The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announced earlier this week that it has filed a court application against the federal Minister of Employment, Workforce and Labour Patty Hajdu, on behalf of small, family owned-business providing agricultural irrigation services in southern Alberta.
Their application was meant to provide a summer position for a student interested in water conservation or environmental sciences through the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program but was rejected after they refused to comply with the new 2018 attestation, which requires applicants to express agreement with the Liberal governments’ views on abortion and sexuality.
The program furthermore requires charities and small businesses to express agreement with the idea that abortion is a Charter right, even though the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R. v. Morgentaler that Parliament can legislate to protect unborn life.
The applicants, Rhea Lynne Anderson and William Anderson, are a married couple in Alberta and are the sole owners of A-1 Irrigation & Technical Services, which offers responsible irrigation services to local farming operations.
They have no connection to any anti-abortion group, and I struggle to see how their beliefs on abortion would have any effect on the summer student hired.
Believing that they could provide a good summer job, the Andersons submitted a CSJ application on January 24, 2018.
However, the Andersons submitted their 2018 CSJ application without checking the “I attest” box, because they object to being compelled to express their agreement and respect for ideological positions as required by the new attestation requirement, which reads:
On February 9, 2018, the Andersons received the following reply from Service Canada:
“The essential requirements listed below are missing from your application, and therefore we are unable to determine your organization’s eligibility or the eligibility of the activities proposed in your application:
The signatory must check the “I attest” box to confirm eligibility and add his/her initials next to the box.
On February 10, 2018, the Andersons responded to Service Canada, stating that they will not be checking the “I attest” box because they viewed it as unconstitutional for the Government “to require a specific prescription of personal beliefs” to qualify for participation in a government program.
The court application seeks a declaration that the new attestation requirement violates section Charter 2(a) and 2(b) freedoms of conscience and expression. “The new attestation requirement also breaches the duty of state neutrality, because it compels the Andersons to profess their agreement with, and ostensibly adopt, specific beliefs and values in order to qualify for a government benefit to which they would otherwise be entitled.”
The court application further seeks a declaration that the new attestation requirement violates section 32 of the Charter by compelling private entities to assume the legal obligations of the Charter that only the government is required to honour.
The Andersons also seek a declaration that the new attestation requirement is ultra vires the authority of the federal government, and a court order to strike the new attestation requirement and to approve their CSJ application.
As Rhea Lynne Anderson explains in her filed affidavit:
“My husband and I, and our business comply fully with human rights legislation, and with all federal, provincial and municipal laws. The New Attestation Requirement is not simply a commitment to comply with legislation, but instead asks us to agree with the government’s “values” and to be bound by the Charter as though we are government actors.”
“This is pure ideological coercion: telling Canadians that they must agree with certain beliefs in order to access a government program which they have paid for with their own tax dollars,” – John Carpay