OPINION: Trudeau Government's Summer Jobs Grant Application Requirement is Discrimination

Published in "The Carillon", March 10, 2018.

In January of this year, I wrote a letter to Minister Patty Hajdu regarding the Government’s discriminatory Summer Jobs Grant program requirement. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Minister has not yet responded.

The mandatory attestation is discrimination in every sense of the word. For a church, religious organization, or any organization, for that matter, to have to explicitly assert in the application that they support, among other things, “women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of genderdiverse and transgender Canadians,” based on the claim that not doing so would be a violation of some enshrined right is preposterous.

In this letter, I took the opportunity to explain to the Minister that there is no right to abortion, as she and the Prime Minister have repeatedly made reference to. In Canada, there is the absence of a law on abortion, which in no way constitutes a right. Of course, freedom of religion and freedom of expression are rights enjoyed by Canadians, both of which have likely been violated by this requirement.

I also pointed out that the Government has forced groups to make a choice between attesting to their support of something that is so fundamentally and diametrically in opposition to their core values or lose the critical funding required to carry out their work.

The Minister has stated publicly that the Government’s aim was to prohibit students from distributing obscene and graphic pro-life materials as, she claims, had been done in the past. I asked her: If that is truly your target, why would you not prohibit certain activities rather than rule out entire organizations based on their core beliefs and mandate?

The Government has portrayed pro-life Canadians as a radical fringe group, whose views are not to be tolerated in a progressive society. Based on the latest data, only about half of Canadians agree with unrestricted access to abortion, which our present law allows for. The other half either support some restrictions or are entirely opposed to abortion.

With that in mind, to suggest that there is some medical, ethical or scientific consensus on when a life is a life is absurd. It does not even exist within the pro-choice community. Yet the Government has taken this deeply personal, emotional and divisive debate and chosen winners and losers.

After nearly a month with no response from the Minister, I followed up with Senator Peter Harder, the Liberal Government’s Leader in the Senate. His response was truly appalling.

He stated, on February 14, 2018: “Again, as the government has made clear, what is being dealt with in the summer job program is to provide the assurance that the core funding being given by the Government of Canada is not to support activities which are in counterpoint to the views of the government and the policies and law of Canada”.

…in Counterpoint to the views of the government and the policies and law of Canada.

This statement truly says it all; the Government could not be clearer. Those organizations who do not endorse Justin Trudeau’s personal agenda need not apply. Additionally, according to Senator Harder, those who support activities that are contrary to “the policies and law of Canada” would not be supported. In essence, that means that any advocacy group working to influence a change in the law would not be an eligible applicant, which is the core mandate for many advocacy groups. Would LGBT groups advocating for a change in the law prior to the passage Bill C-16 have been denied access to funding? Of course not.

This matter is currently before the Federal Court, and I commend the groups who have brought this issue to the forefront. I would also like to extend my deep appreciation for the organizations who boycotted this program, refusing to compromise their principles. I know that the absence of this funding will make the great and important work you do even more challenging. However, to have signed the attestation would have allowed the Government to attempt to justify this practice by suggesting no faith groups were discriminated against, and therefore, no policy change is required.

We cannot stand idly by. We need to stand together against the discrimination of pro-life Canadians. I am looking to the Federal Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the mandatory attestation, and it is my hope that this discriminatory requirement will be overturned before summer.

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