On April 30, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announced it has filed a lawsuit against the federal Minister of Employment Patty Hadju on behalf of a small Alberta family-owned business. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Summer jobs funding policy will be challenged in court

  • May 1, 2018

OTTAWA – The controversy over the Canada Summer Jobs pro-abortion attestation is moving to the courts.

On April 30, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announced it has filed a lawsuit against the federal Minister of Employment Patty Hadju on behalf of A-1 Irrigation & Technical Services, a small Alberta family-owned business.

Rhea Lynne Anderson and William Anderson, a married couple residing near Brooks, Alta., are the sole owners of A-1, which specializes in “ecologically responsible irrigation services” for local farmers. A-1 applied for a Canada Summer Jobs grant to hire a student, but refused to check the box on the application that attests support for the government’s position on abortion. 

“The court application seeks a declaration that the new attestation requirement violates section Charter 2(a) and 2(b) freedoms of conscience and expression,” the Justice Centre said. “The new attestation requirement also breaches the duty of state neutrality, because it compels the Andersons to profess their agreement with, and ostensibly adopt, specific beliefs and values in order to qualify for a government benefit to which they would otherwise be entitled.”

The Andersons also want a court order to “strike the new attestation requirement” and approve their CSJ application.

“My husband and I, and our business, comply fully with human rights legislation, and with all federal, provincial and municipal laws,” said Rhea Lynne Anderson in an affidavit. “The New Attestation Requirement is not simply a commitment to comply with legislation, but instead asks us to agree with the government’s ‘values’ and to be bound by the Charter as though we are government actors.”

 “Agreeing or disagreeing with abortion, or with a man’s ‘right’ to be called a woman if he thinks that he is a woman, has nothing to do with the purpose of Canada Summer Jobs,” said constitutional lawyer and Justice Centre president John Carpay. “This is pure ideological coercion: telling Canadians that they must agree with certain beliefs in order to access a government program which they have paid for with their own tax dollars.”

Meanwhile, a lawsuit against Hadju filed earlier this year by the Right to Life Association of Toronto and Area (TRTL) is scheduled for a June 19 court date.

“We’re arguing the attestation is compelled speech and it’s a blatant violation of the charter rights of free speech,” said Carol Crosson, one of the lawyers representing TRTL. They are also arguing that under Section 15 of the Charter, the “government has to treat individuals in Canada equally. It can’t discriminate on the basis of their opinion and on the basis of their belief.”

The federal government’s response to the lawsuit said Hadju received complaints about funding going to groups that “were distributing very graphic pictures of aborted fetuses or would not hire LGBTQ2 youth” and were working to take away “rights” of Canadians.

“The decision to implement an Attestation for the CSJ program is consistent with the Government of Canada’s broader policy and priorities related to human rights and women’s reproductive rights,” said the government affidavit. 

The attestation remains a hot topic in the House of Commons, especially after news broke the CSJ was funding a job with an environmental group dedicated to organizing anti-pipeline protests.

On April 25, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre brought up Waupoos Farm, a Catholic charity in Carleton, Ont., “that provides free vacations to poor families that could not otherwise afford one,” and refused to sign the attestation.

“Why does free speech only apply to those trying to kill Canadian jobs and not to those trying to help the less fortunate?” asked Polliviere.

“Organizations that cannot ensure that they will abide by the principles in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that indeed will work to take away the charter rights of Canadians, will not get funding from this government,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

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