There has been some confusion and misunderstanding regarding changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program for students that are deserving of some clarification.
This confusion has arisen because the Trudeau Liberal Government inserted a mandatory values test into the application process.
Applicants must attest that their organization's core mandate supports values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
This seems like an innocent change however the Liberal Government also included a number of other rights to the list, including reproductive rights.
It is the demand to attest to reproductive rights that has created confusion and in some cases strong disagreement.
Why the confusion and disagreement?
Essentially because the Charter of Rights and Freedoms contains no language specifically related to reproductive rights.
The Supreme Court struck down laws around this area and in the absence of any new laws, created a legal vacuum.
That said, the Charter does protect freedom of conscience and religion.
Many faith groups, who hold pro-life views, feel that their charter rights are being discriminated against in these changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program for students.
To be fair to the changes to the Canada Summer Job's guidelines, there is a disclaimer that states “an organization that is affiliated with a religion does not itself constitute ineligibility for this program.”
I view this as a positive indicator, given that faith groups perform many valuable community services, such as running soup kitchens, youth programs, sponsoring private refugees and other community charity related activities that help our most vulnerable.
The challenge is that many organizations of faith who may not necessarily be excluded from the summer jobs program have expressed a reluctance of applying due to their belief that the new restrictions discriminate against those who have pro-life views.
Although I am clearly not a member of the Liberal Government, I believe these changes were more intended to prevent organizations that actively campaign for laws against the termination of a pregnancy from being eligible to receive summer student job funding.
Herein is another challenge because the right to oppose abortion is also protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The bottom line is the Trudeau Liberals have politicized the Canada Summer Jobs program for students jobs by deciding certain charter rights have priority over others.
These kinds of decisions often end up before our Supreme Court.
As I write this week’s report, I believe a legal action against these changes may already be underway.
My question this week:
Do you agree with the changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program for students, that reinterprets the Charter in this way?
I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or call toll free 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.