After several weeks of controversy surrounding rule changes for the Canada Summer Jobs grant, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu would not rule out expanding the new requirements to other government employment programs.
Hajdu was asked repeatedly this weekend by The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos if the attestation box being added to the summer jobs application could be replicated on other applications in the future.
The box, when ticked, asserts that the organization asking for funding to help hire summer students does not have a core mandate or job descriptions that conflicts with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or with other fundamental rights enjoyed by Canadians.
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The change was made to help ensure that groups advocating directly against access to abortion or the equality of LGBTQ2 Canadians will not be able to get funding.
”I would say that when we are delivering funding for programs through the Canadian government, we need to be reflective of the rights that Canadians have, and the right for Canadians to (gain) employment experience in a non-discriminatory way,” Hajdu said.
Pressed on whether the Liberal government was ruling out including the box on other funding applications, Hajdu would only say that “right now, we’re very comfortable with where the attestation stands … What I can say is that employers, by and large, should have no problem with the attestation.”
The change to the summer jobs program came after after it was revealed that Liberal and Conservative MPs had approved tens of thousands of dollars in summer job grants to anti-abortion groups in their ridings during the 2016 program.
The new hurdle to qualify for funding has drawn heavy criticism from the Conservative opposition and from religious groups across Canada, who say they could lose their yearly source of funds to help hire summer workers to help run things like church camps.
Hajdu said her government is “profoundly grateful” to faith-based groups and will continue to work very closely with them, but “we know that this attestation will not invalidate most groups in the country.”
It all comes down to the group or organization’s “core” mandate, she noted. Many groups, including religious ones, have varying missions like spreading the word of God, helping the poor, and working to alleviate suffering in their communities. But their core mandate is the key, she said.
If that conflicts with the Charter or with other fundamental rights, Hajdu said, that’s when there can be a problem.
“I don’t think there’s anything conflicting in the statement that an organization’s primary mandate and that the job description (for the student) respect the Charter of Rights and other fundamental rights.”
Each organization will need to make a decision about checking off the attestation box “based on their own comfort level,” the minister added.
– Watch the full interview with minister Patty Hajdu above.