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Court rejects attestation challenge of summer jobs program

  • October 27, 2021

The federal government’s policy of requiring applicants for summer jobs grants to attest support for abortion rights was “reasonable,” a federal court judge has ruled.

In a decision released Oct. 22, Justice Catherine Kane dismissed the challenge to the attestation brought by Toronto Right to Life, its then president Blaise Alleyne and a student.

The government had introduced its controversial attestation for its summer jobs program in 2018, which required applicants to endorse Charter and other rights, including abortion. After protests from religious and pro-life groups, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the government dropped the controversial version of the attestation for the 2019 summer jobs program. The new attestation simply states funds “will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” 

While pro-life advocates welcomed the change in wording, court challenges to the attestation continued amidst fears that the Liberal government will bring back the attestation and apply it to more government programs. Toronto Right to Life’s suit said the attestation was an attempt “to influence or affect political speech, to compel or censor speech, to regulate beliefs, or to discriminate against them on the basis of their religious beliefs.”

In her ruling, Kane said the original attestation was “a reasonable policy decision and within the Minister’s authority” and “the decision to add the attestation was not made with a closed mind, for improper purposes, or based on irrelevant considerations.”

The judge said the attestation limited the applicants’ rights to freedom of religion and protection against compelled speech, but only minimally and only in the application for 2018 CSJ funding.

In an e-mail to Canadian Press, Alleyne said Toronto Right to Life is “disappointed” with the ruling.

“We believe it’s a violation of our charter rights to put a values test on a government program like that, and deny applicants on the basis of their beliefs, rather than relevant eligibility criteria.”

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