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Canada Summer Jobs: Preserve Services for Marginalized People

If you’re a Christian in Canada, you’ve likely heard by now about the Canada Summer Jobs controversy. Many churches are concerned about new rules for federal funding for student summer jobs. Kate Kooyman chatted with Mike Hogeterp of the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue to learn more about the controversy and how CRC people can respond.

Kate: What exactly changed in Canada?

Mike: A program called Canada Summer Jobs, which puts thousands of public dollars toward summer employment opportunities for students—especially in social service fields—saw a recent huge change.

The government decided that anyone getting those funds (a church, summer camp, a non-profit, etc) must check off a box in their online application stating (an “attestation”) that both their core mandate and the job they want to fund using federal funds will respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and reproductive rights (abortion). (The Charter has been part of Canada’s constitution since 1982, but it doesn’t explicitly name reproductive rights.)

It has been said that the government introduced this ‘attestation’ requirement because of media reports last summer that “radical pro-life groups” were using CSJ funding.

Kate: Why are churches (and other religious organizations) so concerned?

Mike: We’ve heard directly from a number of Christian Reformed churches whose federal funding is in jeopardy due to this attestation requirement. This means that some great youth community engagement programs—many of which have run for years—are at risk of cancellation this summer.

National Christian organizations like the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Council of Christian Charities have also expressed concerns that the attestation restricts the religious freedom of churches who are committed to the sanctity of human life (this includes the CRCNA).

We’ve heard directly from a number of Christian Reformed churches whose federal funding is in jeopardy due to this attestation requirement.

Tying a ‘values test’ (the attestation) of a disputed perspective on rights to a public benefit (a CSJ grant) is not normal in Canada—even pro-choice groups in Canada have questioned the wisdom of it. Many organizations across religious lines have expressed concerns about this problematic approach to selecting the charities that will be eligible for CSJ funding.

Kate: How does this impact people who are poor?

Mike: This money has supported a lot of essential work among marginalized communities. Some students spend their summer participating in nutrition programs—like food banks or soup kitchens. Others help refugee neighbours, or offer kids access to a camp experience who can’t afford it otherwise. Many of those opportunities are threatened by this change, especially if they’re connected to a church or religious community.

This money has supported a lot of work among marginalized communities.

So the people who are the recipients of these programs are impacted if they go away—and so are the students who get these work experiences. Many Christian students can give testimony to the ways their faith, their passions, and their sense of calling were shaped by a summer experience among those who are poor or marginalized.

Kate: What's the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue recommending?

Mike: Charities couldn’t submit the online application unless they checked the attestation box. So, following the lead of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, we were encouraging churches who wanted to apply to print out the online application and attach a carefully worded explanation of why they could not, in good conscience, check the attestation box.

Unfortunately, we’ve learned that churches and other charities who have done this have had their applications returned to them marked “incomplete.” Despite widespread public outcry, the government has not budged on this requirement. They’ve said that charities don’t need to be concerned unless their core mission concerns anti-abortion activism, but many Christian charities still don’t feel that they can check the attestation box in good conscience.

We encourage citizens to ask their Member of Parliament to support the motion before the vote on March 19.

The Official Opposition party in Parliament has submitted a motion concerning the attestation, which will be voted on March 19. We’ve worked with the Canadian Council of Christian Charities to make it easy for Christian citizens to speak up in support of this motion. We appreciate the constructive approach of this motion and encourage citizens to ask their Member of Parliament to support the motion before the vote on March 19.

Speak up here


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