Now that the deadline to apply for Canada Summer Jobs grants is past, we asked the EFC’s Julia Beazley, director, public policy, for an update on what’s happening with this controversy and the organizations that applied. See more of our Three Questions Series of short online interviews or more about the Canada Summer Jobs controversy.
Q1. What’s happening now in the Canada Summer Jobs situation?
The deadline for applications closed on Feb. 9, after a one-week extension. In spite of the extension, the government did not change their position on the attestation. It remained unchanged, and applications that did anything other than check off the attestation – unmodified and unqualified – are considered incomplete and ineligible.
Service Canada has begun contacting those whose application included an alternate attestation or a letter requesting accommodation – any group whose application did not give an unqualified agreement with the attestation. Service Canada is saying these applications are incomplete and that they have 10 business days to complete them or they will be rejected.
The Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) has developed a template response letter that organizations may send back to Service Canada to reiterate a request for accommodation of their Charter rights.
It’s not just religious Canadians who recognize how deeply problematic this attestation is. Many national columnists, commentators and editorial boards have voiced similar concern – even those who disagree with religious Canadians on issues like abortion.
Q2. What’s next?
Groups like the CCCC, Christian Legal Fellowship, the EFC and others are considering all options, including the possibility of a legal challenge of the attestation.
Although the Toronto Right to Life Association’s request for an injunction was denied, the court has yet to review their challenge of the Canada Summer Jobs program. The EFC will monitor this closely.
Q3. What does this mean for churches and Christian ministries in Canada?
This kind of value-laden attestation sets a troubling precedent for federal government policy, and is something that should concern all Canadians. It is inappropriate, in a free and democratic society, for citizens to be subject to a values test in order to be eligible for public benefit. The government must respect the fundamental freedoms of religion, conscience, thought, belief, opinion and expression that are guaranteed in the Charter.
A bright spot in the recent debate has been the media coverage of the work of churches and ministries in helping the vulnerable in their communities. As well, Christians have engaged with their MPs in significant numbers, which may lead to new relationships and awareness of one another. Many MPs will have gained a greater of understanding of who these groups are, who they serve and of the valuable work they do.
However, the reality is that many churches and ministries across the country will have a diminished ability to help vulnerable people in their community without a summer student grant. Please prayerfully consider increasing your support of local churches and ministries, so they can continue to meet needs and change lives.