Canada has a neat government-sponsored initiative, the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program, which offers subsidies to groups that create summer jobs for students. Any organization, including small businesses, non-profits, and churches, can apply for the grant money, as long as they fulfill all the necessary requirements.
A lot of churches have been taking advantage of these subsidies for years as a way to get students to help out with summer Bible camps — and that’s a perfectly acceptable reason to get the grants — but a change to the application process is causing a lot of controversy.
The problem? Canada requires all recipients to respect human rights.
CSJ applicants will be required to attest that both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. 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.
The employer attestation for CSJ 2018 is consistent with individual human rights in Canada, Charter rights and case law, and the Government of Canada’s commitment to human rights, which include women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of gender-diverse and transgender Canadians.
The government recognizes that women’s rights are human rights. This includes sexual and reproductive rights — and the right to access safe and legal abortions. These rights are at the core of the Government of Canada’s foreign and domestic policies.
You can see the problem right there. A lot of Bible-believing Christians have no desire to respect the autonomy of women. That means they can’t apply for the money, and that means their Bible camps are in jeopardy.
Religious groups such as the Southern Alberta Bible Camp say they can’t agree to that.
“We don’t believe that abortion is right and we’re being told that in order to be able to access these grants we need to affirm that,” said Jon Gartly, executive director of the SABC.
According to Gartly, the SABC stands to forego approximately $40,000 in funding for around six summer counsellor positions if they cannot access Canada Summer Jobs funding. The Southern Alberta Bible Camp is planning to apply without including the affirmation on reproductive rights. If not, the camp will privately fundraise to make up the shortfall.
Yes, how dare the government insist that groups receiving taxpayer money treat women with dignity instead of like property…?
The fact is these Christian summer camps can still get the money even if they hold anti-abortion beliefs, as long as the summer camps themselves aren’t promoting women-as-chattel bigotry. If they’re simply teaching Bible stories, they likely aren’t violating the rules, and they’re eligible for the cash. For that reason, Canadian officials are encouraging them to apply.
But receiving the money would suggest the groups agree that women deserve rights, and it’s unclear how many of these churches would be okay with that insinuation. They wouldn’t want to tarnish their reputation, you know.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t seem to feel bad for the religious groups during a speech last week:
“An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion and the rights for women to control their own bodies is not in line with where we are as a government and quite frankly where we are as a society,” said Trudeau.
Wow. A national leader who cares more about protecting women than hurting the feelings of religious bigots. That must be nice.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Prateek for the link)