Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario, May 31. CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters

Editorial: Trudeau government needs to end bias in summer jobs funding

  • May 11, 2017

Canada Summer Jobs is a worthy federal program that subsidizes employment for thousands of high school and university students. Ottawa trumpets that “all small business, not-for-profit organizations and public-sector employers are encouraged to apply for funding” and hire summer students.

That sounds laudable, but now we are finding it is simply untrue. It turns out organizations that oppose certain government policies need not apply. Today, that policy is abortion. Tomorrow? Who knows? Canada Summer Jobs is no longer solely about students and summer work. It’s also about toeing the party line.

With the apparent blessing (or urging?) of the Prime Minister, pro-life groups are being banned from the program. The ban is currently limited to Liberal ridings, but efforts are ongoing to extend it.

A supposedly non-partisan program that aids students should never become a political hammer to bruise youth seeking summer work at organizations that oppose a government policy. This sets a terrible precedent that reaches beyond abortion. It lays a foundation for a $220-million program to become little more than a partisan slush fund to be shared among government supporters.

Then there’s the issue of the Charter, which guarantees the rights of freedom of thought, belief, opinion, expression and association. If a student wishes to express these rights by working at any legal organization, only a small-minded government would interfere by arbitrarily blacklisting an employer willing to create that job. That sends a terrible message. And a hypocritical one for a party that boasts it embodies the Charter.

The Prime Minister has often suggested unrestricted abortion is a women’s Constitutional right. Besides being blatantly false — the Supreme Court actually said the government has a right to restrict abortion — polls show most Canadians want limits on abortion. There is no legitimate reason to bully or muzzle pro-life groups or to punish students who wish to work for them.  And it seems particularly odd that a champion of women’s rights is blocking summer jobs that often go to young women. What about their rights?

Finally, if a government can blacklist pro-life lobby groups from taxpayer-funded programs, what’s stopping it from targeting others with similar sympathies? What about religious education and health care institutions? Or local social agencies and charities? Or foreign aid and development organizations? Where is the line drawn? Such narrow thinking potentially affects all groups that deal with the government or, in the future, oppose policy that becomes the government’s pet cause.

Summer Jobs Canada is funded by taxpayer money, not a private political party account. All Canadian students and eligible employers should be entitled equally to share in its benefits, not just those who enjoy the government’s favour.

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