Churches in cen­tral see sum­mer stu­dent num­bers halved

Fed­eral pol­icy change re­sults in fewer ap­pli­ca­tions from re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions

The Pilot - - Front Page - BY JOR­DAN MALONEY

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

other things.

“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.”

FILE PHOTO

Coast of Bays-Cen­tral-Notre Dame MP Scott Simms

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