The federal government has introduced new requirements for employers applying for the Canada Summer Jobs grant. To be eligible to receive this grant, employers will now be required to attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect certain “values” as determined by the federal government.
Specifically, the guidelines mention “individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
Thousands of churches and organizations across Canada are religious charities which operate legally under provincial human rights codes. In carrying out their work, they benefit the communities in which they are located and our nation as a whole. Such charities foster vibrant social networks, spark volunteerism, and foster community resiliency, providing a religious rationale for activities like poverty alleviation and caring for those who are vulnerable. Although these positive ends are experienced by many in the community regardless of faith, they are offered out of a religious context, with a religious rationale.
However, this policy change would mean that to be eligible for the grant, organizations will have to attest that their core mandate affirms the government's view on a list of issues, including the government's position on abortion, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Organizations unable or unwilling to make this attestation in whole or in part will be deemed ineligible for the grant.
According to the guidelines, religious organizations can apply for the grant. However, if they cannot agree with the government’s position, they will not be eligible.
Further, we are concerned that this requirement could mean that churches or Christian summer camps, for example, will be ineligible to receive the grant if they wish to hire only students that share their religious beliefs.
These changes in eligibility could impact a wide range of Christian ministries, organizations and programs. But even more seriously, we believe it is a violation of the guaranteed freedoms of religion, thought, belief, opinion and association offered by Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, especially the provisions under Section 2.
What the EFC is doing
The EFC is consulting with Christian and interfaith partners and developing resources to help equip Evangelicals to respond. Here are the latest EFC resources:
- Informative interactive webinar scheduled for Jan. 25, 2018 at noon Eastern. Sign up and join in!
- Latest two-minute video (Jan. 3, 2018)
- Answers to frequently asked questions about this issue (4 page PDF, Jan. 3, 2018)
- Sample letters to contact your MP (in .docx format, updated Jan. 3, 2018)
- The EFC sent a letter Dec. 22, 2017 expressing dismay at how the guidelines violate fundamental Charter of Rights and Freedom guarantees. The letter urges the government “to amend the Canada Summer Jobs application process to allow religious organizations to stay true to their communal identity and beliefs.” Read the letter to the Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.
- Initial two-minute video (Dec. 20, 2017)
You may also want to check out resources on this issue produced by other groups such as the Canadian Council of Christian Charities
What you can do
We are asking for help in the following three ways:
- If your organization usually applies for this grant and will potentially be affected by this change in policy, please contact feedback@TheEFC.ca and let us know. We want to track the impact of this change.
- Call or email your Member of Parliament to express your concern, and ask them to seek changes to the policy. If your organization is directly affected by this policy, let your MP know. The EFC has created two sample letters you can use (see above).
- Pray for religious freedom in Canada to be protected and respected, for our affiliates to be able to continue to work for the good of our society without hindrance, and for God to be glorified.
Because time is short (the application deadline for this program ends in February) you are encouraged to act now.
You can also share the webpage you are now reading using the link TheEFC.ca/SummerJobsGrants.