Jobs program reworked by feds
Contentious wording in Ottawa’s summer-jobs program that required groups to declare themselves supportive of abortion rights to get funding has been dropped, and new rules put in place to appease faith groups and pro-choice advocates who each fuelled a furor over the policy last year.
Instead, the federal Liberals have retooled the 2019 version of the Canada Summer Jobs program to require applicants to declare they don’t work to infringe on any Canadian’s legal rights.
The program subsidizes wages for summer workers, to encourage small businesses and non-profits to bring on students and others looking for early experience. Wording on the application for the 2018 version of the program required groups to say neither their core mandates nor the jobs being funded actively worked to undermine constitutional, human and reproductive rights.
Informal consultations over the past few months led to the government’s decision to change the wording for the 2019 version of the program.
“It still achieves the same aim of ensuring that groups that are primarily against human rights, like anti-choice groups, are not going to be eligible for funding still, and it appears to satisfy the concerns of religious groups and churches,” said Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.
More changes have been made to the program’s eligibility criteria to disqualify any project or job that tries to restrict a woman’s ability to access sexual or reproductive health services, or that won’t hire people based on their sex, religion, race, ethnic origin, gender identity or gender expression.
Ray Penning, executive vice-president of Cardus — a non-partisan, faith-based think-tank — said questions will likely still be raised of the declaration if it simply says groups will follow the law, which all employers are required to do already.
“Any employer is subject to humanrights codes,” Penning said. “To have an employer check a box — seems a little silly.”