Paul Tuns:

Last month, Blacklock’s Reporter revealed that both the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) and Canadian Centre for Christian Charities expressed concerns to the House of Commons human resources committee that the Department of Employment and Social Development continues to discriminate against faith-based employers applying to the summer job grants program.

In 2016, the Trudeau government mandated that employers sign an attestation that they supported abortion and transgender “rights” in order to be eligible for the Summer Jobs grants provided to help employ students. The mandate, which took effect in 2017, stated that business and organizations seeking the summer student subsidy must attest that: “Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights.” Furthermore, “These include 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.” Many Christian churches, camps, and other organizations, as well as pro-life business owners, refused to sign the attestation.

After considerable backlash, the government amended the program in 2018, scrapping the attestation while implementing rules that banned explicitly pro-life organizations from receiving the employment subsidies. The new rule from the Department of Employment, Workforce, and Labour stated: “Any funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.” Groups such as Campaign Life Coalition, the Centre for Bioethical Reform, and the Right to Life Association of Toronto were affected by the changes.

The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills, and Social Development, and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, is undertaking a review of the program and the EFC wrote to it as part of that process.

The EFC’s letter said, “We are now concerned the values’ screening has moved behind closed doors” and “There is little transparency or consistency” in the process. The letter continued: “The review process involves a case-by-case assessment of applications that can be subjective, arbitrary, inconsistent, unpredictable, lacking in transparency and which in some cases seems to involve ideological screening. We have heard from enough faith-based groups that we are concerned these are not just isolated incidents.” The EFC said the Department of Employment and Social Development is still “flagging some faith-based groups’ applications for review or deeming them ineligible for Canada Summer Jobs grants” due to their Christian “beliefs, not their actions.” Furthermore, “Some faith-based groups have been asked to provide their statements of faith and to explain their religious doctrine.”

The Canadian Centre for Christian Charities (CCCC) told the committee that Christian churches were questioned on their doctrine when applying for student job grants.  “For example, churches are asked why assistant ministers or similar ministerial roles need to adhere to a doctrinal statement or statement of beliefs.”

The CCCC stated, “The perception of different treatment for religious charities is not without merit,” adding, “This perceived differential treatment is most often experienced by way of follow-up requests that focus almost exclusively on the applicants’ religious beliefs.”

Jeff Gunnarson, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, told The Interim it is “shameful” that the Trudeau government “gets away with blatant discrimination against religious groups.” Almost as shameful, he said, is that “the opposition Conservatives are not standing up for religious communities who are being discriminated against” in federal government programs.

Meanwhile, Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, an organization that took credit for convincing the Trudeau government to include the pro-abortion attestation, is calling on the government to have summer student subsidy recipients attest to their support of euthanasia as a “fundamental right.”

“Rights include not just reproductive rights but also LGBTQ rights, racial equality, the right to medical assistance in dying are fundamental rights,” Arthur argues, and “when groups have a main focus on opposing human rights, funding them would contradict and even harms the government’s obligation to ensure equality.”

Gunnarson said that if ARCC gets its way, “every business will have to bend a knee to Joyce Arthur’s religion of death” and that any conscientious Christian, Jew, or Muslim, or other people of goodwill who defend life and family, will by systemically discriminated against by the state.