By Hon. Kevin Sorenson, M.P. Battle River-Crowfoot)
The submission deadline for the 2018 Canada Student Summer Job Programs funding applications was February 9th. While the deadline may have passed, the protest against the attestation or “values test” is far from over.
The Summer Jobs Program provides funding for full-time summer jobs for students between the ages of 15 and 30. Not-for-profit organizations, public-sector employees and small businesses with 50 or fewer employees are eligible to apply. Not-for-profit organizations can receive up to 100 percent while public-sector employers and small businesses can receive up to 50 percent of the provincial/territorial minimum hourly wage, as well as employment-related costs.
This year, Service Canada imposed a new requirement for applicants to sign an “attestation” that their core mandate respects individual human rights in Canada including 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.
Churches and other faith based organizations are challenging having to publicly affirm “values” that are contrary to their conscience. Counties and municipalities are joining this protest and unfortunately, as a result many students may have difficulties finding local jobs this summer..
On January 24th, 2018 I received an email from one, municipal administrator in which they stated “I will not attest to the support of reproductive rights as a condition to funding for this grant. It is our view that attesting to this condition has nothing to do with our operations. Also, it is our position, that attesting to this is contrary to the right to have a free personal and moral belief and has no place as a condition to funding in our great country.”
Our Conservative party supports this view as we fundamentally believe that all Canadians should be treated equally by their government, regardless of their faith or conscience. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer recently stated “I believe that the federal government should respect the freedoms that Canadians enjoy to have different beliefs and that by imposing the personal values of Justin Trudeau on a wide variety of groups is not an appropriate way to go.” Trudeau’s values test simply has no place in a tolerant, multicultural society such as Canada. The Prime Minister talks a lot about respecting diversity, but his actions tell a very different story.
I am very concerned about those students who will be denied the opportunity to work for faith based organizations including summer bible camps as well as counties and municipalities who share this objection. This summer, many students in Southern Alberta and throughout the country will not be able to learn important workplace values such as team work, respect, work ethic, and dedication or acquire mechanical and managerial skills. And, as one municipal administrator pointed out, these students will also fail to obtain “the financial means to help them advance their academic achievements or put towards their day to day expenses.”
I thank these municipal administrators as well as everyone else who has contacted me to state their opposition. You can be assured that I will continue to fight for those being unfairly targeted and insist on fair and equitable access to federal programs and services. To that end, I would appreciate knowing about any other municipalities, small businesses or not-for-profit organizations, particularly faith-based organizations that are denied funding this summer for failing to provide the attestation.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this or previous columns you may write me at 4945-50th Street, Camrose, Alberta, T4V 1P9, call 780-608-4600, toll-free 1-800-665-4358, fax 780-608-4603 or e-mail Kevin.Sorenson.firstname.lastname@example.org