Having stirred up a firestorm with its decision regarding the Canada Summer Jobs funding program, the Liberal government attempted to douse the flames Tuesday. However, it’s still not clear whether certain Canadian organizations can avoid being burned in applying for funding this year.
Changes to the application process for summer jobs funding for 2018 called for groups to essentially support the government’s views on abortion in order to obtain funding.
The Canada Summer Jobs 2018 Applicant Guide states, “The applicants will be required to attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada.” It goes on to add, “the government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions.”
Needless to say, the wording prompted concerns from certain groups that don’t share Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s abortion views. These groups feared they would be denied funding unless they betrayed their beliefs.
On Tuesday, Employment Minister Patty Hajdu sought to allay those fears by clarifying that the application’s requirements have to do with “the activities of the organization and the job description,” not the organization’s beliefs and values.
But Hajdu didn’t say the attestation requirement would be removed, and, in fact, noted that the Liberal government is prepared to defend its decision against legal challenges.
If the requirement remains that groups must indicate support for abortion rights in order to qualify for summer jobs funding, the government is overstepping its bounds by dragging politics into what should be an objective administrative process.
In a recent column in the National Post, Kelly McParland wrote that the summer jobs program decision “reflects the innate Liberal conceit that party policy inherently reflects national opinion, that if Liberals believe something, it must be right and true.”
Even Liberal MP Scott Simms of Newfoundland was petitioning his government to reverse the clause, calling it unfair that churches and religious groups were being asked to violate their fundamental beliefs in order to receive funding.
In his open letter to Canadians after his Liberal party was elected to lead the federal government in fall 2015, Justin Trudeau noted, “I am deeply grateful to have this opportunity to serve you — and every Canadian across our great country.”
If Trudeau does indeed want to serve every Canadian, he should make sure his government’s policies uphold the right of every Canadian to his or her own views, even if they don’t agree with what the prime minister thinks.
The Liberals stress the importance of supporting human rights, but they are perhaps forgetting that one of those rights is freedom of religion.
But at the end of the day, the Canada Summer Jobs program shouldn’t be about abortion, religion or any political debate. It should be about providing the funding to help young Canadians find summer employment. Blackmailing applicants by requiring them to show support for the views of the Liberal government in order to receive funding shouldn’t be part of the process.