OTTAWA — The Liberal government has overhauled its summer jobs attestation following an outcry that the 2018 version, which required applicants to attest their “core mandate” respects abortion rights, violated the Charter’s protection of freedom of speech and religion.
The new version of the attestation contains narrower language that says the grants cannot be used to “undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.”
Further on, the application says that “ineligible projects and jobs activities” include any that “actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.”
The text of the new version was released on Friday morning, and is posted in full below. This story will be updated as reaction comes in from religious organizations and other groups who protested last year’s attestation.
There are at least nine ongoing Federal Court challenges over last year’s summer jobs attestation. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 13 to determine whether most of them should be paused while the first one — a challenge from the Toronto Right to Life Association — is resolved.
Lawyers representing the dissenting organizations said they would need to see the language of the 2019 version before they can comment for certain on what it means for their cases.
The 2018 attestation
Last year’s form required applicants 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.”
There was also an Applicant Guide that further spelled out the rationale behind the attestation. “The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights,” the guide says. “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.”
Employment Minister Patty Hajdu insisted that the 2018 attestation only targeted activities. But hundreds of religious groups across the country found the language vague and confusing, and argued they couldn’t sign an attestation that seemed to require them to state a belief that they didn’t hold.
A month after the forms were released, the government issued a clarification of the language in the attestation. This satisfied some religious groups who signed the attestation, but many others still felt they couldn’t sign it.
The 2019 attestation
Below is the 2019 attestation in full, plus the eligibility criteria for employers and projects.
1. I have read, understood and will comply with the Canada Summer Jobs Articles of Agreement;
2. I have all the necessary authorities, permissions and approvals to submit this application on behalf of myself and my organization;
3. The job would not be created without the financial assistance provided under a potential contribution agreement;
4. Any funding under the Canada Summer Jobs program will not be used to undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.
• Members of the House of Commons and the Senate
• Federal Government Departments and Agencies
• Provincial and Territorial Departments and Agencies
• Organizations that engage in partisan political activities
• Organizations that undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada.
Ineligible Projects and Job Activities:
• Projects consisting of activities that take place outside of Canada;
• Activities that contribute to the provision of a personal service to the employer;
• Partisan political activities;
• Fundraising activities to cover salary costs for the youth participant; or
• Projects or job activities that:
– restrict access to program, services, employment or otherwise discriminate, contrary to applicable laws, on the basis of prohibited grounds, including sex, age, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression;
– advocate intolerance, discrimination and/or prejudice; or
– actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.
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