According to the Ministry of Employment, summer jobs grant applicants are now required to declare their organization’s ‘core mandate’ as pro-choice to receive funding

Churches and pro-life organizations are concerned about the new ruling made by the federal government which requires them to declare themselves as pro-choice in order to receive Canada Summer Jobs grants.

Ruby Sahota, MP for Brampton North, said that the application was changed “to confirm that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights…and do not support discriminatory practices.”

The eligibility requirements read that “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.”

Sahota said there were complaints made last year to the government that funding was being used to distribute pamphlets with graphic images of aborted fetuses.

Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, said the inappropriate use of funding was only the case with a few groups.

“Instead of identifying those handful of groups—three or four out of the thousands that receive funding, the government has put in this attestation that’s almost a sledgehammer effect that will impact thousands of charities that can’t check the box,” said MacCarthy.

Other faith groups such as Muslims, Jews and Sikhs are also concerned about the ruling. However, their beliefs on abortion differ when the mother’s life is in danger.

Many religious groups say that funds have secondary value compared to their beliefs. They say that Canadians have the right to freedom of religion, conscience and expression so the government cannot dictate how they should practice their faith.

“Churches can’t just say something and act another way, it needs to be consistent…”

– Marie-Claire Bissonnette, youth coordinator at Campaign Life Coalition

Campaign Life Coalition Youth Coordinator Marie-Claire Bissonnette, said she was “disappointed but not surprised,” when she heard about the new ruling.

Campaign Life Coalition was a recipient of the funds in the past, but due to the nature of their work, they cannot sign the new attestation.

Bissonnette said that “students have been relying on an influx of jobs in the summer provided by the government. Unfortunately, those jobs are not going to be available because organizations that would have applied cannot apply now.”

MacCarthy also said that the change is “impacting employment for young people but also the organizations that would be hiring them.”

In this way, MacCarthy said the cut has caused a “ripple effect.” Without the funding, organizations will need to increase their cost for summer activities such as daycares and camps.

Although the government has extended the deadline to apply for funding, they are upholding the decision. They say it is up to churches to decide if their core mandates allow them to sign the requirement to receive summer job grants.

“Churches can’t just say something and act another way, it needs to be consistent. Saying their core mandate is in line with reproductive rights would be lie if it’s not,” Bissonnette said.

Churches and other faith groups also participate in other activities—volunteering in soup kitchens, helping the homeless—not affiliated with pro-life work.

“But we can’t separate our values from who we are,” said MacCarthy.

Sahota said that “religious and faith-based organizations add tremendous value to our communities, much of which is focused on compassion and helping those most in need in our society. They are encouraged, welcome and eligible to apply (including Catholic Churches) and thus, I think this will have a minimal impact.”

MacCarthy is hopeful that the government will change the ruling. “We shouldn’t be held hostage for those funds because we don’t necessarily agree with the values of a party as opposed to values that are enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said MacCarthy.