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Canadian government refuses to change summer jobs application

March 29, 2018 No Comment

In previous years, the Canada Summer Jobs program has provided funding for someone to organize Bethany Lutheran Church’s participation in Campbell River’s Canada Day festivities.

OTTAWA – Leaders representing Canada’s Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities issued a joint statement in response to the Liberal government’s ongoing requirement that applicants for the annual Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program agree to an “attestation” stating that the organization’s “core mandate” conforms with the current government’s interpretation of Charter rights that includes “reproductive rights.” The attestation has been described as a “values test.”

The open letter reports that “in spite of our ongoing efforts at dialogue with the government, which culminated in a meeting with Minister Hajdu on Wednesday, March 21, and our persistent requests that the problematic attestation be amended or removed, it has been made clear to us by the Minister that there will be no accommodation provided, and no changes made to the attestation for this year.”

In January, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) President Rev. Timothy Teuscher joined 80 other Canadian faith leaders in signing a letter to the Prime Minister asking for an amendment to the guidelines and application.

The government’s Employment Ministry rejected a proposed rewording for the 2018 attestation that would read: “My organization complies with all laws to which we are subject, including all applicable human rights laws and labour/employment laws, and will use the Canada Summer Jobs grant only for the activities stated in our application. My organization recognizes that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.”

This year more than 1400 applications have been rejected compared with 126 in 2017. LCC’s Vice-president, Rev. Thomas Kruesel, who is pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Campbell River, B.C., received an email describing the congregation’s application as “incomplete” because it did not include checking the attestation. The pastor sent an updated application explaining why the church could not agree with the attestation and the congregation has not received any further communication. “We haven’t had a formal rejection yet. We are still hopeful, but realistic,” Pastor Kruesel reported.

For 14 out of the past 16 years Bethany has employed a student to run various summer outreach programs including its VBS program, organizing two booths at the Canada Day Children’s Festival, youth and Kid’s Club activities, visiting seniors, undertaking environmental stewardship projects, assisting with church camp-out activities, and participating in aspects of worship as appropriate.

“It is invaluable to give young people the opportunity to explore a vocation within a congregational setting,” says the pastor. “We see it as a service we provide to the student, the community and the church-at-large.” Pastor Kruesel noted that some former summer students have pursued church work vocations as a result of their experiences.

If the CSJ application is totally rejected Bethany will need to find the funding within the congregation, a situation the faith leaders addressed in the letter. “These groups must now consider modifying or cancelling programs, while others will be forced to launch emergency fundraising campaigns. It is disheartening to think that this whole situation could have been avoided.”

The Employment Minister told the Huffington Post the attestation may be modified in 2019, but the program will still refuse funding to organizations actively opposing abortion rights.