Barry Bussey, director legal affairs at the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, left, and Alissa Golob, executive director of pro-life organization It Starts Right Now, have reservations about the attestation. Photos by Deborah Gyapong

Summer Jobs attestation language concerns bishops, despite 'step in right direction'

  • January 16, 2019

OTTAWA – The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is welcoming the revisions to the Canada Summer Jobs application, but not without reservations.

The new application has dropped the mandatory check-off of a pro-abortion attestation, making it possible for many charities and parishes to apply for grants this year in a manner “true to their faith tradition and/or conscience,” the CCCB said in a statement Jan. 10.

The bishops are “pleased with the positive revisions,” but remain concerned over the “eligible activities” section of the application and its “language related to ‘restricting or undermining rights’ and how that working will be interpreted for applicants.”

That section has also drawn criticism from pro-life groups who will still be shut out from funds. The new employer attestation now 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.”

The ineligible job activities in the CSJ guide are those that:

• “restrict access to programs, or services, or employment, or otherwise discriminate, contrary to applicable laws, on the basis of prohibited grounds, including sex, genetic characteristics, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression;

• advocate intolerance, discrimination and/or prejudice; or

• actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.”

The CCCB said the changes “indicate a willingness to listen seriously to faith-based institutions” on the government’s part and reflect “the importance of respect of conscience and freedom of religious expression.”

“It is certainly a step in the right direction as the controversial language associated with the 2018 attestation was removed.

“We will closely monitor the participation of charities and faith-based organizations in the 2019 program and trust the review of applications will be undertaken in a fair and equitable manner, consistent with the rich make-up of Canadian society which includes people of faith,” the CCCB said.

The revision remains problematic, however, for pro-life groups advocating for a change in Canada’s legal vacuum regarding abortion, with no laws restricting abortion for all nine months of pregnancy. A range of pro-life organizations have spoken out against the revision. 

“Now the government is going one step further by saying that if you’re personally pro-life as an organization or institution, that’s fine, as long as you shut up about it,” said Alissa Golob, executive director of the pro-life organization It Starts Right Now.

Barry Bussey, director legal affairs at the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC), pointed out in a Jan. 3 blog post “although abortion was decriminalized in 1988, there is no such constitutional right.”

“The current government ignores that fact and wishes the law to be what it is not,” he wrote.

He recalled how last year the government’s “ideological commitment to abortion and other issues involving sexuality was imposed, without exemption or accommodation,” and consequently more than 1,500 charities refused to participate.

“It is not lost on anyone that 2019 is an election year,” Bussey wrote. “The government decided that things had to change, if for no other reason than political expediency.”

The CCCC is leaving it up to its member organizations whether to apply for the program under the revised application.  

“Special care must be taken in filling this out to ensure there is nothing to ‘trigger’ the ideological concerns of government bureaucrats,” and applicants must “remain honest and accurate.”

Legal challenges of last year’s CSJ program involving Toronto Right to Life and several charities and small businesses are still before the federal court and one case is before the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

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