Employment Minister Patty Hajdu has dropped the controversial pro-abortion attestation or values test, but prolife groups are worried they will still face discrimination from the government. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Pro-life groups divided on Canada Summer Jobs funding

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  • December 18, 2018

OTTAWA – Lawyers representing groups suing the Employment Minister over last year’s pro-abortion Canada Summer Jobs attestation say pro-life groups should be eligible for funding this year.

Some pro-life groups, however, argue they remain excluded and are divided on whether faith groups should still apply for the grant money.

The new attestation in the 2019 application guide released Dec. 17 says: “Any funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.”

“To ‘undermine or restrict’ means to weaken or limit the ability to exercise rights legally protected in Canada,” the guide says.

“All groups are eligible to apply,” said Carol Crosson, the attorney representing Toronto Right to Life, the first group that sued over last year’s attestation that required applicants to say their core mandate in effect supported a woman’s right to legal abortion. “I am not aware of any group who undermines or restricts the right to abortion, only those who educate the public on the issue.

“We cannot know if the government will punish those who exercise the right to freedom of expression to share a message supporting life,” Crosson said. “Thus far, the government has not shown an understanding and respect for freedom of expression.”

Gerry Chipeur, a Calgary-based attorney representing Power to Change Ministries, says the new attestation could be replaced with “I will obey the law. Check mark.”

“I think they will fund all pro-life groups that obey the law,” Chipeur said.

“If they were to interpret those words to mean, ‘if you express your opinion that there should be a law, then that certainly has to be unconstitutional, and even if you say, ‘I think a woman should choose not to have an abortion,’ I don’t see how that expression of opinion could be offside with that particular statement. One would have to be doing things that were tortuous or criminal to meet the express words you find in that attestation.”

“There are some people who say the fact they dropped (the previous attestation) resolved nothing,” said Albertos Polizogopoulos, who represents four small businesses and Redeemer University in five separate lawsuits. “Some say it has resolved everything.

“I’m more in the middle. It’s good they recognized they went too far. Now we have to see how they interpret ‘undermine.’ ” 

Faith groups, such as the Archdiocese of Toronto, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, are cautiously advising their members they can apply for Canada Summer Jobs grants this year with a clear conscience while pro-life groups have argued they remain excluded.

Jack Fonseca, director of political operations for Campaign Life Coalition, pointed to the section of the funding application under "Ineligible Projects and Job Activites" which includes those that "actively work to undermine or restrict a woman's acess to sexual and reproductive health services."

“We don’t see how any genuine Christian can sign it, certainly not any religious leader,” said Fonseca. 

“You would be indirectly affirming that there is such a right to kill children in the womb.”

Fonseca warned if Trudeau wins another term, he will not only reinstate the attestation, “he will expand it to other programs” and “add euthanasia to the list of evils that must be affirmed.” 

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