Your voice is being heard about the Canada Summer Jobs attestation

20 March 2018

Your voice is being heard

Over the last few months, many of you have written numerous letters or emails to your MPs about the Canada Summer Jobs attestation. Some of you have made phone calls, and even met in person with your MP to express your concerns. Although we haven’t yet seen the changes we’d hoped for, your engagement is having an impact.

The House of Commons voted on a Canada Summer Jobs motion yesterday, on March 19. EFC staff were there observing the vote. The motion was defeated 93 to 207. The motion wouldn’t have made changes to the program, but it expressed the opinion that the grant should be available without an attestation of values.

There was one Liberal MP and one NDP MP who voted in favour of the motion while the rest of their parties voted against it (see full results). At least one other Liberal MP abstained from the vote and several were absent. The Leader of the Green Party voted in favour of the motion, as did three Bloc MPs.

Barry Bussey of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities wrote about the evening of the vote, concluding with these words:

Every day my office receives a number of calls and emails from our 3400 members who are concerned about the government’s apparently callous attitude towards their deep spiritual commitments. They were told to simply “check the box” as if words didn’t matter.

The fact is, words do matter. Words have meaning. Words have power.

What I witnessed last night in the House of Commons is precisely that words, and particularly the words in the current attestation, do matter. They matter so much that over 1400 charities would rather forego government funding than be compelled to express words that violate their conscience.

…Yet, I did not leave the House of Commons dejected. I left emboldened. Emboldened to continue to press the cause of liberal democracy.

…I recognize that not all of the religious community has been upset by the CSJ attestation. Some, based on their conscience, agree with the government’s ideology. However, this battle is not about whether we concur with the government on abortion. It’s about being forced to endorse opinions that are not our own. We cannot let this go. To give up now would be to lose our right to think and express our views.

This issue is not over. It remains very much alive.

What we didn’t see or hear play out in the outcome of yesterday’s vote are the conversations that are happening within each party caucus about the concerns we have brought to MPs. The Canada Summer Jobs issue is being discussed. MPs are hearing that there are concerns about the attestation, that it matters to their constituents and that it is affecting their communities.

An MP once told our staff that he knows an issue is important to his constituents if he receives three or four personal letters about it.

We will continue to ask that the attestation be changed – if not for this year, then for next. It may turn out that the only way to resolve the 2018 Canada Summer Jobs situation is through legal action. We are considering all options for response, including legal challenge. But we look ahead to next summer and the other government services and programs that could go down a similar road.

For now, we have the attention of our MPs. Let’s ask them how they will make sure the Canada Summer Jobs program is changed for next year. We can remind them of our desire to do good work in our communities and ask them to respect the freedoms of religion, belief, expression and opinion guaranteed to us by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We may be tired of writing letters or making contact with our MPs or others. But this is one of the most effective ways to keep the issue alive. If the issue seems to be forgotten or constituents resigned to the status quo, then we are far less likely to see changes next year.

We have the opportunity to ask for change, the privilege of participating in our country’s political life, and the ability to engage on issues that affect our community. Let’s do so with wisdom and grace.

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