Churches and religious groups across the country are struggling over what to do with a confusing clause in the Canada Summer Jobs application that seems to require them to endorse access to abortions in order to get funding.
The new “attestation” on the grant application is aimed at anti-abortion groups who have received the federal grants in the past. It requires stating that your organization’s core mandate respects “reproductive rights,” along with other human rights, and the online application can’t be submitted unless the box is checked.
But hundreds of churches, charities, day camps and other religious organizations who hire students for summer programming are upset about the attestation, saying they feel like they’re being forced to sign a statement that goes against their beliefs.
“As a small Christian church that was planning to apply for the Canada Summer Jobs program to offer a summer internship, the recent changes have been quite a shock and disappointment,” said Brad Jones, the pastor at Woodgreen Presbyterian Church in Calgary.
He said their church has sponsored three Syrian refugees and offers a free English-as-a-second-language cafe to the community. “And yet, because of our commitment to the sanctity of life and to biblical teachings, our government is discriminating against us,” he said.
“The very groups that the Liberal government claims to care about — students, refugees, children and people in need — will all lose because of these changes.”
Rosemary Redshaw, the executive director of Ontario-based New Life Prison Ministries, a Christian organization that works with inmates, says she can’t sign the attestation because of her own beliefs and those of her organization, and thus can’t apply for the grant this year.
“We have had extremely successful summer placements of students of all backgrounds,” she said. “We will feel the loss of students this summer.”