The Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. Wikimedia Commons

Editorial: Canada Summer Jobs policy still lacking

  • December 13, 2018

Far too late to save the summer jobs of thousands of students who went unemployed last summer, the government has finally conceded a heavy handed edict to link a public grant with Liberal Party ideology was a dumb idea.

We’re talking about the pro-abortion attestation attached a year ago to the Canada Summer Jobs application and the recent government about-face to soften the most contentious part of that declaration. No coincidence, perhaps, that this shift came as the government looked into the new year and saw on its calendar several court dates and an election.

Some of the objectionable language in the attestation is now gone. Employers who apply for public money to help pay student wages will no longer be forced to swear allegiance to the Liberal Party’s pro-abortion values. That requirement was not only outrageous but, according to many legal experts, discriminatory and unconstitutional. It made a mockery of Charter provisions that guarantee the rights of conscience, thought, religion, belief and expression. 

It would be easier to applaud the government for realizing the error of its ways if it hadn’t taken lawsuits, public outcry and a pending election to bring changes that could easily have been made last spring. That ideological obstinacy — and that’s all it was — meant some 1,500 organizations and charitable groups were shut out from funding, resulting in program cutbacks and unnecessary unemployment for thousands of students.

The revised policy is better but not by much. Employers are no longer forced to attest explicitly that their core mandate supports Liberal abortion policy. So it will be easier for many faith groups to apply with a clear conscience. But the revised application still discriminates against pro-life organizations engaged in peaceful, perfectly legal, advocacy for anti-abortion laws. No other employer is so specifically targeted.

Employers must attest that funding “will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” Exactly what that means is unclear, although it’s a safe bet the government considers abortion a legal and indisputable right. That false claim has been made often in Ottawa, even though abortion is not Charter-protected and despite Canada being without an abortion law for 30 years.

Smoking pot, on the other hand, is protected by law. Is the government suggesting a health organization that hires students for work intended to “restrict” the access and consumption of cannabis is ineligible for funding? Not likely. 

Driving SUVs is legal. Does that mean an environmental employer who hires students to promote a green lifestyle that includes restricting gas-guzzling vehicles is ineligible for funding? Not likely.

Peaceful lobbying to change the law is every citizen’s legal and constitutional right. That includes pro-life activists. If access to public money is available to one of them, it should be available to all.

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