Poll finds policy ‘unfair,’ critics call it totalitarian
Andrew Bennett, head of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute, called the Trudeau abortion attestation 'totalitarian'.

Andrew Bennett, head of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute, called the Trudeau abortion attestation ‘totalitarian’.

Canadian MPs have approved grants to employ summer students and youth are settling into their summer jobs, but the pro-abortion attestation requirement imposed on small businesses, charities, and organizations that apply for the Canada Summer Jobs program is still a hot issue.

The Angus Reid Institute released a poll that found Canadians were “acutely divided” as to whether they consider the policy of requiring grant recipients to attest to their support to Charter rights claimed by the government, including abortion and same-sex “marriage” as a precondition to receiving funding for summer students. When those were undecided were taken out of the equation exactly 50 per cent of respondents that it was “fair” while the other 50 per cent said it was unfair.

While nearly nine in ten pro-life respondents thought the attestation was unfair, there was also considerable opposition among so-called pro-choice respondents with 37 per cent considering it unfair; among those who think there “should be some laws on abortion,” 22 per cent said it was unfair.

Even a large minority of Liberal and NDP voters thought the attestation was unfair: 41 per cent of Liberals and 44 per cent of NDPs saying the “rules are unfair – the federal government is over-reaching.”

One in five people say they have “heard a fair amount” about the attestation while another quarter of said they “heard a bit about it.” A majority (56 per cent) have “heard nothing until now” about the attestation. Among those who have the most information about the attestation, 68 per cent said it was unfair while a majority (57 per cent) of those who heard nothing thought it was fair. A slight majority (53 per cent) of those who “heard a bit” about the attestation thought it was unfair.

Respondents were given two hypothetical situations. Asked if the subsidized activities were “unrelated to abortion,” 73 per cent of all respondents said the attestation was unfair, but nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) said it was fair to require groups that do “anti-abortion advocacy” to support the attestation.

The question of fairness is not quite the same as whether Canadians support the attestation. A majority support the Trudeau government’s policy, 24 per cent “strongly” and 32 per cent “moderately,” while 43 is opposed, 28 per cent “strongly” and 15 per cent “moderately.” That means there are people who consider the attestation unfair but still support it.

Jeff Gunnarson, vice president of Campaign Life Coalition, said the poll numbers show “significant opposition to Justin Trudeau’s imposition of his ideological litmus test” and he called on the government to rescind the policy for the 2019 summer employment program.

Global News reported that 1,559 applications were rejected this year because businesses and groups refused to check the box supporting abortion and Charter rights. The government lauded the fact that only 3.7 per cent of the 42,708 applications were rejected specifically because of “issues related to the attestation.” Another 124 applications were rejected for all other reasons.

In 2017, a total of 126 applications, out of a total of 41,961, were rejected for all reasons combined.

Meanwhile, Andrew Bennett, Canada’s former ambassador for religious freedom, said during the launch of the new Cardus-hosted religious freedom think tank, that the attestation requirement indicates the Liberal government’s “totalitarian” tendency. Bennett explained that compelling belief “is a tendency that one can see in totalitarian societies.” He said tying grants to a set of beliefs not only coerces those opposed to particular policies and principles to compromise their consciences, but pushes “a person who just doesn’t want to have an opinion” to adopt one, or at least claim to. Those who do not go along, Bennett said, could feel “marginalized” as lesser Canadians for seeming to be “outside the tent” of officially approved opinions.

Criticism of the attestation also came from two unlikely sources.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which describes itself as “resolutely pro-choice,” was granted intervenor status in a Federal Court case launched by Toronto Right to Life’s challenge to the attestation. The National Postreported that the BCCLA signed the attestation in its application to hire a summer student, but executive director Josh Paterson said “we don’t think others should have been forced to sign it,” because Canadians should not “have to mouth these words, or to sign this attestation, whether or not you believe in the words written.” The BCCLA said that while no organization has a right to discretionary program funds, the government does not have the right to discriminate “in terms … protected under the Charter,” such as freedom of religion and conscience.

Another critic of the attestation is independent senator David Adams Richards. Richards, who was appointed to the upper chamber by Justin Trudeau last August, told the Catholic Register“I am opposed to it … I think it is arrogant and disastrous.” He said the policy seeks “political affirmation” for a program that should be free of ideological coercion. The attestation, Richards said, “is couched in terms of liberty, but there is not a totalitarian government in the world who wouldn’t agree with it.”