Canadian grants for summer jobs: Catholics and traditional Christians need not apply?
By Gail Finke
The Canada Summer Jobs Program (CSJ) helping small businesses and charities pay salaries for summer workers got an extra $113 million this year, but pro-life organizations and traditional Christians suspect they need not apply.
New restrictions on grants require that both the jobs and the “core mandates” of the organizations offering them respect individual human rights – which in Canada now include gender expression, sexual orientation, and “access to safe and legal abortion.”
Conservative members of parliament object to both the rule and the implications that it might eventually be extended to welfare and other services, as well as to the charitable status of churches and organizations.
The application guideline states that being a religious organization “does not itself constitute ineligibility for this program,” but churches say they don’t know what to expect as the applications are processed.
Funding applications for the organizations, which in the past has included many church camps, began in late December. Last year the program helped pay salaries for nearly 70,000 jobs for people ages 15-30.
In the past, individual Members of Parliament (MPs) approved the applications from groups in the areas they represented. News outlets say this meant that MPs could approve applications from pro-life groups, as well as from churches that follow traditional Christian teachings, and other religious groups with traditional teachings on marriage and related moral issues.
The application now requires applicants to sign an “attestation” that they have read the guidelines, that the summer jobs would not exist without funding assistance, that the organization has all the approvals it needs for the jobs, and that:
“…both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include 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…”
According to Statistics Canada, the country has more than 12 million Catholic residents, who make up almost 40% of the population. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a staunch supporter of abortion, considers himself Catholic.
Conservative MP Brad Trost posted a video on Twitter opposing the changes. “In practical terms, this means you have to be with the Liberal Party position on abortion, gay marriage, transgendered rights, all sorts of legislation in the House of Commons,” he said. “Otherwise you will be an ineligible employer for this program. That’s wrong, that’s discrimination.
“If you discriminate in this program, why can’t you discriminate in all others – pensions, welfare, etc.?”
In a post to its members the Canadian chapter of The Gospel Coalition, a group of Evangelical churches, pointed out that none of them could sign the “attestation” and suggested that they consider applying without doing so, to “create a record of government rejecting organizations and individual students for funding on the basis that their religious beliefs do not align with state morality.”
According to “The Toronto Star,” the attestation was added by liberal parliament members because last year some jobs went to students who worked for pro-life organizations. The newspaper quoted Federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu saying CSJ exists to help create “meaningful work experience for young people that will help grow the economy and strengthen the middle class,” and that the attestation was not designed to exclude church- and other faith-based organizations.
But Campaign Life Coalition, one of Canada’s largest pro-life organizations, says it does just that.
“The Trudeau government is engaging in ideological coercion by demanding that employers who believe killing children before birth is wrong, attest that they support so-called ‘reproductive rights,’” President Jim Hughes said in a mid-December statement. “For the government to deny federal funds to pro-life employers for their summer students, while encouraging grants for pro-abortion organizations, is directly discriminating against millions of Canadians.”
CLC spokesman Jack Fonesca said the change “reeks of a deep-seated, anti-religious bigotry” and “must be stopped.”
The spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said Friday that the group did not have an official statement on the change.