Trudeau govt adjusts COVID-19 relief loan eligibility after LifeSite report and petition
OTTAWA, May 29, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — The Trudeau government updated eligibility requirements for a COVID-19 emergency relief business loan to explicitly recognize the legal rights of religious groups after LifeSite reported on the matter and 5,082 people signed a LifeSite petition requesting what the government ended up doing.
LifeSite reported in late April that Canada’s Liberals are forcing businesses, non-profits, and registered charities that apply for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to confirm they do not “discriminate” on the basis of “gender,” “sexual orientation,” and “religion,” among other things, in order to receive the financial help.
Applicants who don’t confirm the “non-discrimination” clause aren’t eligible to receive the CEBA, an interest-free loan of up to $40,000 that’s part of the Liberals’ economic relief package for Canadians suffering hardship due to coronavirus pandemic shutdowns.
A CEBA applicant was originally asked to confirm that “[i]t does not promote violence, incite hatred or discriminate on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, religion, education, age or mental or physical disability.”
LifeSite launched a petition asking the Trudeau government to add the phrase “contrary to applicable laws” to the clause, based on an analysis by Marty Moore, a lawyer for the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
PETITION: No to mandatory contact tracing and government surveillance for the coronavirus! Sign the petition here.
This proviso is crucial to recognizing freedom of religion and conscience in this case, Moore told LifeSiteNews at the time.
“A religious organization has a legal right to hire those who align with its beliefs to carry out its religious purposes,” he pointed out. “The law permits that.”
If the Liberals added “the appropriate caveat ‘contrary to applicable laws’ ... in the fourth attestation, that would provide the correct legal standard, and theoretically allow non-discriminatory access to the CEBA,” Moore observed.
But without that explicit acknowledgment, “a religious organization that hires in accordance with its religious beliefs may be precluded from agreeing to this attestation,” he said.
“Some religious organizations are very scrupulous as to what they sign, we all learnt that from the summer jobs program; it’s possible they’ll self-select out.”
An alert reader informed LifeSite in an email Thursday that the Liberals have heeded the request and added the critical phrase.
A CEBA applicant is now asked to confirm that it “does not promote violence, incite hatred or discriminate on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, religion, education, age or mental or physical disability contrary to applicable laws.”
The reader also noted that the Royal Bank of Canada has not yet updated its website to reflect the change. LifeSiteNews contacted RCB’s communications for comment but did not hear back.
The CEBA is available for businesses, non-profits, and registered charities that generate a portion of their income from the sale of goods and services, and appears to be the only Liberal COVID-19 economic relief measure with a “non-discrimination clause.”
“We are pleased to see the federal government include acknowledgement of the rule of law in its CEBA requirements,” Moore told LifeSiteNews in an email.
“Requiring that government decision-makers apply an objective standard of what is ‘contrary to applicable laws’ should provide legal protection to faith-based groups against being targeted by the subjective dislike of those exercising government authority,” he said.
That terms like “discrimination” and “hatred” are abused by government staffers who interpret these terms subjectively has been demonstrated by federal decisions “denying religious organizations eligibility to apply for Canada Summer Jobs grants,” he said.
The JCCF is currently suing the Liberals on behalf of BCM International, a Christian organization that runs the Mill Stream Bible Camp & Retreat Centre in Peterborough, which was denied CSJ funding for the summer of 2019.
With the summer jobs program, “federal government decision-makers have demonstrated a pattern of disregarding whether or not something is ‘contrary to applicable laws’ in targeting religious beliefs that they dislike or do not understand,” Moore said.
“One hopes that the federal government will not have the same disregard for this important clarification in the CEBA requirements.”
Groups or organizations that believe they are being discriminated against by the government on the basis of their religious beliefs or practices can contact JCCF, added Moore.