Legal challenge over summer jobs clause 
Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 07:59PM
TAP

Barry Bussey (Photo: CCCC)

(Staff)  LAST YEAR the Canada Summer Jobs program distributed $204 million to create 69,000 jobs (roughly $3,000 per job) for young people, many of whom would use the money to finance their education in the fall. This year employers had to check a box on the application form affirming that their “core mandate” supports abortion as a human right and “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression“ and “the rights of gender diverse and transgender Canadians.”

Critics of the policy say it is an ideological litmus test that discriminates against faith-based organizations and individuals who hold certain moral beliefs and thus violates freedom of conscience. Most groups whether they be secular, Christian, Muslim or Jewish were not satisfied with government assurances that what they do, not what they believe, is at issue.

The Canadian Press reported a 12-fold increase in rejection rates since last year, with the government refusing funding to more than 1,500 organizations.  

On March 19th when a Conservative motion was presented in Parliament to exempt certain groups from the attestation, the motion was defeated by a vote of 207-93.

Yet it would seem that the legal battle over the Canada Summer Jobs attestation is only just beginning.

On Apr. 27th new documents in an ongoing Federal Court challenge were filed by the Toronto Right to Life Association arguing that the government’s evidence shows it conducted itself in bad faith.

Third-party groups are also joining the fray, with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association seeking to join the challenge against the government, and the pro-choice Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights already approved as an intervenor on the government’s side.

And now that the funding decisions have been made, a floodgate on litigation could open from rejected groups.

“We are definitely in discussion with legal counsel and we have twenty-plus charities right now that are wanting to be part of a legal challenge,” said Barry Bussey, legal affairs director for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities.

In the Federal Court case, which was filed in January and challenges the decision to include the attestation, the government argues it is simply setting its funding priorities in support of its public position on women’s rights.

In January Employment Minister Patty Hajdu had told the media that “last year we heard a whole bunch of complaints from citizens across Canada and organizations” about anti-abortion groups.

However, the affidavit filed by Rachel Wernick, a senior assistant deputy minister with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), disclosed that the complaints in fact all came from one pro-choice lobby group. Of the six examples Wernick included with her affidavit, all but one are a form letter from the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, while the other links to a press release from that coalition. During cross-examination, Wernick said she couldn’t speak to whether the complaints were investigated for merit.

Toronto Right to Life is already contesting the attestation on the grounds it violates their Charter rights to freedom of conscience, expression, and to be treated equally under the law. They are now seeking to additionally argue Wernick’s evidence shows the government made its decision “with an improper purpose, bias, on irrelevant considerations, and in bad faith.”

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it won’t be arguing the government doesn’t have the right to set funding priorities.

“Instead, the BCCLA would take the position that the mechanism the [government] chose to employ in this case – the attestation of holding certain beliefs – would, in the BCCLA’s view, attach an unconstitutional condition that is unrelated to the program.”

A Federal Court judge will rule on their intervenor status, and on whether Toronto Right to Life can add grounds of complaint. The case as a whole has a hearing set for June 19, but that could be delayed.   TAP

Sources: The Interim, The National Post

Article originally appeared on The Anglican Planet (http://anglicanplanet.net/).
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