University of St. Michael’s College (USMC) President David Mulroney has criticized the federal government’s cuts to Canada Summer Jobs funding for groups that oppose abortion rights.
In a blog post published on February 1 titled “Catholic Social Teaching: A pre-Lenten Reflection,” Mulroney wrote, “Canada’s federal government seems intent on making support for its pro-abortion policies a litmus test for entry into the public square. The latest affront is the requirement that institutions applying for funding under the Canada Summer Jobs Grant program attest that their core beliefs align with government policies that include support for abortion.”
The Canada Summer Jobs Grant program provides wage subsidies to help employ secondary and post-secondary students throughout the summer. The program welcomes applicants from small businesses, non-profit employers, public sector, and faith-based employers, according to Employment and Social Development Canada.
Employment Minister Patty Hajdu released a statement in April 2017 saying that anti-abortion groups would no longer receive funding in constituencies represented by Liberal MPs. Hajdu’s statement followed a report published by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada that detailed the extent to which federal funding was going toward anti-abortion groups. MPs determine where funding goes in their constituency, including the Canada Summer Jobs grant.
After Hajdu’s statement, the federal government added a mandatory attestation that applicants of the grant in all constituencies must sign. “Both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada… 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.”
Mulroney praised the strong reaction from faith groups, including USMC Chancellor Thomas Collins who, during a meeting of multi-faith leaders at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church on January 25, highlighted the value of faith-based organizations in their contributions to their communities through summer jobs. The Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto could see as many 150 summer jobs affected by the new attestation requirement.
According to Mulroney, USMC hasn’t used the Canada Summer Jobs program since 2015, and he remarked that given the new requirement to sign the attestation, it “will almost certainly not be able to use it in the future.”
“The government’s suggested work-around, that institutions simply assume that the requirement for attestation doesn’t apply to them, is unacceptable to a Catholic university on a number of counts,” wrote Mulroney. “First, this sends a terrible message to our students, whom we daily counsel to live their values to the fullest. Second, holding our noses and signing makes us both complicit and foolish, particularly if we comfort ourselves that this is a rare and not-to-be repeated assault on our values. There is a pattern developing here.”
During a town hall in Winnipeg on January 31, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the summer jobs funding issue. “There are certain groups that are specifically dedicated to fighting abortion rights for women and rights for LGBT communities and that is wrong,” said Trudeau. “That is certainly not something the federal government should be funding: to roll back the clock on women’s rights.”