Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu speaks to reporters during a weekend meeting of the national caucus on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The Liberal government has clarified what it would mean for organizations seeking youth summer job funding to prove they respect reproductive and other rights, but is standing firm on its decision to deny grants to groups advocating against abortion. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Feds clarify LGBTQ and abortions rights attestation for summer jobs funding

The Liberal government has clarified what it would mean for organizations seeking youth summer job funding to prove they respect reproductive and other rights

The Liberal government has clarified how its new policy on reproductive rights will apply to organizations seeking youth summer job funding — but it’s standing firm on its decision to deny grants to groups advocating against abortion.

“It’s not about beliefs or values,” Employment Minister Patty Hajdu said Tuesday in Toronto.

Employment and Social Development Canada, which oversees the Canada Summer Jobs program that created nearly 69,000 temporary jobs last year, added a section on its website Tuesday further explaining the language — and the intended goal — of the controversial new requirement.

The Liberals have said that faith-based organizations are welcome to apply, but they and all other applicants must attest to their respect for sexual and reproductive rights — including “the right to access safe and legal abortions” — as well as other human rights in order to be considered.

That stipulation, as outlined in the application guidelines, concerns both the job activity and the core mandate of the organization.

Many churches and other religious groups have said that forces them to choose between their spiritual values and funding that helps run programs that have nothing to do with abortion, treading upon fundamental freedoms of conscience, religion and thought guaranteed by the charter.

Even Liberal MP Scott Simms had spoken out against the requirement, telling CBC Radio on Monday that groups were being asked “to do something that they shouldn’t be asked to do for the sake of a summer job for kids.”

The change to the website is meant to address those concerns.

The core mandate, the website says, refers to “the primary activities undertaken by the organization that reflect the organization’s ongoing services provided to the community,” and not its beliefs or values.

The website then also provides some hypothetical examples of what would — and would not — be eligible for funding.

What would get a green light?

“A faith-based organization that embraces a traditional definition of marriage but whose primary activities reduce social isolation among seniors applies for funding to hire students,” website said, noting the programs the student employees developed would be available to all seniors, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

A summer camp that does not allow LGBTQ youth, however, would not be eligible for funding to hire students as camp counsellors.

Julia Beazley, director of public policy at the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said she welcomed the explanation and thinks it could help some groups figure out whether they should go ahead and submit their applications.

Still, she said discomfort remains with the government being the one to define those terms.

“As faith-based organizations, we are defined by our beliefs, by core values, by missions,” she said, “so, while a core mandate may delineate activities, it flows out of those beliefs and values and identities.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement Tuesday saying they remain unsatisfied.

“The attestation and examples still amount to the government’s coercion on matters of conscience and religious belief,” spokesman Rene Laprise said in an email. “They foreclose the possibility of wide-ranging views and even healthy disagreement. The attestation remains unacceptable.”

Hajdu said the Liberal government is nonetheless prepared to defend its decision against legal challenges.

She said the government made the changes after receiving complaints last year that summer job funding had been given to groups that distribute graphic anti-abortion pamphlets and summer jobs that refuse to hire LGBTQ staff.

“We took those complaints seriously and this is the decision that we’ve taken, that in order for organizations to receive funding they have to affirm that they will not work to undermine the rights of Canadians,” said Hajdu.

Andrew Bennett, the law program director at Cardus, a public policy think thank, noted that distributing graphic anti-abortion pamphlets, however “distasteful” many people might find them to be, is not against the law.

“People are going to disagree vehemently on issues, but that’s what it means to live in a democracy,” said Bennett, a Christian theologian who previously served as the federal ambassador for religious freedoms.

“The government has a particular responsibility to ensure those fundamental freedoms are guaranteed and protected,” he said.

Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, said she was glad to see the Liberals clarify the wording.

Her national political advocacy organization, which had urged the Liberals to bar funding to groups advocating against abortion rights, had been concerned the vague language was at the heart of the backlash.

“I think that if a group still feels that they cannot sign the attestation even with these clarifications, well, I guess they are ineligible for funding,” said Arthur.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Lacombe Generals punch their ticket to Allan Cup

6-1 win over Stony Plain finishes off series in 5 games

Local Legions will be presenting the award-winning play Jake’s Gift

Acclaimed play has received rave reviews from critics and audience members alike

WATCH: What’s Up Wednesday – March 21st

A summary of the week’s news

Innisfail RCMP arrests two

Suspects attempted to flee but their vehicle got stuck in the snow

WATCH: What’s Up Wednesday – March 21st

A summary of the week’s news

Liberals awarded $100,000 contract to man at centre of Facebook data controversy

Christopher Wylie says his voter-profiling company collected private information from 50 million Facebook users

Starbucks to unveil latest creation: crystal ball frappuccino

The limited-edition drink will be available starting March 22

Two arrested in Leduc County after Thorsby RCMP drive by rural break-in in progress

Thorsby RCMP prevent break and enter, find other stolen property

Liberals tried pilot project with Facebook data whistleblower in 2016: source

Cambridge Analytica has been accused of improperly using information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts

No opting out: Canadians to get emergency alerts on their phones soon

Canada’s wireless providers are preparing for a looming update to the National Public Alerting System

Texas bombing suspect blows himself up as SWAT moves in

The suspect in a spate of bombing attacks that have terrorized Austin over the past month blew himself up with an explosive device as authorities closed in

Witnesses: Boko Haram returns Nigerian kidnapped schoolgirls

Witnesses say Boko Haram militants have returned an unknown number of the 110 girls who were abducted from their Nigeria school a month ago.

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Most Read