More than 100 churches, business and ministries contacted the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) over the Christmas holidays because they were concerned about how new changes to the Canada Summer Jobs grant program might affect them. The EFC has posted this backgrounder / call to action.
The federal government has introduced new requirements for employers applying for the Canada Summer Jobs grant. To be eligible to receive this grant, employers will now be required to attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect certain “values” as determined by the federal government.
Specifically, the guidelines mention “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.”
Thousands of churches and organizations across Canada are religious charities which operate legally under provincial human rights codes. In carrying out their work, they benefit the communities in which they are located and our nation as a whole. Such charities foster vibrant social networks, spark volunteerism and foster community resiliency, providing a religious rationale for activities like poverty alleviation and caring for those who are vulnerable.
Although these positive ends are experienced by many in the community regardless of faith, they are offered out of a religious context, with a religious rationale.
However, this policy change would mean that to be eligible for the grant, organizations will have to attest that their core mandate affirms the government’s view on a list of issues, including the government’s position on abortion, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Organizations unable or unwilling to make this attestation in whole or in part will be deemed ineligible for the grant.
According to the guidelines, religious organizations can apply for the grant. However, if they cannot agree with the government’s position, they will not be eligible.
Further, we are concerned that this requirement could mean that churches or Christian summer camps, for example, will be ineligible to receive the grant if they wish to hire only students that share their religious beliefs.
These changes in eligibility could impact a wide range of Christian ministries, organizations and programs. But even more seriously, we believe it is a violation of the guaranteed freedoms of religion, thought, belief, opinion and association offered by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, especially the provisions under Section 2.
What the EFC is doing
The EFC is consulting with Christian and interfaith partners and developing resources to help equip Evangelicals to respond. Here are the latest EFC resources:
- Latest two-minute video (Jan. 3, 2018)
- Answers to frequently asked questions about this issue (4 page PDF, Jan. 3, 2018)
- Sample letters to contact your MP (in .docx format, updated Jan. 3, 2018)
- The EFC sent a letter Dec. 22, 2017 expressing dismay at how the guidelines violate fundamental Charter of Rights and Freedom guarantees. The letter urges the government “to amend the Canada Summer Jobs application process to allow religious organizations to stay true to their communal identity and beliefs.” Read the letter to the Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
- Initial two-minute video (Dec. 20, 2017)
You may also want to check out resources on this issue produced by other groups such as the Canadian Council of Christian Charities.
What you can do
We are asking for help in the following three ways:
- If your organization usually applies for this grant and will potentially be affected by this change in policy, please contact [email protected] and let us know. We want to track the impact of this change.
- Call or email your Member of Parliament to express your concern, and ask them to seek changes to the policy. If your organization is directly affected by this policy, let your MP know. The EFC has created two sample letters you can use (see above).
- Pray for religious freedom in Canada to be protected and respected, for our affiliates to be able to continue to work for the good of our society without hindrance, and for God to be glorified.
Because time is short [the application deadline for this program ends February 2] you are encouraged to act now.
This call to action is re-posted by permission.
Former Regent College professor – and author of the brand new Oxford University Press Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World – John Stackhouse wrote about the situation recently in Liberals Acting Illiberally.
He said, in part:
. . . Notice this language of “recognition,” as if the government’s values are simply out there, simply obvious in the world – “truths we hold to be self-evident,” as one might say. But of course they are not self-evident, as many people disagree with them. And so this policy has to refer also to its own particular definitions of human rights – definitions that are not so defined in the Charter or any other Canadian legislation. They are, in fact, simply the values of the current government, which has chosen to place them “at the core” of its policies.
The Liberal government is certainly entitled to place any values it likes at the core of its policies, subject of course to Canadian law. But what it is not entitled to do is to require those values of everyone else who is going about their Canadian business.
Yet according to this policy, Canadian organizations – including religious organizations – must comply with the current government’s values in order to participate in a program funded, of course, by all Canadians, not just Liberal Party supporters.
Go here for the full comment.
Anyone who thinks the EFC and John Stackhouse might be over-reacting should check this Global News article: Canada Summer Jobs program will no longer fund anti-abortion, anti-gay groups.