The Hon. Patty Hajdu, Canadian Minister of Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, has announced that the government is not going to back down on the attestation requirement for the 2018 Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) application process. In a Huffington Post article, she was quoted as saying that the requirement had nothing to do with “values and beliefs” but was dealing with “core activities”. The government is upset that some organizations were engaged in public advocacy against abortion and producing graphic pictures.
However, it is striking that the government continues to refuse to change the attestation from “core mandate” to “core activities”. If core activities are the issue, why not change the attestation? The intransigence on that point is telling.
Andrew Coyne suggests that the government’s stand on this issue is backfiring, saying “the worse the fight with the churches has [gotten] [over the issue of the attestation], the deeper the government has dug itself in. At some point one has to conclude they really mean it.” The entire CSJ fiasco happened only because the government chose to link a non-political program to its own political ideology.
For that reason, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC), along with several other religious groups, attempted to find a resolution to this intractable problem. On March 21, 2018, our CEO, Rev. Dr. John Pellowe, joined a delegation in meeting with Minister Hajdu. However, the Minister made it clear that there will be no accommodation provided, and that no changes will be made to the attestation for this year. Applicants that did not “check the box” will be ineligible for a Canada Summer Jobs grant in 2018.
While the Minister indicates that changes will be made to the 2019 CSJ process, we remain concerned that ‘reproductive rights criteria’ and other undefined values will still be required. We cannot but be disappointed with the government’s refusal to adjust this year’s application. While some of our members may have been able to sign the attestation in good faith, others could not. We have been contacted by some 170 of our members across Canada who refused to sign the attestation. They will now have to either modify or cancel programs or be forced to launch emergency fundraising campaigns.
The issue in the Canada Summer Jobs case is that there should be no values test for a government service. Regardless of your beliefs about the social issues raised in the attestation, there should be concern that values are being linked to the provision of government services. This is the reason that CCCC is involved.
CCCC is committed to working with other faith leaders to raise our collective voices and encourage others to advocate for changes to the program and, most importantly, to respect the diverse views and beliefs of all Canadians.