Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/1/2018 (874 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Politicians run for office because they believe they’re right about things, and they want to shape society in a way that adheres to those beliefs. If enough people agree and take the time to vote, those politicians get elected and are afforded the opportunity to turn thoughts into deeds.
Once in office, however, politicians need occasional reminders that the job also involves governing fairly for those who disagree with the ruling party’s positions.
Such a reminder is due to the federal Liberal government, which last month quietly added requirements to the Canada summer jobs (CSJ) program that essentially demand that employers seeking funding to hire summer students share the federal government’s beliefs.
In order to qualify for program funding, eligible not-for-profit organizations, public-sector employers and small businesses must "attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights."
That, in itself, seems reasonable. It’s what’s comes first in the list of "other rights" that has raised the ire of some Canadians who don’t share some of the Trudeau government’s views.
To access CSJ funding, potential employers must attest that they respect "reproductive rights"; in other words, CSJ applicants must declare they hold pro-choice views or they will be disqualified from funding.
This has, to no one’s surprise, not been well-received by anti-abortion activists and some religious communities. "We just wouldn’t qualify because we’re not pro-choice," said James Buchok of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg’s Catholic Church Centre. "That would pretty well end the conversation."
That is not where the conversation regarding summer jobs funding should end. The federal government has overstepped by imposing such a broad restriction on a program that is intended to benefit all young Canadians.
The requirement was prompted by the discovery that last year, CSJ funds were granted to anti-abortion groups in Ontario and Alberta. Stopping government dollars from supporting organizations whose values are in direct conflict with human rights legislation — in this case, anti-abortion and anti-gay groups — is not unreasonable. But requiring all potential CSJ employers to sign what amounts to an oath of loyalty to the Liberal government’s ideals is imposing a common-cause solution on a special-cause problem.
Already at least one pro-life organization, the Toronto Right to Life Association, has decided to take the federal Liberals to court because of these changes. Still others have condemned the move as the federal government forcing them to "renounce their faith," by demanding such an attestation by potential applicants.
What should be at issue is the nature of the summer job — not whether the organization espouses religious or social beliefs that don’t mesh with party doctrine. Under the new rules, a church organization that honestly declares its belief in the sanctity of life will be ineligible for CSJ funding, even if the job it’s trying to fill has nothing to do with advancement or restriction of reproductive rights. In other words, a church in southern Manitoba would be ineligible to hire a summer student to help cut the grass or paint a fence — activities that have nothing to do with being pro-choice or anti-abortion.
Imagine, if you can, the Liberal government reaction if our neighbours to the south — who lately have taken a decidedly right-of-centre, pro-life approach to funding (or de-funding) reproductive-rights groups such as Planned Parenthood — imposed a restriction on funding for youth jobs that required eligible employers to declare, in writing, that they are anti-abortion.
Such a move would undoubtedly be perceived as a massive and unjustified overreach. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his colleagues should realize that by trying so hard to do what they believe is right for CSJ, they have accomplished a similarly egregious wrong.
» Winnipeg Free Press & The Brandon Sun