By Jonathon Van Maren
Election year must be coming up: The Liberals are actually admitting that they were wrong for a change. It turns out that the backlash from religious groups over the ideological purity test they inserted into the Canada Summer Jobs Program has worried them a lot more than they were initially willing to let on, as they have now announced that they will be changing the attestation so that they specifically target pro-life organizations rather than anybody who happens to be pro-life. From the Canadian Press:
Contentious wording in Ottawa’s summer jobs program that tied pro-abortion beliefs to funding eligibility is being dropped after a backlash to what was styled last year as a values test.
Instead, the federal Liberals have re-tooled the 2019 version of the Canada Summer Jobs program to require applicants to declare they don’t work to infringe on any Canadian’s legal rights.
Wording on the application for the 2018 version of the program required groups to say neither their core mandate nor the jobs being funded actively worked to undermine constitutional, human and reproductive rights.
Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says the change — made after informal consultations over the past few months — should clear up concerns from faith-based groups who expressed outrage over this past year’s requirements.
“They felt this was about their values and beliefs and not about the jobs and the performances of the students in particular roles and we took that to heart,” Hajdu said in an interview.
“We’ve been working on making sure we do what we intended to do, which is to stand up for the rights of Canadians…but that we also work closely with faith-based groups and others so that they can see how they themselves would fit into this program.”
Additional changes have been made to the program’s eligibility criteria to disqualify any project or summer job that tries to restrict access a woman’s ability to access sexual or reproductive health services. Other disqualifying traits include jobs that restrict the exercise of human rights or that discriminate based on sex, religion, race or ethnic origin.
“This is a program about quality jobs for kids, so we shouldn’t be asking kids in any circumstance to do work that would put them into a position to have to undermine or restrict the rights of others,” Hajdu said.
There’s a few things to take note of here. First of all, Trudeau and Hajdu initially responded to backlash from faith groups by stating that nobody should have any problem signing off on their attestation, so just shut up and take the money already. Clearly, the diversity and volume of the response to this condescension caused sufficient concern; the hubris of the Liberal government precludes a predilection to learning feedback from groups of Canadians—pro-life people, for example—that they obviously disdain.
Additionally, it will be interesting to see how the new attestation, which is obviously worded to target pro-life organizations that have previously taken advantage of this program, will be laid out. Hajdu and Trudeau may not know this, but pro-life organizations are fighting for human rights—they simply believe that the right to life is the first and most inherent of all human rights, rather than the intentionally vague phraseology of “reproductive rights” that the Liberals use in order to avoid using the term “abortion” so often. The crux of this entire debate, after all, is about human rights and who is entitled to them.
In fact, the demand on employers to sign off will apparently be removed entirely, Hajdu has said. It will instead be up to Service Canada—the government—to decide who is eligible for funding and who is not. That way, the Liberals can avoid denying funding to any group likely to incur public sympathy, and can quietly refuse any organization that they deem to be unworthy, or working against one of their ideological causes. They are obviously taking no chances with their political damage control.
The Liberals are obviously attempting to clean house before 2019 arrives. With the carbon tax fight, the oil pipelines dead, and manufacturing jobs being lost, the last thing they need is for Canadian faith communities to stay angry at them, which is why they’ve attempted to make nice and hope that everyone forgets about their cockup come next fall. Their arrogance ensured that they did not see the backlash coming—Justin Trudeau consistently responded to questions about the abortion attestation with whinnying indignation, as if he couldn’t believe anyone would even dare to question him on such an issue—but in the end, they were forced to at least partially back down.
There are still multiple challenges to the Liberal government’s values test before the courts, and Hajdu would not comment on their status.
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.