Adapted from resources prepared by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
The federal guidelines were published online December 19, 2017 in two places:
Unlike past years, to be eligible for the grant employers will now have to “attest” in their application that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including “reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of … religion ... sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
If an organization is unable or unwilling to attest to their agreement on these issues, they will not be eligible for the grant.
As a condition of being considered for a public benefit, the application compels affirmation of “Charter values” that are not set out or defined in the application and have not been defined by Parliament or Canadian courts. This condition is not necessary for the purposes of the program and has never been required before.
The guidelines specifically note that being affiliated with a religion does not in itself make an organization ineligible. While this is technically true, if a religious organization cannot attest that they agree with the government’s position on abortion, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, the application is considered “void.” In other words, religious organizations can apply, but they need to agree with the statement in the application to have their application considered.
The following two screen shots from the government’s online CSJ application show both what is being asked of applicants, and the resultant message if the attestation is not affirmed.
From CSJ Application:
Message if attestation is
One concern with the CSJ guidelines is that organizations are asked to affirm that they “respect” not only individual human rights, but also undefined “values underlying the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other rights” surrounding matters of reproduction, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. It is unclear what is required by “respect,” or what the “values underlying the
Charter” refer to in this context.
Although individuals and organizations are able to affirm the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the
Charter as they wish, as private actors they are not bound by its legal requirements. According to Section 32 of Canada’s
Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the
Charter is applicable to federal and provincial governments and governmental organizations, not to private individuals or non-governmental organizations.
Organizations that employ people are already bound by provincial labour laws and provincial human rights codes. All provincial human rights codes allow non-profit and religious organizations to hire employees that fit their organizational mandate and ethos. For example, under provincial human rights codes, religious organizations such as churches, religious camps, and religious schools are allowed to hire only individuals who share their faith commitments. That is, a faith commitment that aligns with the organization’s mandate and beliefs is considered a bona fide employment requirement.
The changes in eligibility could impact a wide range of Christian ministries, organizations and programs, including Christian (or other) business persons who may feel that they cannot in good conscience attest to the government’s interpretation of rights and values and who are thus preventing from applying for the grant.
Many religious organizations have used this grant to offer beneficial services and programs to their communities. These changes could diminish their ability to provide these services to their community, and some programs may not be able to proceed. The impact will be broadly felt, not just by religious groups and programs, but by the many Canadians who are served by them.
We are also concerned that the new guidelines would not allow religious charities to hire only students who share their faith.
We believe the new Canada Summer Jobs Grant guidelines violate the fundamental
Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression. Religious organizations that are deemed ineligible because they cannot attest, for example, that they support abortion, will be denied equal access to a government benefit solely because of their religious beliefs.
Further this is a form of compelled speech, contrary to the guaranteed freedoms in s. 2 a and b of the
Charter, that may also affect organizations that are not faith-based, but are unable or unwilling to attest that they agree.
In managing its programs, the government should respect and accommodate the diversity of Canadian society and abide by the
Charter in its treatment of individuals and groups.
The Archdiocese of Toronto has been in touch with elected representatives and government officials regarding this issue. We have also participated in meetings with many faith communities sharing our concerns. Representatives from the Archdiocese of Toronto have also spoken in the media and we have invited concerned Catholics to contact their Member of Parliament to express their deep concerns.