Archbishop Michael Miller said only about three organizations in his Vancouver diocese, including one that worked with refugees, had availed themselves of the program. “None of them were applying this year, given the restrictions,” he said. CNS photo/Ben Nelms

Faith groups rally support to remove attestation for summer jobs program

  • March 13, 2018
OTTAWA – Faith groups have stepped up their efforts to rally their members and urge MPs to support a Conservative motion that calls for removal of the attestation requirement for the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program.

The motion put forward by MP Karen Vecchio will be voted on March 19 when MPs return from a two-week break in their ridings.

It reads: “That, in the opinion of the House, organizations that engage in non-political non-activist work, such as feeding the homeless, helping refugees, and giving kids an opportunity to go to camp, should be able to access Canada Summer Jobs funding regardless of their private convictions and regardless of whether or not they choose to sign the application attestation.”

The application requires organizations to attest that its “core mandate” respects Charter and reproductive rights, including a right to abortion.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) circulated a document with links to what dioceses across Canada are doing regarding the CSJ and links to news coverage of the issue.

The Toronto Archdiocese at its website offers five sample letters to guide e-mails or letters to MPs.

“I would respectfully ask that you and members of your party uphold the Charter guarantees of freedom of religion, belief, expression and opinion,” says one of the letters. “These are fundamental freedoms for our country.”

“I think frankly it’s outrageous that the government would start linking summer job placement money to a particular ideological issue,” said Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver in an interview. “It has no place and it has no relevance.”

The government is insisting on support for its “ideology of gender” and abortion, he said. “We’re still free in Canada. There’s no law on abortion and the notion that it’s guaranteed by the Charter is nonsense. I think it’s a huge overreach.”

Archbishop Miller said only about three organizations in his diocese, including one that worked with refugees, had availed themselves of the program. “None of them were applying this year, given the restrictions,” he said.

But some dioceses will see hundreds of jobs affected, and programs such as summer camps for disadvantaged children, outreach to youth, aid to refugees, assistance to the homeless put at risk. In the Archdiocese of Toronto, parishes face a shortfall of $500,000 to $600,000 for programs that the CSJ has funded. The London diocese launched a fundraising campaign to replace lost funding estimated at about $35,000.

ARPA (Alliance for Reformed Political Action) is urging supporters to write or call their MPs.

“In short, what’s at stake is the freedom for Christian charities to minister to their communities without violating their principles and without losing charitable status,” says ARPA Canada. “But you can help stand for truth and justice.”

The Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) is also urging its organizations and supporters to contact MPs in advance of the March 19 vote.

“The result will directly impact the lives of students and public benefit programs that charities, non-profits and small businesses have been unable to carry out thanks to the attestation requirement,” writes the CCCC’s director of legal affairs Barry Bussey on the council’s website.

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