Barry Bussey. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Jobs funding refusals worry advocates

By 
  • September 7, 2019

OTTAWA -- Christian communities remain concerned about the administration of the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) grants after it was revealed 403 groups were refused funding.

While many Christian organizations and Catholic parishes were successful in obtaining grants this year after the Liberal government removed the 2018 attestation forcing applicants to affirm a pro-abortion core mandate, figures obtained by the Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act reveal 403 applications out of the 39,933 were “deemed ineligible for the funding under new rules that say the money cannot be used to undermine human rights,” according to CP.

The documents also showed that 26 of those groups — mostly pregnancy care centres — were specifically denied funding after they received a letter asking them to “please provide additional information or clarification on the services your organization provides to women seeking access to sexual and reproductive health services.”

Sexual and reproductive health services include contraception and abortion, according to the guide that accompanied the 2019 CSJ application.

“The problem with the government approach with respect to the Canada Summer Jobs program is that it seeks to penalize religious organizations for doing what they are lawfully permitted to do, and that is to abide by the human rights legislation,” said Barry Bussey, director, legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) that saw a number of its members refused funding in 2019.

 “The human rights legislation is there to allow greater diversity and pluralism in Canada,” he said. “However, the government approach is there is only one view of the world and if religious communities are out of line with the government view, they are unable to access funding everyone else has access to.”

David Guretzki, vice president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), said it was “unclear” to him how pregnancy care centres “prevent someone from access to services.”

“Pregnancy care centres are not there to prevent access to abortion; they are they to provide services to women who are pregnant and to give them advice and support,” Guretzki said. While many centres do not refer women for abortion services, some do, but “they certainly don’t prevent anyone from making that choice.”

“The centres I’ve talked to, if someone comes and asks about abortion; they speak to them as frankly as they can about the facts of abortion but they can’t prevent anyone, they just won’t refer,” Guretzki said.

“These are organizations that are there in community,” said Bussey. “People voluntarily show up on their doorstep and request their help. To say they are somehow imposing on someone else, that simply flies in the face of reality that they are providing for the material needs of these young moms who need help.”

Guretzki pointed out, however, “it is unclear how decisions were made, because some crisis pregnancy centres got funding and others did not.

“That’s what I call the black box: internal decision we’re not privy to,” he said. “We really don’t know.”

A number of Christian organizations that had previously received funding prior to 2018 also received letters asking them to clarify their employment and hiring practices, asking whether they in any way: “restrict access to programs, 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.”  

Both the CCCC and the EFC received queries from member organizations who received similar letters regarding their hiring practices. Bussey said a number of members of the CCCC who applied for grants “were asked by the government to supply the government with copies of their various hiring policies and so forth.”

“It comes back to (the government’s) preoccupation with ‘Charter values’ over and against enumerated rights in the Charter such as religious freedom, freedom of association and freedom of conscience,” he said. 

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