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Government clarifies 'core mandate' in Canada Summer Jobs grant, but attestation remains unchanged

OTTAWA — Employment Minister Patty Hajdu is looking to defuse the controversy over the Canada Summer Jobs program, as her office clarifies the terms used in the attestation, and puts in calls to faith-based groups concerned their religious freedom is at stake.

But the wording on the application form itself is unchanged, and one group who received a call from Hajdu says the attestation remains “unacceptable.”

Groups applying for the Canada Summer Jobs grant this year are required to attest that both the job and the organization’s “core mandate” respect reproductive rights, among other rights. The 2018 application guide says this includes “the right to access safe and legal abortions.”

It has become a battle of definitions and interpretation, with the government insisting it is not asking groups to attest about their beliefs and values, only their activities. Religious groups, however, say their core mandate is inseparable from their beliefs and values.

Hajdu hit the phones on Monday, calling the ‎Canadian Council of Christian Charities, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the United Church of Canada.

“I have reached out to many of the religious leaders across the country … and spoken to them about how we got to this place and the decision that we’ve taken, encouraged them to work with their individual organizations and churches across the country to let them know that this is about the activities of the organization and the job description,” she said on Tuesday morning.

Also on Tuesday — and roughly a month after the application period opened on Dec. 19 — the government posted a new document called “Supplementary Information” about the grant program, and it includes a definition of core mandate: “This is the primary activities undertaken by the organization that reflect the organization’s ongoing services provided to the community. It is not the beliefs of the organization, and it is not the values of the organization.”

It also says “respect” means the activities “do not seek to remove or actively undermine these existing rights.”

The document outlines five hypothetical examples of organizations who might be applying. “A faith-based organization with anti-abortion beliefs applies for funding to hire students to serve meals to the homeless … This organization would be eligible to apply,” it says.

“A summer camp submits an application to hire students as camp counsellors,” says another example. “However, the camp does not welcome LGBTQ2 young people. The camp is not eligible to apply.”

Source: National Post