Many students could face a jobless summer due to efforts to have pro-life organizations blacklisted from a federal summer jobs program. Liberal MPs have been told to deny Canada Summer Jobs funding to pro-life applicants in their ridings. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Pro-life groups cry foul over federal summer jobs funding ban

By 
  • May 11, 2017

OTTAWA – The threat facing pro-life organizations of being blacklisted from a federal summer jobs program for students has prompted cries of ideological bias and violation of Parliamentary privilege.

“This is nothing short of an ideological purity test,” said Jonathon Van Maren, communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CCBR), which has been denied a 2017 grant to fund summer jobs for university students.

Lobbying by a pro-abortion group has already resulted in Liberal MPs being told to deny Canada Summer Jobs funding to pro-life applicants in their ridings. That ban could soon be nationwide.

Reacting to objections that money has gone to pro-life employers, the Minister of Employment has initiated a review of the program’s funding criteria, according to a government spokesperson.

“We have been unequivocal in our support for a woman’s fundamental right to choose,” said Matt Pascuzzo, press secretary to the Minister of Employment Patty Hajdu, in an email.

Canada Summer Jobs is a $220-million federal program that helps create summer employment for high school and university students. Grant recipients — not-for-profit organizations, public-sector employers and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees — are selected locally by MPs. Non-Liberal MPs still have discretion to approve grants to pro-life employers, but that could change if the government revises the program.

“This screening only works one way: Canadians who believe in the sanctity of human life are not eligible, in the view of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, for grants that are funded by our tax dollars,” said Van Maren.

Conservative MP Arnold Viersen called the ban “terrible on a number of levels.”

“It’s totally disregarding the conscience rights, abilities and privileges of the local Member of Parliament,” said the Alberta MP. “The Liberal Party is basically whipping their members not only in votes in the House of Commons, but also on MP privileges in allocating funds on the Summer Jobs Program.

“This is completely disrespectful of the individual Members of Parliament and their privileges.”

By reviewing protocols to deny funding to pro-life organizations, the minister is suggesting “only certain organizations may apply,” Viersen said. “That’s Orwellian — all the animals are equal but some are more equal than others.”

Van Maren said CCBR relies on the Summer Jobs Program to fund more than six positions in Ontario and Alberta. Those jobs will be saved this summer through fund-raising.

Van Maren said his organization was targeted by lobbying from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada (ARCC) .

“CCBR was merely the first target of a campaign intended to strip any group that believes in the sanctity of human life of grant funding,” he said.

“Any group that differs from the extremist abortion-through-all-nine-months-of-pregnancy ideology could find themselves at risk.”

Van Maren is unsure whether changes to the program signal a developing religious litmus test that could affect Catholic and evangelical charities by virtue of their stance on life.

While the Liberals claim women have a Charter right to abortion, Van Maren pointed out that the Supreme Court of Canada’s Morgentaler decision made it clear Parliament has jurisdiction to legislate limits on abortion. But CCBR is an educational group, not a political one, he stressed.

“We are simply educating the public on what happens during an abortion, and talking with our fellow Canadians about their other options,” he said. “Our work has nothing to do with whether or not abortion is a Charter right — it isn’t — and everything to do with informed consent.”

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