Parliament to approve the applications.
Employers now must agree to an attestation that their “core mandate” and the jobs funded respect human rights and the “values underlying” the Charter, including “reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
Online applications will not be accepted unless the attestation is checked off.
The Canada Summer Job website says the attestation is consistent with “human rights” which include “sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies.”
Hajdu’s spokesperson Matt Pascuzzo reiterated this in an email to LifeSiteNews, after noting the Liberals had doubled the number of placements.
The Trudeau government announced last year it was boosting the program’s by $113 million annually. The Canada Summer Jobs budget of $215 million now funds 77,000 placements across the country.
“As in previous years, churches, religious and faith-based organizations are encouraged, welcome and eligible to apply,” Pascuzzo wrote.
“Applicants are not asked to provide their views, beliefs or values as these are not taken into consideration during application for the program. Faith-based groups are required to meet the same eligibility criteria as any applicant to CSJ 2018,” he stated.
“We are committed to ensuring that youth job opportunities funded by the Government of Canada take place in an environment that respects the rights of all Canadians, and ensuring that federal funding supports employment opportunities that respect existing laws, including human rights law and labour law, to which public, private and not-for-profit organizations are already subject,” Pascuzzo wrote.
Conservative commentator Jonathon van Maren said the government's position amounts to asking Christians to burn incense at pagan altars.
“Trudeau’s Employment Minister, caught off guard by this backlash, is telling Christian groups just to check the stupid box and they’ll get the money—after all, it’s only a pinch of incense,” he wrote in a column this week.
The Liberals are being “duplicitous” by “blurring the line” between acknowledging the law and endorsing it, says Dr. Keith Cassidy, president of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Ontario.
“Obviously we recognize that the law of Canada permits abortion, but we do not affirm that this is desirable,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“In effect, the government is creating a religious test for the receipt of public funds and this is unacceptable: it violates the very Charter of Rights and Freedoms which the government cites as the basis of its own policy,” Cassidy said.
“The central concern is that they want you not merely to obey the law, but to endorse it as part of your ‘core mandate,’ and that is a very different issue,” he pointed out.
It’s also “extraordinarily dangerous because it points to a world in which the receipt of government services can be limited to those who affirm not only the laws of the country, but the ideology of the dominant party, and that is not an approach compatible with a free society.”
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College had three summer students last year, and will be applying for about three grants this year, Cassidy told LifeSiteNews.
But the college will submit a paper application with a note that it cannot sign the attestation, he said.
Where will it end?: Tory MP
CCCC’s Bussey is also advising members to submit paper applications, and let him know the fate of their applications. (He’s provided an alternative attestation here.)
“We want to know whether our members are being denied these funds because of their opinions,” he said. “We are definitely considering legal action on this.”
Conservative MP Ted Falk is also advising concerned groups in his constituency to submit a paper application with a note saying they cannot in conscience sign the attestation.
Tory critic on the matter, Falk has asked Hajdu in letter to rescind the attestation, but has not heard back, he told LifeSiteNews.
“It’s hard to get it onto people’s radar that this is happening,” Falk said.
“The Liberals very sneakily released this just before the House rose for the winter break,” he said.
And the program application deadline is February 2, scant days after MPs return.
Falk contends the Liberal move affects all Canadians, pro-life or not.
“The bigger question is, if they can get away with it here, where will it go next?” he said.
“Will people have to sign attestations when applying for employment insurance, applying for student loans, applying for pensions? Where is the end? This is a very fundamental freedom that’s being challenged right now by the Liberal government.”
Editor's note: The Liberals boosted the Canada Summer Job budget by $113 million, not by $113,000, as LifeSiteNews originally reported.