The following is a transcript of comments made by EFC President Bruce J. Clemenger at an interfaith news conference Jan. 25, 2018 about changes to the Canada Summer Jobs granting program.
"Canada is known and widely respected as a religiously plural and multicultural society. Respect for the diversity of beliefs of all Canadians and meaningful engagement with those who hold differing beliefs is essential to maintaining a robust democracy. We want to ensure that Canadians continue to benefit from collaboration between governments and faith-based organizations working together for the common good of our country.
Over the years many evangelical organizations have participated in the grant program. In 2016, over 1,300 evangelical organizations and churches received a grant; from inner city missions, to refugee welcome centres and programs for newcomers, and churches providing affordable faith-based day camps to help low-income parents and families make ends meet. In addition to impacting student jobs, these outreach initiatives support and help meet needs in local communities.
In recent days, the government has added clarifications to its website regarding the types of jobs that are eligible for funding. We appreciate that the government has heard and begun to address the concerns of faith communities and organizations. This helped to provide some clarity, however, we still have significant questions and reservations. We remain deeply concerned that groups are still required to affirm an attestation of values and beliefs. This is problematic for many faith communities and a large number of Canadians. We respect the laws of Canada which apply to us as persons and to our respective organizations. And we respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which applies to governments. However, we are unable to give non-negotiable and unqualified affirmation of undefined values and other rights. At the risk of losing funding or the programs themselves that benefit so many Canadians, the government has placed us in an untenable position. We believe there is a path forward. We ask the government to either remove the attestation or work with faith communities to amend the language so that it does not require a values or ideological test."
Author: Bruce J. Clemenger