We would like to take a moment to provide you with the latest update regarding the recent controversy surrounding the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program. In previous years City Centre has received funding to hire students during the summer to assist in various job roles. This has been a great blessing for both the students and our church. However, in 2018 the Government of Canada has made it obligatory for any organization applying for job grants to agree with liberal ideology in order to receive funding. In short, apart from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom every organization must also agree to support both abortion and LGBT rights. The following is an excerpt from the CSJ Applicant Guide:

“CSJ applicants will be required to attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies.”

This is clearly contrary to God’s Word, and as Barry Bussey (CCCC Director of Legal Affairs) recently noted it is additionally problematic for the following reasons:

• it is vaguely written, being open to a number of interpretations.

• it appears to suggest that charities are responsible for applying the Charter in their workplace as if they were government actors, which they are not.

• it introduces a new values test for government support. No one should ever have to agree with government opinions to access government programming.

The Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC), which represents 3,400 organizations, says it has been slammed with phone calls and emails about the new application form. Also, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) says it’s heard from 160 churches and organizations so far who are disturbed about the attestation and aren’t sure if they can send in a Canada Summer Jobs application this year. In response to the backlash, the government sought to alleviate opposition by issuing “supplementary information”. However, this did not satisfy the criticism because their definitions only created further confusion while keeping the attestation in place.

After consultation City Centre has proceeded to apply for the funding while refusing to agree with the attestation, and our application has since been rejected. We are continuing to correspond with both CSJ and our MP. Many individuals from our congregation have also expressed their concerns to their local Members of Parliament. Protests from many organizations are continuing to be largely ignored, as recently exemplified by the Federal Court’s ruling against The Right to Life Association who were seeking an injunction against the government on this issue.

It is worthwhile to note that not only religious groups have objected to this policy. There are many across the political and social spectrum who also recognize the problem, including Paula Simons of the Edmonton Journal: “I’m a pro-choice feminist. But I find myself deeply disturbed by a new federal rule that says any small business or not-for-profit group applying for a Canada Summer Jobs grant must first “attest” to their support for legal access to abortion. Where does that leave groups like Catholic Social Services or the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers or other faith-based social service agencies that do vital work in our communities? And where does that leave respect for the Charter itself?” (January 17, 2018)

On March 19 the House of Commons will continue this debate and a vote will be called. In the meantime, City Centre is asking our church family to pray for religious freedom in Canada to be protected and respected, that the government would repeal the attestation, and for God to be glorified. There are other ways you can help:

• You can contact your local Member of Parliament before the March 19 vote in the House of Commons to request that he or she vote against the attestation. To find out who your Member of Parliament is and how to contact them go to http://www.ourcommons.ca/parliamentarians