Lawyer Alberto Polizogopoulos is representing five businesses challenging the federal government’s Canada Summer Jobs pro-abortion attestation requirement. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Five more businesses join Canada Summer Jobs attestation fight

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  • July 17, 2018

OTTAWA – The federal government now faces five federal court legal challenges by private businesses against the Canada Summer Jobs pro-abortion attestation requirement.

Three Alberta companies — Remuda Building Ltd. from the Calgary area, Edmonton-based Saturn Machine Works Ltd. and Lethbridge-based Vantage Trailer Sales Inc. — filed applications July 5 for judicial review after they were denied federal grants because they refused to sign an application that included the controversial pro-abortion provision. The previous day, Ottawa small business WoodSource announced its application. 

The four companies joined Sarnia Concrete, a Windsor, Ont., cement company that in June launched the first court challenge of the CSJ attestation.

All five companies are represented by Ottawa-based litigation lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos of the law firm Vincent Dagenais Gibson LLP.

The cases are separate, he said, but their legal challenges are “all fairly similar.” 

“The Minister imposed an obligation on all CSJ applicants to make an attestation which aligned the CSJ applicant with a particular position on abortion, a controversial moral, ethical and social issue and perhaps the most politically divisive issue in Canada,” said the review application for Remuda Building Ltd.  “As a for-profit corporation, Remuda does not have a position or opinion on abortion or other political, moral, ethical and social issues completely unrelated to its business.”

Polizogopoulos said he does not expect these cases to be heard in 2018, even though each one is “pretty straightforward.” 

“These things usually take an average of two years, or a year and a half,” he said. Because there are five cases so far, the court might “delay some and fast-track others,” or ask that they be consolidated.

“It’s too early to see how that’s going to play,” he said.

The president of Remuda Building, Steve Schouten, said the company had previously received summer jobs funding, but the government rejected their application this year because he refused to sign the attestation.

“Businesses shouldn’t be compelled to take a position on contentious issues that our customers and employees have diverse views on in order to qualify for a public program, like Canada Summer Jobs,” said Els Van Hierden, owner of Vantage Trailer Sales. “These programs must be available on an equitable basis.”

“No government should be using the power of the state to coerce a business to express agreement with government ideology in order to receive funding to help employ students,” said Kurt Feigel, owner of Saturn Machine Works.

“Government business grants should be available to all businesses equitably — not based on whether we agree with a particular ideology,” said Tim Priddle, president of WoodSource. “And no government should have the power to coerce a business to express agreement with government ideology in order to receive funding to help employ students.”

Each of the businesses planned to hire one student with the CSJ grant, providing that student with job experience and income over the summer.

A new organization called Free To Do Business Canada is supporting the five business legal challenges, as well as two others. It is also supporting challenges launched by the Toronto Right to Life Association and Power to Change (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), the first religious group to enter the fray.

Spokeswoman Tamara Jensen said the legal challenges reflect “the growing concern businesses have that this government has overreached and trampled on the fundamental rights that all Canadians expect their government to uphold.”

In addition to the legal actions in federal court, in April the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms launched a challenge in the Alberta Superior Court on behalf of family-owned irrigation business, A-1 Irrigation & Technical Services.

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