Support for pro-life efforts excludes groups from receiving Canada Summer Jobs grants, yet abortion support does not. CNS photo/Art Babych

Summer job grants flow to abortion groups

  • January 10, 2024

Canada Summer Jobs applicants who fail to toe the federal government’s ideological line on abortion and related issues remain out of the running for grants under the hire-a-student program.

But a Catholic Register search of government records shows funding forbidden to pro-life groups and Christian day camps still flowed last year to a Montreal sex education business with ties to International Planned Parenthood. Money has also been given to groups lobbying for expansion of MAiD, The Register has learned.

Last year, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather allocated Canada Summer Jobs funds to SexEd Mart, which provides curriculum resources and training for sex education.

SexEd Mart founder and owner Stephanie Mitelman Bercovitch has for decades embedded her professional and business interests in the broader regional and international push for both mandatory sex education and abortion rights.

Planned Parenthood Montreal was dissolved in 1998, but the nonprofit abortion and sexual education provider is still listed as a resident business at the same Montreal address registered to SexEd Mart.

In 2004, Bercovitch re-launched Planned Parenthood Montreal as the Sexual Health Network of Quebec. Two years later, SHNQ affiliated with the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health, and thereby with International Planned Parenthood.

The SHNQ is a non-profit organization that derives all its income from the sale of the same-sex education curriculum and training materials that Bercovitch wrote and marketed at SexEd Mart.

According to Bercovitch’s Wikipedia page, SHNQ offers “sex education sessions for free to schools across Montreal” and advocates for the “re-introduction of mandatory sex education in Quebec.”

The program, which started as a parliamentary allocation dispensed by MPs to help create student summer employment in their ridings, was the focus of a national uproar in 2018 when the Liberal government added an attestation to weed out those organizations that did not “respect the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights.”

The controversy and subsequent legal challenges coincided with the attestation being dropped the following year.

But lawyer Barry Bussey, then director of Legal Affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, says very little has changed in the intervening years. Success in obtaining the federal subsidies appears to come down to a proper alignment with the Liberal government’s opinions, Bussey says.

“Any indication of not holding the proper views, as determined by the government, means the organization will not receive funding,” he said.

The 2024 Canada Summer Jobs application stipulates the exclusion of projects, job activities or organizations that “actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services” or “engage in activities that directly or indirectly infringe, undermine, weaken or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.”

Despite the removal of the 2018 attestation, the new “directly or indirectly” language is a kicker for any Catholic organization that upholds the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

Bussey is confident that, discreetly, religious or conscience-based discrimination is taking place.

“The removal of the attestation moved the discrimination of government actors from the public view.  When the attestation was on the application, everyone could see  the government was clearly discriminating against the religious organization.  Now, with the attestation gone from the application document, the government is able to hide behind the faceless bureaucracy as it ‘investigates’ the organization out of the public view,”  he said.

The program is the only federal funding that allows individual MPs to vet applications from the businesses and organizations in their home ridings. But, with the current ideological-purity tests in place, Bussey feels the decision-making process has been overtaken by federal bureaucrats.

“From my observation the bureaucracy is having a greater say.  It is my view that the government does not want to leave it up to the riding offices as they cannot be ‘trusted’ by government ideologues to make the ‘right’ decisions.”

There are further indications preference is being given to advocacy organizations that are onside with the Liberal political platform. In both 2022 and 2023, the Toronto chapter of Dying with Dignity Canada received CSJ funding. A charitable organization that advocates for aggressive extension of “right to die” laws in Canada, Dying with Dignity Canada has offices in the riding of Carolyn Bennett, Liberal MP and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions from 2021 to 2023.

The application deadline for 2024 CSJ funding is Jan. 10, and a new crop of small businesses and community organizations will await the outcome of their submissions.

Five years on from the attestation debacle, it appears there is more than one kind of screening process in place, meaning Catholic organizations that might have otherwise applied have been deterred and others that have gone forward will be refused funding.

“It is ridiculous that our own government would be the source of such a moral conundrum for a charity that is doing good things for society at large,” said Bussey.

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