More information on the Canada Summer Jobs program: does it really block pro-life organizations?



January 12, 2018

ARPA Canada has received some questions about the Canada Summer Jobs program and about our statement that “The Government is intentionally seeking to prevent organizations that hold pro-life views – even if they do not do pro-life advocacy – to receive funding.” Specifically how does this statement line up with Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent comments as reported in the National Post.

The following is ARPA’s response:

To start, our opinion is that the government intended to prevent certain groups from receiving funding, but its attestation requirement is having a wider effect.

There are a lot of moving pieces in this story. There is what Prime Minister Trudeau said, there is the response from the pro-life movement, and there is the actual requirement.

Trudeau in a town hall said that this requirement does not prevent people who believe that life begins from conception or even people who express that belief from applying. Rather, Trudeau emphasizes that it is the people who act on those beliefs to restrict the rights of women.

If that is true, every pro-life organization could sign the attestation with a free conscience. Crisis pregnancy centers express to women their pro-life beliefs and offer support. They don’t restrict women from accessing abortion. Pro-life apologists express their beliefs in an effort to change Canadian’s minds. Pro-life advocates express their beliefs to politicians or judges in an attempt to influence the law.

None of these groups restrict the rights of women.

The problem is the attestation asks employers to respect reproductive rights. The distinction Trudeau wants to draw between belief or expression and acting on those beliefs does not appear in the attestation. Many pro-life individuals, whether a part of a pro-life organization or an unrelated business, look at that statement and say it is against their conscience to sign something that says they respect reproductive rights. And this is the fuel behind much of pro-life response. I recommend reading the other articles by the National Post that talk about all the different organizations who will lose funding because of this requirement (here and here).

Then there is what the attestation actually says. This is where it gets murky because the attestation is impossibly vague and nonsensical. It requires that employer attest that their organization’s mandate respect 1) individual human rights, 2) including the values underlying the Charter, and 3) and other rights. None of these terms are defined nor do they have a clear meaning in law. What are you respecting in a catch all like “other rights”? What constitutes a human right is debated. Is it the organizations’ own definition of human rights? Is it the Liberal government’s? If they mean the Charter that gets complicated because the Charter only applies to the government.

In interpreting this requirement, the surrounding story is relevant. The government had to pay out funding to three pro-life organizations because they hadn’t followed their own policy when denying their applications. You can read more about that here. They promptly added this requirement to the policy seemingly to have the ability to deny funding next time. In Trudeau’s talk he clearly had certain organizations in mind. We would suggest that this is evidence that this policy is intentionally seeking to prevent pro-life organizations from receiving funding. Whether or not other pro-life employers were the target or are just unintended victims, is open to some debate.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at [email protected].

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