It’s that time of year again! Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) applications are open. And as in past years, you’re probably again asking, “what does the attestation say?” or “has anything changed?” and “can we in good conscience apply?”
We fully recognize that charity leaders must make up their own minds as to whether they are comfortable with the terms and conditions (the strings) attached to funding. To help you decide, we’ll look at the requirements for 2021 as set out in the Applicant Guide and the Articles of Agreement.
But you’ll have to decide fairly quickly, as applications are due by January 29, 2021.
What’s the Same?
The Attestation is word-for-word the same as last year. It remains “any funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.”
Also word-for-word the same is a description of ineligible projects where the programs or job activities:
- restrict access to programs or, services, or employment, or otherwise discriminate, contrary to applicable laws, on the basis of prohibited grounds, including sex, genetic characteristics, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression
- advocate intolerance, discrimination and/or prejudice, or
- actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.
The definitions of “project”, “advocate”, and “undermine or restrict” remain the same as last year.
- Project means the “hiring, administration of, job activities, and organization’s activities as described in the Application Agreement”
- Advocate means “to promote, foster, or actively support intolerance, discrimination, and/or prejudice”
- Undermine or restrict means “to weaken or limit a woman’s ability to access sexual and reproductive health services. The Government of Canada defines sexual and reproductive health services as including comprehensive sexuality education, family planning, prevention and response to sexual and gender-based violence, safe and legal abortion, and post-abortion care”
The three CSJ program objectives are the same:
- Provide quality work experiences for youth
- Respond to national and local priorities to improve access to the labour market for youth who face unique barriers
- Provide opportunities for youth to develop and improve their skills
These objectives fall within the same broad aim of ensuring that all the CSJ opportunities “take place in safe, inclusive and healthy work environments free from harassment and discrimination.”
The 15-point eligibility criteria also remain the same, but with some modifications to the content.
The first 10 are the same with non-substantive modifications:
1. Meet the deadline
2. Check the attestation
3. Complete the application
4. Employer is eligible
5. Project is eligible
6. Job duration of 6–23 consecutive weeks* (used to be 6–16 consecutive weeks)
7. Job hours of 12–40/week* (used to be 30–40/week)
8. Declare other sources of funding
9. Salary respects minimum wage requirements
10. Declare any money owed to the government
The remaining 5 are the same but with more substantive modifications (which will be discussed below).
11. Health and safety
12. Hiring practices and work environment
13. Supervision – describe the plan
14. Mentoring – describe the plan
15. How your organization has done in the past
In 2020 we noted there was a lot of emphasis on safe, healthy work environments, and hiring practices. That trend continues this year. It should be inherent to the culture of faith-based organizations to promote and ensure safety and health, and to strive for workplaces free of harassment and discrimination. But as we know, the term discrimination is often used in indiscriminate ways. And 2021 applicants are being asked for more information. So, let’s take a look at what’s new or has been notably revised.
There are a few changes that we need to note.
First, employer flexibility. Nothing is untouched by COVID-19, including CSJ 2021. The COVID-19 changes made to the 2020 program are continued. Specifically:
- Public and private sector employers are eligible for up to 75% wage subsidy (regular is 50%)
- Part time jobs are allowed, 12–40 hours/week (regular is 30+ hours/week)
- Employment period from April 26, 2021–February 26, 2022 (regular requires completion during the summer)
- Project and job activities may be amended if the project is impacted by restrictions; must contact Service Canada to discuss amendments and have them approved
Quality Job Placements
Second, the description of what makes a quality job placement. Here again, while the categories remain the same, COVID-19 has amended some of the substance.
In 2021, as in 2019 and 2020, the starting point for quality job placements remains a safe, inclusive and healthy work environment. The markers of quality jobs are:
- Paying above minimum wage
- Retaining the youth as an employee beyond the CSJ period
- Supervision – observing, evaluating and providing feedback
- Mentoring – support professional and career development
- Skills development
- Health and safety practices
- Work environment policies and practices
The 2021 COVID-19 related change falls under health and safety practices. Employers are “responsible for staying informed of provincial guidance on essential services, and municipal provincial and federal public health information and following all necessary local health guidance.”
Eligibility Criteria – Policies
Third, there is a heightened emphasis on policies in the eligibility requirements and how those are addressed in the actual application. It has moved from suggested types of policies and program plans to a checklist.
For Health and Safety Practices, the qualifier adequate has been added to what is required. You must demonstrate you have “implemented adequate measures to ensure youth awareness of health and safety practices.” The list of policies has expanded to include COVID-19 prevention measures, safety checks, providing safety equipment, and an emergency preparedness and response plan. These have been reformatted from what health and safety practices “may include” to a check-box format.
For both Supervision Plan and Mentoring Plans, the check-box approach now applies. Some new criteria have been added, such as the amount of the supervisor or mentor’s experience in a supervisory or mentorship role, exactly what the supervisor or mentor will provide, the specific type of feedback that will be provided and the formality of those relationships.
For Work Environment, the description has also added the qualifier adequate. The slight changes over the past three years are summarized in the chart below.
|Demonstrate the hiring practices and work environments are free of harassment and discrimination by implemented measures such as raising awareness and prevention activities||Demonstrate that you have implemented measures to ensure hiring practices and a work environment free of harassment and discrimination||Demonstrate that you have implemented adequate measures to ensure hiring practices and work environments are free of harassment and discrimination|
The list of policies in the new check-box format has expanded significantly. It includes:
- Hiring policies/practices
- Harassment polices / practices
- Conflict resolution policies / practices
- Employee and/or Management Training
- *NEW Discrimination policies / practices
- *NEW Accessibility and accommodation policies / practices
- *NEW Employment equity policies / practices
- *NEW Privacy polices / practices
Fourth, the impact of past results.
In 2020 and continuing in 2021, application assessments take into account:
- all files associated with the organization to see if there is documentation from previous agreements that would render the current application ineligible (i.e. financial irregularities, health and safety concerns, or past project results)
- Possible consultation with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on past financial irregularities
New for 2021 is taking into account:
- Previous applications
- All previous correspondence, including:
- Responses to requests for missing information
- Responses to requests for clarification
Do the changes mean anything?
Well, it depends.
Work Environment is now an overt focus for application assessments. Much like last year, it’s unpredictable how those will be examined. Will the right of organizations to hire based on shared religious beliefs be respected (the attestation prohibits only projects that discriminate “contrary to applicable laws”)? Will the government adhere to its duty of state neutrality in how it evaluates applications?
We know last year many faith-based organizations were rejected because of Statements of Faith that adhere to a biblical definition of marriage, or because all staff agree to sign statements of faith and commit to live out those principles on a daily basis. It is likely, then, that we will see more organizations rejected on the basis of hiring policies that, though perfectly legal and falling within human rights code protections for faith-based organizations, are deemed unfashionable or unpalatable.
The 2018 Attestation was an up-front screening mechanism, with its blatant prejudice and discrimination articulated for all to see. Since then, we’ve seen screening mechanisms move behind the veil, so to speak. Rather than outright reject applicants in a public way, applicants now find themselves welcomed into a process only to be screened in accordance with the same set of values, but quietly and individually.
When groups are excluded up front, it is easy to band together and confront the policy and politicians that exclude. When groups are rejected after application, one by one, it is much harder to band together and confront the anonymous decision-makers in government bureaucracy.
We also know that applicants rejected in past years will likely have an uphill battle to secure funding, particularly if the policies, positions and principles that attracted criticism and controversy remain the same.
Where does CCCC land?
In 2019 and 2020 CCCC encouraged all Christian charities to apply for funding since applicants were no longer required to attest to their agreement with government ideology on abortion and sexual issues. As noted at the outset, we respect the view that merely applying for CSJ funding is to acquiesce to the government’s position on “sexual and reproductive health services” including abortion. And each charity must reach its own conclusion.
However, we at CCCC arrive at the same conclusion as last year. Namely, that the phrase “undermining, or restricting” does not deny the right of religious organisations to speak or teach or live their religious views in opposition to the government’s worldview, as this is not “contrary to applicable laws.” Nor is it contrary to applicable laws for faith-based organizations to hire in accordance with their faith. Therefore, we would again encourage Christian charities to apply for funding in 2021.
Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.