By Jonathon Van Maren
When it was announced several weeks ago that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government had decided to insist on an “attestation” from all organizations and non-profits applying for funding from the Canada Summer Jobs Program—an attestation that indicated that group’s support for abortion and transgenderism, among other things—I noted that although the Liberals were obviously trying to specifically target pro-life groups, that everyone from churches helping refugees to the Salvation Army would be rendered ineligible by this new ideological purity test. According to the National Post yesterday, it turns out that this is precisely the case:
Churches and religious groups across the country are struggling over what to do with a confusing clause in the Canada Summer Jobs application that seems to require them to endorse access to abortions in order to get funding. The new “attestation” on the grant application is aimed at anti-abortion groups who have received the federal grants in the past. It requires stating that your organization’s core mandate respects “reproductive rights,” along with other human rights, and the online application can’t be submitted unless the box is checked.
The Liberals began this process to ensure that organizations like the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, where I serve as communications director, would no longer be able to secure funding from the Canada Summer Jobs Program after a campaign by abortion activists insisting that pro-life groups be declared ineligible resulted in the Liberals declaring that pro-life Canadians would be rejected if they applied. CCBR and several other pro-life groups took the government to court, and the Liberals were forced to settle with three pro-life groups for the amount they had been approved for by the Canada Summer Jobs Program prior to the government interference. The attestation process was intended to ensure that they would never have to pay out pro-life groups again—but it seems that Trudeau and the Liberals, in their arrogance, had no idea just how many organizations this policy would impact and just how many Canadians do not support their abortion agenda:
But hundreds of churches, charities, day camps and other religious organizations who hire students for summer programming are upset about the attestation, saying they feel like they’re being forced to sign a statement that goes against their beliefs.
“As a small Christian church that was planning to apply for the Canada Summer Jobs program to offer a summer internship, the recent changes have been quite a shock and disappointment,” said Brad Jones, the pastor at Woodgreen Presbyterian Church in Calgary. He said their church has sponsored three Syrian refugees and offers a free English-as-a-second-language cafe to the community. “And yet, because of our commitment to the sanctity of life and to biblical teachings, our government is discriminating against us,” he said.
“The very groups that the Liberal government claims to care about — students, refugees, children and people in need — will all lose because of these changes.”
What many Canadians are discovering is that while Trudeau’s Liberals may claim to care about refugees and other marginalized groups, charity will always take the backseat to ideology. Progressives have been ferocious in their attempts to shut down charities, adoption agencies, and other organizations that do much-needed work, but do not agree with every jot and tittle of their far-left ideology. The Liberals may not have intended to exclude these churches and charities, but by a combination of their ideological rigidity and their belief that nearly all Canadians have the exact same beliefs that they do, this exclusion was inevitable. More:
Rosemary Redshaw, the executive director of Ontario-based New Life Prison Ministries, a Christian organization that works with inmates, says she can’t sign the attestation because of her own beliefs and those of her organization, and thus can’t apply for the grant this year.
“We have had extremely successful summer placements of students of all backgrounds,” she said. “We will feel the loss of students this summer.”
The Canadian Council of Christian Charities, which represents 3,400 organizations, says it has been slammed with phone calls and emails about the new application form.
“Right now, many members are saying ‘we can’t sign this attestation,’ and if they don’t click it on the online application, their application is stopped,” said Barry Bussey, the organization’s director of legal affairs. He has been advising groups to send in a paper application with a letter that includes their own interpretation of the attestation.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada says it’s heard from 160 churches and organizations so far who are disturbed or confused about the attestation and aren’t sure if they can send in a Canada Summer Jobs application this year.
“The wording of the attestation is either very ambiguous and it needs to be clarified, or it’s completely unambiguous and it needs to be changed,” said Julia Beazley, the EFC’s director of public policy. “The end result, whatever the intent may or may not have been, is that those who can’t check off that attestation are being denied equal access to a public benefit solely because of their religious belief.”
Of course, this applies not only to Christian groups, but also to any number of other religious groups that oppose or are uncomfortable with abortion on demand throughout all nine months of pregnancy or the new gender ideologies. 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:
Employment Minister Patty Hajdu’s office says the attestation refers only to a group’s “core mandate,” and that there’s a distinction between an organization formed solely to oppose abortion access and a group that holds religious beliefs that include anti-abortion views. It has been encouraging religious groups to apply. But that hasn’t mollified many organizations who are faced with having to check off the box. The ministry’s Applicant Guide says the attestation is consistent with “the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.” It says the government recognizes that “women’s rights are human rights,” and include “sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions.”
As the pro-choice political commentator John Ivison noted earlier this week, Trudeau and the so-called “Party of the Charter” believe firmly in the right of Canadians to hold all of the beliefs that they hold, and if not—well, then you’re out in the cold. Trudeau sees the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a tool to implement his agenda, rather than something to be upheld for all Canadians. Now, the Liberals are discovering to their shock that Canadians have a far greater diversity of belief than they thought possible—and a political backlash is beginning:
The Canada Summer Jobs grants are normally a public relations bonanza for MPs, who build the lists of local priorities for their riding and then sign off on who gets the grants. The government announced an extra $113 million annually for the program last year, doubling the number of placements across Canada to 70,000. But now the program has become controversial, with numerous stories already in local media where MPs are having to either defend the attestation (if they’re Liberals) or attack it as an unnecessary politicization of a federal grant program.
Conservative MP Ted Falk, the party’s critic for the file, says he’s heard from groups all over his rural Manitoba riding of Provencher, including from teen drop-in centres run by Youth For Christ and churches that run daycares and summer camps. He’s been telling them to send in a paper application with a letter.
“I wrote the minister a letter on Jan. 2 asking her to immediately rescind that requirement of the application, I have not heard back from her yet,” he said. “But I’m hoping that I will.”
Toronto Right to Life is already taking the government to court, and the Conservative Party is speaking out against the Liberal move. In all likelihood, this won’t budge Trudeau—he sees pro-life Canadians as second-class citizens, and if a few organizations helping refugees and the homeless get hurt during his campaign to sideline those who belief in rights for pre-born children, then so be it. But the Liberal MPs fielding angry phone calls are beginning to realize that there are millions of pro-life Canadians living in this country—and that discriminating against them comes with a cost.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.