This month, rejection letters are being received by churches, ministries and other employers who couldn’t agree to the new Canada Summer Jobs attestation.
The impact of this will be felt by communities across the country, as low-income and vulnerable children will have fewer options for summer activities. We have heard of hundreds of programs like children’s camps and outreach to new Canadians that will be reduced or cancelled as a result of lost summer jobs funding.
And it didn’t need to happen. If there were abuses of the CSJ program, the Minister could have investigated and addressed the incidents of abuse. An official testified that their department had received six letters of complaint, five of which were form letters distributed by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
Instead, the Minister inserted the problematic attestation of respect for values and rights as a condition of participating in the government program. Even groups that support abortion, like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, have spoken out against this attestation. In fact, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association is intervening in a court challenge of the attestation, to argue that it is unconstitutional to require this kind of ‘loyalty oath’ as a condition of accessing government benefits.
This doesn’t need to happen again next year. It should not happen again next year. Minister Hajdu has said that she will look into clarifying the wording of the attestation for next year, but has made it clear that the policy goals will not change. However, there needs to be real, substantive change, not just tweaking of wording or additional definitions. Government programs must be carried out in a way that does not directly infringe of the Charter guarantees to freedom of religion, conscience, thought, belief, opinion and expression, as the current attestation does.
There are some easy solutions. The Minister could replace the problematic attestation with wording that indicates compliance with applicable human rights and labour legislation, rather than respect for rights and values. The Minister could change the program guidelines to prohibit any political activity in a government-funded summer student position. The Minister could delete the problematic attestation altogether and simply address abuses of the program if and when they occur.
Please ask your colleague, Minister Hajdu, to amend or delete this troubling attestation. The Charter requires that the government ensure its’ policies and legislation do not violate the fundamental freedoms it guarantees.
The Canada Summer Jobs program should be offered to Canadians on a level playing field next year, in a way that truly demonstrates respect for the Charter protections that Canadians enjoy.
Director, Public Policy