By Skyler Lee
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now officially imposing his pro-choice beliefs on organizations in Canada who apply for the Canada Summer Jobs Program. This has caused him to lose even liberal support, according to new polls.
The Canada Summer Jobs Program has been established for years and is designed to provide employers with funds to create jobs for secondary and post-secondary students. Funding is available to nonprofit employers, public-sector employers, faith-based organizations, and small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees. This program allows more summer job opportunities for people aged 15 to 30 years old who are full-time students intending to return to their studies in the next school year. Since most of the eligible organizations are run on donations, the grants from the program allow employers to guarantee a certain amount of money to job applicants — making it easier to draw in potential recruits.
Over the past five years, pro-life organizations have received approximately $3.5 million in public funds through the program, most of which has been granted by conservative members of Parliament. However, the problem arose in 2017 when liberal MP Iqra Khalid approved a Canada Summers Jobs grant to the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, which is known for pro-life advocacy.
This move goes directly against Trudeau’s 2014 rule requiring anyone who runs for the Liberal Party to support abortion. As a response, Khalid’s approval of funding to pro-life groups was deemed an “oversight” with a promise that funding would not go to such groups in liberal-controlled ridings. The program would also be permanently manipulated to prevent a similar perceived mishap.
In December 2017, the Canadian government changed the rules to the Canada Summer Jobs Program. It is now required for organizations to check-off a box on their application attesting their mission and government-funded job positions respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including other rights and associated case law.
According to the application form, “These include the reproductive rights, and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
You read that correctly: religious and pro-life organizations must denounce their beliefs in order to receive public funds to hire student workers. The new rule has caused outrage from various employers and religious leaders who claim requiring them to check the box not only forces them to betray a profound aspect of their worldview, but is also a violation of their constitutional rights to freedom of religion and expression.
In fact, 87 religious leaders from a variety of faiths signed an open letter calling the attestation a “religious or ideological test” which goes against “the promise of a free and democratic society.” Some groups have outright refused to agree to such terms. Two of these organizations include Toronto Right to Life and Southern Alberta Bible Camp. Both of these organizations attached a letter with their applications explaining why signing the attestation would violate their beliefs and were denied on the basis of submitting incomplete applications because “the attestation cannot be altered or modified.”
Toronto Right to Life and Southern Alberta Bible Camp are not alone; the number of rejected applications has skyrocketed from 126 to 1,561 between 2017 to 2018, leading to a lack of financial security and massive summer job cuts.
While Trudeau defends the change, new polls released by the Angus Reid Institute show as many as 50 percent of Canadians do not think it is fair to require groups to endorse a “right to abortion” in order to secure federal grants to hire students for summer jobs. This has especially been expressed as a wide opinion since positions filled via summer jobs grants have historically been unrelated to pro-life advocacy.
Even more surprisingly, the polls revealed 41 percent of liberal voters, 36 percent of strong pro-choice advocates, and 44 percent of the pro-choice New Democratic Party disagree with the attestation, calling it unfair. Additionally, 73 percent of voters agreed it was acceptable for a pro-life organization to receive funds if the money was used for non-partisan work rather than advocacy, including 74 percent of liberals, 67 percent of New Democratic Party voters, and 63 percent of those who support completely unrestricted abortion.
Although Trudeau continues to justify the attestation as he did at a town hall in Winnipeg by insisting it’s essential to “defend women’s rights”, the rest of Canada, including his own party, seems to see it as the unfair attack on freedom of religion and expression that it is. It is safe to say it will be quite interesting to see how Trudeau’s radical stance on abortion will affect his popularity in the 2019 election.