By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on February 2, 2018.
Today is the deadline to apply for the Canada Summer Jobs program. At first glance, this might not matter much to you, especially if you don’t own your own business, manage a not-for-profit, or participate in a faith-based group; however, this federal program has become the battleground on which the fundamental freedoms of Canadians are coming under attack.
To qualify for funding this year, organizations must sign a new attestation stating that their “core mandate” agrees with the Liberals’ beliefs on abortion. The application page couldn’t be clearer: “this includes sexual and reproductive rights – and the right to access safe and legal abortions.”
This is a big deal for many faith-based charities that have previously qualified for funding. While nearly all of these groups don’t do anything to protest abortions, they also don’t see their core mandate as advocating for abortion rights.
In short, the Liberals are asking these organizations to renounce their core beliefs in order to access federal funding. This is an alarming attack on religious freedoms.
This constraint will have a broad impact on employment opportunities for Canadian youth. Hundreds of summer camps run by religious organizations across the country will be denied funding, putting an end to summer jobs for thousands of young people.
Many food banks and services to those who are poor or housing-insecure could lose their funding for summer jobs because of their faith affiliations. I know of several faith-based charities here in Lethbridge that have done a remarkable job at caring for the needs of refugees; they, too, will be denied funding.
The Liberals have attempted to do damage control by stating they define the “core mandate” as the primary activities of an organization, not as a reflection of the faith beliefs at the foundation of an organization.
However, for many religiously devoted individuals, they cannot separate their actions from the beliefs that motivate them. Their belief in the value of human life is the very principle that drives them to help feed and clothe those who don’t have the means to provide for themselves.
Faith-based charities and organizations in Canada have a long history of fighting for the poor and the vulnerable, increasing civic participation and making our communities stronger.
Most charitable organizations that are more than a couple decades old have their origins in a faith community, such as the YMCA/YWCA, the Red Cross, or United Way. Several of the largest charitable organizations in Canada continue to be faith-based establishments, such as the Salvation Army and World Vision.
The Liberals have justified this attack on faith-based organizations as being rooted in ‘Charter rights,” which begs the question: when is the last time the Liberals read the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and how good is their memory?
Section Two of the Charter protects a long list of fundamental freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought and freedom of belief.
To compel organizations to agree to a government-dictated value statement not only infringes on their Charter rights but also stands as an abomination to democracy!
More than 76 per cent of Canadians identify as having a personal faith. This includes Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, plus many smaller religions. This means the vast majority of taxpayer dollars used to fund the Canada Summer Jobs Grant are contributed by people of faith.
Here in Lethbridge, I’ve talked with more than 15 organizations that won’t be able to apply for funding due to the values statement they are required to sign. As a result, young people will lose out on job opportunities and the community will miss out on terrific programs and services that are traditionally offered by these organizations.
In Toronto, a multi-faith coalition of more than 50 organizations representing all of these faiths has come out against this values test. Many of these organizations believe they cannot sign this attestation in good faith.
Sadly, at the end of the day, those who will be impacted the most are young people looking for summer employment and the most vulnerable among us who would have been helped by the tremendous work done by faith-based organizations across our country.
If you agree that the current government is infringing on Charter rights by requiring organizations to sign their values statement, please take action!
Here’s how: Send an email to the Minister of Employment, Workforce, and Labour, Patty Hajdu, at Patty.Hajdu@parl.gc.ca and/or sign petition e-1434 on the House of Commons website at: https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/Petition/Details?Petition=e-1434.
If you have a story to share about how the government’s changes will impact you or your organization, please take a moment to share with my colleagues and me by going to the following website: http://www.garnettgenuismp.
Thank you for making your voice heard!
Rachael Harder is the Conservative MP for Lethbridge. Her column appears monthly.
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