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Summer Jobs Program

Honourable senators, as we prepare to depart this place for the summer, I want to draw attention to the hundreds of children who will not be able to go to camp this summer — children living in poverty, children with special needs — because the organizations running the camps were refused funding from the federal government.

More than 1,500 applications were rejected for the Canada Summer Jobs program this year — up from just 126 last year — because of the government’s values test. If you were unwilling to sign an attestation indicating you agree with abortion, your application was rejected.

I’m a Catholic, and in my archdiocese of Toronto, at least 150 jobs have been jeopardized by this attestation. According to Cardinal Collins, among those most impacted are a summer camp for deaf children, employment for developmentally challenged young people and students welcoming newcomers to Canada.

Other faith groups in the Jewish and Islamic communities are similarly affected. Bernadette Sharpe, Chief of the Loon River First Nation in Alberta, says some Indigenous groups have also been denied funding because they refused to sign the attestation.

The great irony of this misguided decision is that the government appears perfectly willing to violate the Charter rights of people of faith on the grounds that it claims to be upholding the Charter right to abortion. As you know, colleagues, the Charter grants us freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and belief. There is a strong legal case that demanding that groups violate their fundamental beliefs in order to receive funding is a violation of their Charter rights.

And there is no corresponding right to abortion. In fact, the Supreme Court invited Parliament to pass another abortion law when it struck down the existing law in the Morgentaler decision.

The ones who will suffer are the young people who work for these organizations and the citizens these programs help. Thank you.

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