Antigonish, N.S., Bishop Brian Dunn says Catholic organizations in his diocese that received Canada Summer Jobs grants will be giving the money back. Register file photo

Give back Summer Jobs funding, bishops urge after dozens of Catholic groups applied

  • May 8, 2018

OTTAWA – Despite stern opposition from Canada’s bishops to the revised Canada Summer Jobs program, dozens of Catholic organizations — including parishes, schools, religious orders and charities — apparently applied anyway and are now in line to receive grants.

As a result, at least three Canadian bishops have called on Catholic groups to return the money.

In a statement to his parishes, Bishop Anthony Daniels of Grand Falls, Nfld., said it is “incumbent” that it be made clear that attestations were made in error and “applications must be withdrawn.”

The extent of Catholic participation in the controversial program became known after the government released a searchable online database that shows the names of organizations that received funding. It contains dozens of Catholic organizations, including parishes, religious orders, school boards, health care institutions, charities and groups such as local chapters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Catholic Children’s Aid Society.

To receive funding, applicants were required to tick an attestation box that indicated approval of the government’s pro-abortion policies. The government was adamant applications ignoring or amending the attestation would not be processed. 

In March, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops joined Evangelical, Jewish and Muslim leaders to denounce the attestation requirement and urge Employment Minister Patty Hajdu to drop it. She refused.

The highest number of parishes receiving grants are in the Atlantic provinces, with fewer examples in the West, Quebec and Ontario. 

The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchial Bishop of Toronto, Stephen V. Chmilar, has called on the many Ukrainian organizations that received grants to return the money.

“Any organization that has submitted an application for a grant is urged to withdraw its application and return any funding received, explaining that the organization does not support the right to abortion,” he wrote.

In a statement to parishes, Daniels said some applications were made before “any of us fully understood the consequences of making the required attestation.” 

“Parishes and other Catholic entities cannot make this attestation without contradicting our right to life stance,” the bishop wrote. He said applicants must notify the government that the attestation was made in error and then withdraw the application.

Bishop Brian Dunn said parishes in the Diocese of Antigonish, N.S., were instructed to replace the attestation with a statement provided by his office, and “most projects were rejected.” If an applicant ticked the attestation box, the money “will be returned by those who received the grant,” he said.

In the Toronto archdiocese, two offices of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society are listed as a successful applicants. Cardinal Thomas Collins, who adamantly opposed the attestation, sits on the CCAS board. Catholic Cross-Cultural Services, which assists immigrants and refugees, also received grants.

“We shared instructions with all parishes and Catholic Charities regarding direction for applications on the Canada Summer Jobs program,” said Neil MacCarthy, communications director for the Toronto archdiocese, suggesting individual charities be contacted directly. At The Register’s deadline, neither responded to requests for comment.

“We have heard of some instances across the country where the attestation was not endorsed yet funding was still approved,” MacCarthy said. “A number of our groups are still awaiting final correspondence regarding the program and we are continuing to monitor the situation.”

Several L’Arche communities are among charities that received funding. L’Ache was founded by Catholic theologian and philosopher Jean Vanier. Last February, L’Arche Canada protested against the attestation,

“L’Arche is not a Catholic organization and our members come from different traditions which have different points of view,” said John Guido, director of outreach and communications for L’Arche Canada. “We are funded by all levels of government and are obligated to respect the law of the land in all of our hiring practices and government contracts including the summer jobs program which is a valuable support to our work.”

Guido said some L’Arche communities may have ticked the box; others may not have. 

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In February, L’Arche Canada wrote Minister Hajdu in protest, "L’Arche, like other organizations and employers, should not be compelled to check a box to attest that respecting rights and the law including sexual and reproductive rights,...

In February, L’Arche Canada wrote Minister Hajdu in protest, "L’Arche, like other organizations and employers, should not be compelled to check a box to attest that respecting rights and the law including sexual and reproductive rights, particularly abortion, are part of our 'core mandate’.” We requested that the Minister take immediate action to rectify this situation.

We explained to the Minister that for 50 years, the core mission of L’Arche -inspired by Jean Vanier -is to advocate day in and day out for respect for the life and dignity of persons with intellectual disabilities who are among the most vulnerable persons in Canada. Led by our members with intellectual disabilities, our 31 L’Arche communities in 9 provinces advocate in word and action for their right to be born, to receive appropriate medical care, to have meaningful lives in their communities, and to be supported well until the natural end of their lives.

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