Churches in central see summer student numbers halved
Federal policy change results in fewer applications from religious organizations
Religious organizations in central Newfoundland are feeling the pinch as a result of changes to the Canada Summer Jobs grant program earlier this year.
“There are churches that didn’t participate of all denominations, primarily Catholic and Pentecostal,” said Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame MP Scott Simms.
Simms initially opposed his own party regarding a new federal policy for organizations applying for federal funding for summer students through Canada Summer Jobs. The policy required groups to tick a box stating the organization’s core mandate with respect to women’s reproductive rights, as well as a person’s right to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation, among
“So, as far as the Christian groups are concerned, a lot of them did not apply,” Simms said.
While calculating the exact number of religious groups awarded funding for students
for the summer is difficult, 2018’s numbers appear to be halved compared to 2017, down from roughly 35 organizations to approximately 16.
Some churches or religious organizations who were awarded funding in Simms’ riding declined because of their stance on the requirements, with some saying they applied in error.
The total number of jobs increased for the riding of Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame from 623 in 2017 to 724 in 2018. These jobs were distributed among the same number of groups – 365 – for both years.
“The reason why the higher numbers are there is because there’s so much more money put into the program itself,” Simms said.
He also noted that more small businesses than usual received a student this year. He attributed this more to the increase in funding, and less to the decrease in applications from religious groups.
“The money is still with us so it goes down the line,” he said. “So maybe someone else got that job.”
Even with the increase in jobs, Simms said he remains disappointed with the new attestation.
“There are churches that decided not to apply for jobs for that reason, and I respect them, and I respect their opinion,” he said. “I wish we didn’t have to go through this, but we do, and hopefully it will change next year.”
The Advertiser reached out to representatives of nearly a dozen churches in the riding, some of which received funding and some which did not. Virtually all declined to comment or did not return calls.
Pastor Robert Parsons of the Windsor Pentecostal Church in Grand Falls-Windsor, however, said the new federal requirement prevented his organization from being funded.
“We applied, and we didn’t tick off the box, and we were denied,” he told the Advertiser.
Parsons noted that his church will likely not receive student employment funding in future years, unless changes are made to the policy.
“We did run a summer kids camp the past couple years, and we’re not running it this year,” he said, adding the lack of funding for a summer student was a factor in making that decision.
Salvation Army groups were approved funding for 17 students across the island this year, and Major Rene Loveless, Divisional Secretary for Public Relations and Development, said the Salvation Army respects individual human rights and values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Although our beliefs may differ from others on certain matters, we respect the legal rights afforded to all Canadians,” Loveless said in an email to the Advertiser. “We decided that these new requirements for the Canada Summer Jobs program should not pose a barrier to Salvation Army units who wished to submit funding.”
Loveless and the Salvation Army, however, remain concerned that the wording of the attestation could be interpreted as requiring individuals or organizations to set aside their freedoms of religion, expression, and belief, principles Loveless said are foundational to the Charter.
“To reinforce our position, our Territorial Commander sent two letters outlining our concerns to the federal government,” he said.
Simms’ stance on the policy, which caused him to be removed as chairman of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, remains unchanged.
Simms told the Advertiser in January that he agreed with the intention, but said the execution of the attestation “totally flopped.” He instead suggested having a simple declaration with regards to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Obviously, we’ve got a situation with reproductive rights, and now there’s an attestation,” he said. “Next year there could be something else, followed by another attestation.”
Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame MP Scott Simms