Charities like New Life Prison Ministries and Waupoo Family Farm seek an appropriate response to the new Canada Summer Jobs Program that requires organizations to be pro-abortion in order to receive government funding.

Charities grapple with Canada Summer Jobs policy change

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  • January 15, 2018

Canada’s charities are weighing their response to the Canada Summer Jobs policy change that requires an attestation their organization’s core mandate supports abortion.

While the new policy seems to have been aimed to controversy over Summer Jobs grants going towards prolife groups engaging in anti-abortion activism, it’s attestation affects charities from soup kitchens to summer camps.

“We are being labeled. We are being boxed. We are being told: this is what our agency must believe in,” said Rosemary Redshaw, executive director of New Life Prison Ministries, a Christian charity has hired students in the past to help in the program that runs Bible studies in 111 prisons across the country and assists ex-offenders in re-integrating into the community.

“To make such an attestation goes against our values and our understanding of Scripture,” Redshaw said.

She said she has printed off the application and filled it out with an explanation of why New Life Prison Ministries cannot sign the attestation. She plans to mail it in, along with copies to the prime minister, to Employment Minister Patricia Hajdu, Renshaw’s local MP Bev Shipley and Conservative MP Harold Albrecht, she said.

New Life Prison Ministries has used the grant to hire a total of six students over the past three years to generate a resource database for ex-offenders on available support services and to offer one-on-one support for ex-offenders trying to build new lives.

Waupoos Family Farm, a charity that offers low-income families a vacation and the experience of farm living in the Ottawa Archdiocese, has also used grants from the Canada Summer Jobs program and is considering its response.

Since 2007, they have hired more than 40 students who have coordinated programming, performed maintenance work, supervised the swimming pool and looked after farm animals, said Patrick Brown, Waupoos’ treasurer.

“The board is aware of the policy change and is discussing options internally,” said Brown. “We were established by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate which is a religious order dedicated to serving the poor all around the world.”

Families who come to the farm come from all backgrounds and faiths, as do the students Waupoos has hired under the program.

Citizens for Public Justice, a Christian social justice think tank, is also awaiting direction from its board, said executive director Joe Gunn.

“We did hire an Aboriginal student in the summer of 2016,” he said. “The student did an analysis of our work on reconciliation, our work on poverty and on climate change.

“Last year, we were rejected,” Gunn said. “They don’t tell you why. We wrote to our local MP and got no reply.”

Many Catholic parishes across the country have availed themselves of the Summer Jobs program. “We’ve hired one student a year for the past 10 years,” said Deacon Jeff Le Bane, parish manager of Divine Infant Parish, a large suburban parish in the Ottawa archdiocese.

The student has worked under the direction of their maintenance manager and did work such as painting, and other light maintenance, he said.

As for the policy change, “of course we’re troubled by it,” he said. “To this point we haven’t filed an application.”

“It has caught the attention of some of our parishioners,” Le Bane said. “They’re aware of this issue and some of them are very, very concerned.”

“For us, it has been a very visible program over the past ten years,” he said. “We’ve had very personable summer students from a wide range of backgrounds. Some of them have kept in touch with the parish.”

“When we advertise for the program we get lots and lots of applications. It’s a good summer job opportunity,” he said.

“We have decided to wait until we have direction from the archdiocese, partly because parishioners are concerned about this,” he said.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, the Catholic Civil Rights League, and other organizations have condemned the new Canada Summer Jobs policy as an infringement of Charter rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and equality under the law.

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