Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Minister of Employment, Workforce, and Labour, Patty Hajdu, have reworked the Canada Summer Jobs Program attestation. However, this does not mean that the issue has been solved. In fact, it has created more confusion as ambiguity still exists.
The purpose of the attestation in the first place was to ensure that pro-life advocacy groups like the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform would be barred from receiving funds.
They implemented an attestation that applicants would have to check off claiming that the “job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights” which includes the “right to access safe and legal abortions.”
Given the backlash last year and 2019 being an election year, the Liberals have changed the attestation.
When the changes were released, the media was quick to announce that the issue was solved.
But let’s be clear, there is still an attestation, it has simply been rewritten and is more ambiguous than before.
The new wording says that applicants must attest that “any funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” It further explains that “To ‘undermine or restrict’ means to weaken or limit the ability to exercise rights legally protected in Canada.”
Certainly, the attestation cannot be signed by a pro-life advocacy group since they technically seek to weaken any supposed right that Canadians have to abortion.
But what about other groups?
What about a Christian children’s camp where camp counsellors are required to hold to traditional Christian values and to teach those values to children? Would telling a child that abortion is a “sin” or that homosexuality is a “sin” (as is the traditional Christian view) be weakening or limiting legally protected rights?
Even if a conservative Christian camp (a camp that holds to traditional Christian values) is still eligible, the fact remains that it is not the government’s place to restrict funding even to pro-life advocacy groups. The government is singling out a viewpoint because it is contrary to their party’s pro-choice stance.
But the issues do not end here.
In addition to the attestation, the Liberals’ 36-page guide to the Canada Summer Jobs Program also lists Ineligible Projects and Job Activities, which, according to the document include:
“Projects or job activities that: restrict access to programs, services, or employment, or otherwise discriminate, contrary to applicable laws, on the basis of prohibited grounds, including sex, genetic characteristics, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression; advocate intolerance, discrimination and/or prejudice; or actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.”
While mentioning, once again, the importance of a women’s access to sexual and reproductive health service, the guide brings another issue to light: hiring practices.
Going back to the example of a conservative Christian camp, it is not a stretch to say that someone who is of the LGBTQ community could not be hired by this camp.
The camp, as with any employer, expects employees to hold to the job’s mandate. If a Christian camp’s mandate is to provide a fun atmosphere in which children can learn about the Christian faith and all of the tenants and values that it upholds, then said camp could not be expected to hire someone who is LGBTQ. Indeed, forcing the camp to do so is in contravention of the camp’s religious freedoms.
Even though some notable Christian groups have come out and said that the 2019 attestation is okay for employers to sign, it is not wise to jump to that conclusion.
The ambiguous terminology in both the attestation and the 36-page application guide remains a problem. Exactly how all of those terms will be applied remains up in the air.
However, one thing is for certain. The Trudeau government remains hostile to Canadians’ fundamental freedoms. The government had multiple opportunities to correct themselves last year, but all of them failed.
The Liberals added supplementary information which did nothing to clear up the situation.
The Liberals voted against the Conservative Opposition Motion which would have ended the controversy.
And the Liberals once again brought forward an attestation and a guide that will still cause problems.
Kevin Geenen studies Communications and Political Science at the University of Ottawa.