Scott Hayward, president and co-founder of the pro-life lobby group It Starts Right Now, sees a big positive growing out of the attestation controversy for opponents of the government’s policy. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Critics pounce on summer jobs attestation backlash

  • March 27, 2018

OTTAWA – The government’s resolve to plow ahead with its pro-abortion Canada Summer Jobs attestation is turning into a boon for free-speech advocates and pro-life groups, says a political organizer.

“The damage is done,” said Scott Hayward, president and co-founder of the pro-life lobby group It Starts Right Now

“The trust has been broken between the Liberals and not just faith groups but those who don’t have the same extremist views they do on abortion.”

Hayward said the attestation has also affected small businesses, municipalities and First Nations groups where owners, councillors and band leaders have refused to sign onto the Liberals’ “extremist views.”

Hayward applauded ads the Conservatives placed on Facebook that target Liberals who voted against a March 19 Conservative motion to remove the attestation requirement for groups engaging in non-activist activities. 

“This attestation issue has been one of the greatest gifts the Prime Minister has given us,” said Hayward. “It’s galvanized pro-lifers, particularly in ridings where MPs have voted against the Conservative motion.”  

Hundreds of applicants, including parishes and Catholic charities across Canada, who refused to sign the attestation supporting the government’s position on abortion have been left to find other ways to fund student summer jobs. 

A report on HuffPost Canada on March 26 suggested that Employment Minister Patty Hajdu was willing to reconsider the language of the pro-abortion attestation for next year’s program, but a spokesman from Hajdu’s office later told CCN in an e-mail: “The attestation is not changing.” 

The fight to remove the attestation heads to the courts in June, when a lawsuit filed against the government by Toronto and Area Right to Life is expected to be heard. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms also plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of a small business owner, said the Centre’s president John Carpay.

An NDP MP who broke party lines to support the March 19 motion has been disciplined by his party. David Christopherson was stripped of his position as vice chair of the Procedure and House Affairs committee for voting with the Conservatives.

“Canadians have a right to disagree with the law, recognizing they will respect it and will honour the law,” the pro-choice MP told Postmedia. “You have the right to say anything you want about a law, and that attestation took that right away. I cannot condone that.”

Liberal MP Scott Simms, the lone Liberal who defied the government whip to support the motion, said as yet he has not been punished for breaking ranks.

The Conservative motion drew criticism from Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), which saw it as a “betrayal to the pro-life movement.”

The motion asked for funding for “non-political, non-activist work” without the requirement of signing the attestation.

“If you read the wording of the motion itself, it totally threw pro-lifers under the bus,” said Jack Fonseca, project manager and political strategist for CLC.

“It gave tacit approval for Justin Trudeau to continue discriminating against pro-life organizations whether they are political organizations like Campaign Life or educational pro-life organizations like Toronto Right to Life.”

Hayward agreed the motion could have been stronger, “but overall the motion was a very good step in the right direction.”

Editorials in newspapers across the country have overwhelmingly endorsed dropping the attestation. National Post columnist Andrew Coyne wrote on March 27 that “the primary effect of the government’s ham-handed attempt to banish abortion opponents to the margin of Canadian society has been to give them the most sympathetic hearing they have have had in years, even from a media that leans overwhelmingly in favour of abortion rights.”

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