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Minister Patty Hajdu called CCCC last evening to inform us of the rationale behind the attestation requirement of the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program. We were given an opportunity to express our views. The Minister then said she would take the information to her staff and see what to do. Today, we are pleased that the government has recognized the need to clarify the ambiguity of its attestation requirement for CSJ applicants by releasing Supplementary Information.
However, today’s release fails to rectify the problems we have raised since the beginning. There has been no change to the attestation clause, which continues to create confusion over the government’s position concerning “Charter values” and “other rights”.
Even if many of our members, based on the government’s definitions, believed they could sign the attestation, the basic problem still exists. The attestation itself is flawed:
- It still refers to “respecting” “Charter values” even though it is a hotly contested concept among lawyers, academics and politicians. Attesting to undefined values that are subject to government policy is neither right nor safe as governments change;
- “Reproductive rights” still remain in the attestation with no definition of what those rights are. The unresolved issue, about abortion regulation, arising from the 1988 Supreme Court of Canada decision remains a legitimate matter of public debate despite the government’s belief that the debate is over. It is not;
- It still references freedom from discrimination without any mention of the right granting provisions of Human Rights legislation across the country for private organizations to maintain their identity in hiring those in compliance with their beliefs and practices.
We remain concerned that the government is continuing to place certain conceptions of human rights in hierarchy. It is a long standing legal principle in Canada that Charter rights are equal.
Organizations that are faithfully carrying out their charitable mission, in compliance with all applicable rules and laws (including human rights obligations) could still face a rejection from the CSJ program. If organizations are violating their legal obligations under human rights legislation, then there are appropriate avenues of recourse against such conduct which should be pursued. But denying funding through vague language to organizations that are operating lawfully and which provide much needed public benefit to their communities is an inappropriate solution to the issue the government says it is trying to address.
The effect of the required attestation is that not all minority associations will be treated alike. Those that hold and maintain lawful beliefs and practices which this government finds offensive may be denied eligibility for CSJ funding. This is not acceptable.
If the government makes funding available for specific objectives, such as ensuring that young people are given an opportunity to gain experience in quality jobs and learning important career enhancing skills, they must do so in a fair and equitable manner.
We are concerned that using attestations of beliefs and values in order to receive government funding will become the norm. That remains a problem for a free and democratic society that today’s release fails to address.