Summer Jobs Program: Further Evidence of The Government of Canada’s Ideological Approach Toward Religious Charities

Last week it was revealed that the Government of Canada has decided to implement ideological screening on any group that requests funding for its Canada Summer Jobs program.  Only those non-profit groups that hold the same views as the government on matters of abortion and sexual moral norms will be eligible to apply.

To be eligible for the Summer Jobs program a Christian charity must now “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. 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.

At first blush the attestation appears innocuous.  Who could be against the “values” underlying the Charter, and the freedom from discrimination? However, behind that velvet glove is an iron fist.  The government is telling us that we must accept its “values.”  The values of pre-natal life and traditional marriage that many of our members attest are anathema to this government.

Beliefs on these issues are non-negotiables for our members, as they are for the government.  This polarized framework between the government and the governed is not what our democracy stands for.  Government is required, at law, to be neutral in matters of conscience.  However, it now appears, that the government wants to direct our consciences against our will.  This is simply wrong.

It is unlikely that the Canada Summer Jobs program will be the end of this mindset.  The quid pro quo is if you want government “benefits” or “licencing” then you must agree with the government’s ideology.

“Believe as we do, or else” appears to be the government’s mantra.

The Canada Summer Jobs program, according to canada.ca ,“provides funding to not-for-profit organizations, public-sector employers and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to create summer job opportunities for young people aged 15 to 30 years who are full-time students intending to return to their studies in the next school year.”  Participating organizations have until February 2, 2018 to submit their applications.  With the new government policy, the message to Christian organizations seems to be “don’t bother.”

In the Christian community, summer camps are significant users of the program.  Church run or church affiliated summer camps rely on government funding to hire hundreds of students to work as camp counselors and instructors. These summer jobs provide students with the opportunity to learn life skills while doing great work for the younger children under their care.

The government’s new policy is unbecoming of what you would expect from a mature liberal democracy like Canada for the following reasons:

The State’s Duty of Religious Neutrality

First, government is supposed to be neutral on matters of religion.  Justice Gascon, of the Supreme Court of Canada, in a recent case[1] dealt with the concept of state neutrality.  The state, he said, could not be favouring one religion over another.

In that case the Saguenay municipal council was using the Lord’s Prayer to open its meetings.  That was determined, by the court, as the municipality favouring one religion – Christianity – over others.  Justice Gascon referred to state neutrality as a “democratic imperative.”  I quote from Gascon’s decision:

By expressing no preference, the state ensures that it preserves a neutral public space that is free of discrimination and in which true freedom to believe or not to believe is enjoyed by everyone equally, given that everyone is valued equally. I note that a neutral public space does not mean the homogenization of private players in that space. Neutrality is required of institutions and the state, not individuals…. On the contrary, a neutral public space free from coercion, pressure and judgment on the part of public authorities in matters of spirituality is intended to protect every person’s freedom and dignity. The neutrality of the public space therefore helps preserve and promote the multicultural nature of Canadian society enshrined in s. 27 of the Canadian Charter. Section 27 requires that the state’s duty of neutrality be interpreted not only in a manner consistent with the protective objectives of the Canadian Charter, but also with a view to promoting and enhancing diversity….

I would add that, in addition to its role in promoting diversity and multiculturalism, the state’s duty of religious neutrality is based on a democratic imperative. …. This pursuit requires the state to encourage everyone to participate freely in public life regardless of their beliefs ….  The state may not act in such a way as to create a preferential public space that favours certain religious groups and is hostile to others. It follows that the state may not, by expressing its own religious preference, promote the participation of believers to the exclusion of non-believers or vice versa.

When all is said and done, the state’s duty to protect every person’s freedom of conscience and religion means that it may not use its powers in such a way as to promote the participation of certain believers or non-believers in public life to the detriment of others. It is prohibited from adhering to one religion to the exclusion of all others.

The government’s new policy for the Canada Summer Jobs program violates this neutrality requirement because in that it favours one ideological position at the expense of another. Christian charities that are pro-life are free to hold such beliefs – there is, as of yet, no law that suggests it is wrong to hold such a position.  When the government takes a position on these matters it is no longer neutral.

Refusal of Government Benefits Based on Differing of Opinion

Second, matters such as abortion, marriage, and sexual norms are all issues that involve religious opinion.  A religious group’s holding an opinion different than government’s should never be reason enough for government refusal of government benefits.

Discrimination against Religious Individuals

Third, if government is permitted to discriminate against religious groups because of their religious views then such logic will lead it to discriminate against religious individuals.

Discrimination against Any Differing Opinion

Fourth, if there can be discrimination against religious opinions then the logic will lead to discrimination of any opinion that is at odds with government opinion.

A Systemic Position that Does not Allow Difference

This recent announcement suggests that there is a deep ideological framework within government that has turned its mind against Christian charities.  As noted above, we can expect more challenges in the future.  This is not a simple “one-off” but rather a systemic position that does not allow difference.  It is most troubling and one which we must be vigilant in addressing.

Because it is 2017, one would have thought that modern governments would respect freedom of thought and opinion – and would not allow government largess to be denied solely because those who hold valid and legal opinions differ with government.  That appears not to be the case.

[1] Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay (City), 2015 SCC 16, [2015] 2 S.C.R. 3, at paras. 74-76.

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Thoughts on Summer Jobs Program: Further Evidence of The Government of Canada’s Ideological Approach Toward Religious Charities

  1. Michael Hudec

    Thank you for your comments Barry. I appreciate the sound assessment of this new, blatant attack on freedom of speech and freedom of conscience by the Trudeau government. Hopefully Christians will stand up and oppose this latest onslaught against those who will not adopt the liberal ideology. Merry Christmas and God bless your work.

    Reply
    1. Rev. Lois Dix

      I can see Trudeau removing the word religion from non-discrimination in the Charter of Rights because it cannot go hand in hand with some of the other “rights” that are being imposed on Christianity in this country.

      Reply
      1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

        Hi Rev. Dix, it would be quite the undertaking to remove “religion” from the Charter. I do not see that being possible – even though we have such an anti-religious bias being evident today from many influential quarters. Our constitution requires 7 provinces representing plus 50% plus 1 of the population to make such a change. That is very difficult to do – it was meant to be hard because rights are important. What I do see is a systematic approach by government to whittle away religious rights by interpreting the right into insignificance. The most effective means I have seen lately is the use of the concept of “Charter values”. You see it here in this case of the Canada Summer Jobs. “Values” are used as a means to brow beat the rights holder from exercising their rights. So even though religious organizations are often exempt from human rights legislation and the Charter (as they are not a government actor) they are told, in essence, you have the right but don’t exercise it. The sentiment appears to be, “You can have your summer camp, your pro-life organization, your church etc. where you talk about religious views on human life beginning at conception and that sex is only to be within the traditional marriage of one man and one woman; go for it, you are free to do so, but don’t expect the government to pay for your student workers.” Now, the problem is that that is not the role of government – it is to be neutral on these matters upon which reasonable people disagree. When government takes these positions it is not long before we move into other areas of opinion – such as political opinion. So it is a group think process in play right now and we have to be vigilant to address it now before it expands, as it most assuredly will.

        Reply
    2. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Hi Michael, thanks for your kind comments. We must stand up to these types of things. We want, like everyone else, to be in a country where people can disagree about even the most fundamental issues of our age and still live in peace. That is what makes Canada great. What we do not want is a government telling us by means of denying financial benefits, that are to be open to everyone, that our views and opinions are unacceptable. If you do not like our views that’s ok, on one level, but government is to be neutral on views that are not advocating anything illegal or immoral. A pro-life stance is not ill-legal. It is a valid opinion of reasonable people. Any government benefit must not be subject to agreeing with a government’s position on such matters.

      A very Merry Christmas Michael to you and yours!

      Reply
  2. Patricia

    Any possibility of a Charter challenge? How can this possibly be in line with the Charter? It is blatant discrimination on the basis of religious belief?

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Hi Patricia – a Charter challenge is definitely possible and I would say probable. This kind of action has to be met at the appropriate time in the courts. We are assessing the options.

      Reply
  3. Daniel Scott

    Barry, thank you for this thoughtful response. John Steakhouse’s piece for Lorna Dueck was also good. John calls for contacting local MPs. Do you have any other plans to challenge the government’s action?

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Hi Daniel – we are looking at the various options going forward. Certainly contacting MPs is important. As we saw with the Government’s plan to remove s.176 from the Criminal Code it was the constant pressure applied to government that saw them change their mind. The same could work here. Every Canadian ought to be troubled by this development. To make government benefits subject to agreement with government ideology is so beyond anything we have seen in our history. At least to see it so blatant is unprecedented. But this is where political correctness leads.

      Reply
  4. Glenn Krobel

    Thanks for all your hard work for religious freedom at CCCC. Further to your comment about “charter values”: it became quite apparent during the recent interview of our outgoing supreme court chief justice Beverly McLaughlin that it is the courts through the Charter where the approval of all laws and any and all concepts of jurisprudence comes from. She made it very clear that Parliament no longer has that purview to make substantive changes in this arena. Clearly troubling. And when the justices themselves act as gatekeepers for future lawyers and judges it does not bode well for our future freedoms. The law societies of Upper Canada, Nova Scotia and British Columbia have already thumbed their nose at a plain common sense understanding of the Charter rights of millions of Canadians (under section 2) and have created a competing group of favoured Canadian citizens whose rights now trump those of millions of religious minded Canadians (through a stretching of Section 15 well beyond its original intent). It is from these law societies that we will draft our next round of Supreme Court justices.

    We need to fight for the freedoms of all Canadians or it will be taken away one piece at a time. These are very important days. Keep up the good fight!

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Hi Glenn,
      Yes, thanks for your insights here. This is an ongoing debate and it is one that we must be mindful of. I recommend to you my article that was published in August in the Supreme Court Law review: The Charter is Not a Blueprint for Moral Conformity In there I go into some detail about the use of Charter values and how the law societies have used this concept to take away the Charter rights of TWU.

      Reply
      1. Glenn Krobel

        I’m hardly a prophet but I can imagine a day when Canadian courts come down against ” “restrictive” (i.e. Traditional) marriage. Thus making TWU’s position illegal. All under the guise of promoting the human rights of the marginalized. But it’s a sham. Because they don’t care about all the marginalized people. Just the ones they choose to support. A choice where they pick winners and losers. Today the winners are the LGBTQ community, pro-choice groups, etc. But who are the losers? I find it unconscionable that the courts have very little interest in protecting the human rights of the disabled (autism, Down’s syndrome, etc). They lack proper funding in almost every education system of every province in the country. Are these not a marginalized minority? Shouldn’t the rights of these people be protected by the Charter as well? Why is funding for these people left to the side? Why do the courts not mandate that there should be a national standard of care for people with disabilities? Where are their human rights? Why are their needs not addressed? Why when the court in Ontario (2006) decided that children with autism should receive IBI therapy past age 6 that the Supreme Court overturned it. Why? This decision relegated thousands of people in that province to the margins as they scrambled to get help for their children by other means.

        The legal community’s hypocrisy is telling. They pick and choose one group of people to help at the expense of others. There was a recent letter written by the head of psychiatry at Wilfred Laurier University that criticized the trans community’s attempts to turn children with autism into trans people. Gender affirmative therapy only works one way. Once they decide to change genders there is no turning back. For people with autism! Can you imagine that!?

        The courts pretend to care for the least of these when in actual fact they could care less. Sorry to be so direct but this is personal for me. As the father of a child with autism who had to leave one province to go to another to get help, it drives me crazy to watch the courts pretend to care about minorities. They certainly didn’t care about my minority child.

        I believe in following a normative historical Christian faith which covers biblical sexual ethics. I have nothing against people from a different lifestyle. I am not against anyone. But I do want the right to practice my faith without government sanction or interference. And without the sanctimonious rhetoric that treats me as if I’m a bigot. When daily I do care for the least of these. And go the extra mile. I’m not perfect, but I expect my government to make room for people like me.

        Reply
        1. Laurel

          Amen! Totally agree. So many are not being ‘seen’ and cared for under current leaderships. I know there are financial limits, but equality for needs, rather than a politically-determined hierarchy, is expected.

          Reply
  5. Dan Sudfeld

    We just filled out the application anyway (we have alweys used this program to help pay camp workers. We checked the “no” box on the attestation. Thought we’d let CSJ tell us that our application was denied. But by checking “no” we received a note saying our application had been voided.

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Hi Dan, there is also a paper application process that you can, and should, use. The paper process allows you to put in the margin a note describing your position and interpretation of the Attestation requirement. So by checking off the Attestation, if that is what you decide to do, you could explain your understanding of the Attestation in the margins. It seems to me that Christian organizations could, with a clear conscience, indicate an assurance that they do comply with all Charter obligations and Human Rights legislation in Canada. That is the law in any event. The law, as it currently stands, supports religious communities to self-define their community. Human rights legislation provides Bona Fide Occupational Requirements (BFOR). BFOR’s grants religious organizations the ability to associate and choose their community which includes the right to hire those employees who are in keeping with the religious mission/obligations of the organization. When you send in your application send it by registered mail so that the government has to sign that they received the documentation. If you have received funding in the past but in 2018 it is denied then please call me personally at the CCCC office as to the next steps.

      Reply
  6. Laurel

    Thank you, Barry and others, for your insights.
    I notice that the wording of the attestation is that our organizations “respect human rights….”. I am employed at a pregnancy care centre and I have to say that, while we are pro-life, we respect the rights of our clients, and everyone, including their right to choose. Whatever the government’s stance on abortion, if women chose to carry their pregnancies, there would be no abortions. The government is not requiring women to choose abortion, they are strongly facilitating that decision. The attestation doesn’t say we agree, but rather that we ‘respect’, which I would say we do. Can we apply with good conscience, in hardcopy format, with this in our minds and potentially in writing?
    I think it would be helpful for us to brainstorm and generate our possible options in response to this new criteria for eligibility for Canada Summer Jobs. We may strategically choose one or another approach, but I agree with you Barry that it is wise to stand up together now, because this whittling away is going to continue. By fighting this, we may delay or avoid the revocation of other rights (like charitable status). And there is power in unity. We do represent voters and many praying people. 🙂
    So our choices are:
    1. Do nothing. Quietly don’t apply.
    2. Apply in hardcopy, with an explanation (possible explanations?)
    3. Legal challenge…Charter, etc?
    4. Other?
    Thank you so much, Barry and CCCC, for leading on a this, advising us, etc.
    Merry Christmas everyone!

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Hi Laurel – I see exactly what you are saying. The reality is the wording on the Attestation is vague. Given the thought going into this I can not but think it is purposefully so. It seems to me that your reasoning is sound in making a paper application as you indicated. I am hoping to put another piece on the blog soon looking at some of these issues. In the meantime I just got a piece published on ipolitics.ca that you might find interesting: https://ipolitics.ca/2017/12/22/trudeau-trinity-western-war-religious-dissent/ All the best

      Reply
  7. Andrea Dell

    Hi, I am a Believing follower of Jesus working for a Christian non-profit relying on these funds. I am curious about your opinion about why we expect or assume that the government should pay our Christian institutions when they directly disagree with their stated charters? It seems logical (to me) for the government to want to fund only the organizations upholding the Canadian laws. Since we go against what the government states, why should we expect something (or rely on something) that doesnt support our views?

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Hi Andrea, a great question. First, the government is to be neutral on matters of religious belief. When it offers a grant program but discriminates against religious opinion it is violating the neutrality principle that the Supreme Court of Canada has said government must adhere to see the Saguenay decision at para. 75 where the court said, “This pursuit requires the state to encourage everyone to participate freely in public life regardless of their beliefs.”) Government cannot make programs available for Christians only any more than it can discriminate against Christians for having what it thinks is an unacceptable view on the issues of abortion or marriage. Second, Christians, like all citizens are entitled to have equal access to government funding that is being offered. That is to say they are tax paying citizens like everyone else. Third, what we are talking about are organizations that are upholding Canadian laws. The CSJ policy is going beyond what the law says to what the government wants the law to say. This policy uses very vague language – one must assume it is intentional. For example, “Charter values” is truly open ended and highly contested. This is not what we would expect for a country that claims to celebrate diversity. Thanks again for your questions.

      Reply
  8. Richard Thomas

    The older I get and “hopefully” the more mature I become in my understanding of scripture and the heart of God, I wonder more and more why we should expect anything out of a godless government. By “anything” I mean, handouts, grants or tax free status.
    I am a firm believer in God’s being able to take care of His church as long as His church is following His commandments.
    We are called to love, especially those of the household of faith and to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ and as such we are called to step out of our “entitled” position as the western, prosperous church with our double garages, three vehicles in the driveway (because our garages are filled with toys) and put our money into supporting true Christian organizations sch as TWU and pregnancy care centers.
    God does not need our wallets to be contolled by a Godless reprobate government that hates Him and His will.
    Lobby? Absolutely. Call your Govt rep.? Yes!! But first pray, seek His will, then put your money where God’s heart is. He will take care of our needs.
    LORD bless you Sir in your work for His cause.

    Reply
  9. Ruth Rayburn-Arsenault

    Thank you for your efforts to represent our faith and may God bless you.
    Sincerely.
    Ruth Rayburn-Arsenault

    Reply
  10. John Van Ommen

    Thank you for defending our Christian beliefs and practices, but also our privileges. Keep up the good works and may God bless all your efforts!

    Reply
  11. Bob Jones

    I believe what we have in our country is dictatorship and communism on the rise. When Trudeau’s father was PM he would have walked the same path but our country wasn’t demoralized enough at that time. Today we live in an immoral cesspool and the time is ripe for young Trudeau to accomplish what his father was unable to do. Today we murder our children and call it women’s rights & abortion, we marry the same sex and call it an alternative life style. And everyone is supposed to be tolerant of all the wickedness we see all around us, but if anyone dare speak out against all this behavior these ones are very intolerant! Our society will tolerate anything wicked but will not tolerate being told they are wrong. If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do? This country will reap what it has sown and when they find out there is a God, and the same one Who destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah for their homosexuality, it will be too late! These people are fulfilling the prophecy for end times. Our country has enjoyed God’s blessings for many years because we lived lives based on truth but now things have changed and God will judge.
    B. Jones

    Reply
  12. Ross Fowler

    Can you tell me when the Canadian Parliament passed the Bill to add the “Attestation” clause to the Summer Job Funding Application?

    Reply
    1. Barry W. BusseyBarry W. Bussey Post author

      Hi Ross, there was no Bill as this was an administrative decision by the executive – that is to say, Minister Patty Hajdu.

      Reply

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