A letter from Liberal MP John McKay (left) has surfaced in which he called the attestation a “regrettable error.” Liberal MP Scott Simms (right) was the only MP to vote for the Conservative motion March 19 that would have lifted the attestation.

No sign Liberals will budge on Summer Jobs attestation despite continuing protest

  • April 3, 2018

OTTAWA – The Liberal government shows no sign of budging from requiring the pro-abortion Canada Summer Jobs attestation, despite pleas from faith leaders and news of a second Liberal MP breaking ranks.

While Liberal MP Scott Simms was the only MP to vote for the Conservative motion March 19 that would have lifted the attestation requirement for organizations offering summer jobs that did not involve political activism, a letter from Liberal MP John McKay has surfaced in which he called the attestation a “regrettable error.”

The letter, written two days after the vote to a constituent who had complained to the Scarborough-Guildwood, Ont., MP about the attestation, explained that McKay had deliberately absented himself from the vote after consulting the Liberal party whip.

“It is my view that the current government has inadvertently fallen into the trap of preferencing one right over another and of using the Charter to protect itself from perceived abuse by citizens,” McKay wrote in the letter obtained by The National Post.

“The attestation clause is a regrettable example of that error,” he said. “It is my view that applications for government grants that engage in non-political non-activist work should be free of ideological bias and political preference.”

McKay, a lawyer and evangelical Christian, went on to say many have not been able to sign the attestation for reasons of conscience and that groups and charities in his own riding have been affected.

The MP, who was once part of a sizeable minority of pro-life and pro-family MPs in the Liberal caucus who voted their consciences on issues such as the redefinition of marriage, wrote his constituent he had made his views known inside and outside caucus.

His objections, however, have fallen on deaf ears, as have those of Muslim, Jewish, Evangelical and Catholic faith leaders who released a joint letter March 28 following a meeting with Employment Minister Patty Hajdu.

They wrote that despite their “persistent requests that the problematic attestation be amended or removed,” Hajdu made it clear in the March 21 meeting that “no accommodation” will be provided,” nor will any changes be made this year to the attestation.

“Applicants that did not ‘check the box’ will be ineligible for a Canada Summer Jobs grant in 2018,” the letter said.

“We were very disappointed that the government did not make any changes to the attestation for 2018,” said Neil McCarthy, a spokesman for Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto who attended the meeting on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). 

“Most would agree that there were problems with the wording and interpretation of the attestation,” McCarthy said. “Why wait until next year to fix a problem that has an immediate impact for hundreds of groups across the country?”

“Although she gave us her attention and was generous with her time, it remained clear that the minister did not agree with our concerns,” said Julia Beazley, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. “She was clear that there would be no changes to the program for 2018 and that no accommodation would be made for those unable to sign the attestation without qualification.  She did indicate that they would make changes to the wording for next year to bring greater clarity, but the intention to put in place limitations on who may receive the grant remains.”

Many organizations they represent “remain concerned that the question of ‘reproductive rights criteria’ and other undefined values will remain present in the application form in 2019,” said the letter, which was signed by seven faith leaders, including Cardinal Collins.

Bruce Clemenger, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said the required attestation “sets a troubling precedent.”

“We are aware that the same language has appeared in the application guide for the Canada Service Corps, under ineligible activities,” he said in an e-mail. “We believe it is important to confirm that this kind of values test is counter to the Charter’s protection of freedom of religion, conscience, thought, expression and opinion, so that these freedoms are upheld in future government policies and laws. And so, we continue to consider challenging the attestation in the courts.”

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