The Hon. Patty Hajdu
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
We appreciated your generosity with your time in March, when you met with us and other faith groups to discuss the Canada Summer Jobs attestation. You mentioned at the time, as well as in media interviews subsequently, that you may consider changes to clarify the wording of the problematic new attestation.
While we welcome these comments, we would urge you to make a real, substantive change to the attestation that protects the freedom of religion, conscience, belief and expression guaranteed in the Charter, and not to merely tweak the wording or add clarification. As we have expressed previously, we believe this new attestation sets a very troubling precedent, as it amounts to a values test in order to be eligible for a government program.
Although many faith groups have been impacted by this policy change, the impact reaches beyond them, as does the concern for the precedent it sets. We note the concern with the attestation expressed by civil liberty organizations, such as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. We understand the B.C. Civil Liberties Association is intervening in a court challenge of the attestation, out of a concern that it is unconstitutional to require this kind of “loyalty oath” in order to access government benefits.
As we mentioned in a recent letter to MPs, we believe there are several simple solutions that would resolve our deep-seated concerns with the new attestation.
- Replace the attestation with wording that indicates compliance with applicable human rights and labour legislation, rather than respect for rights and values.
- Amend the program guidelines to prohibit any political activity, as defined by the Canada Revenue Agency, in a government-funded summer student position.
- Delete the problematic attestation altogether and address abuses of the program if and when they occur.
Again, we would like to work with you collaboratively to find a solution that enables the positive contributions of religious organizations in local communities. We believe it is possible to find a path forward that works for everyone involved.
We urge you to establish a level playing field for applicants in next year’s program. Please take steps to offer the 2019 Canada Summer Jobs program in a way that truly demonstrates respect for the Charter protections that Canadians enjoy.
Director, Public Policy
Author: Julia Beazley