The Federal Court of Canada has dismissed a request by an anti-abortion group suing the government over changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program for an injunction barring the change from applying to applications submitted this year.
In a decision announced Tuesday evening, a judge ruled that the Toronto Right to Life Association did not meet the burden of proof required to qualify for an injunction against a rule, implemented by the government in December, that requires groups seeking funding through the Canada Summer Jobs program to sign an attestation stating that they respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights.
Those include reproductive rights, which the group has argued violate their right to freedom of belief and expression.
A full decision on the underlying challenge to the change has not yet been addressed.
The Canada Summer Jobs program is a vehicle for the federal government to subsidize the wages of businesses that hire youth between the ages of 15 and 30 for summer work.
Following a report by Global News and a series of reports by this reporter demonstrating how anti-abortion groups such as the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform were using the Canada Summer Jobs program to obtain public money for activities like hiring youth to display graphic placards of aborted fetuses, the government announced it would change the program by requiring employers to attest that they want to hire youth while respecting the rights of Canadians.
Conservative religious groups quickly accused the government of violating their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by requiring them to sign the attestation in order to submit an application for funding.
But this weekend, a group of more than 80 Canadian pro-choice and human rights groups signed an open letter coordinated by Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights and the National Association of Women and Law to federal leaders.
In it, the groups – including Oxfam Canada, YMCA Canada, and Egale Canada – applauded the decision to implement the attestation and stressed it does not force the groups that do not feel they can sign it to perform anything they do not want to, since there is no inherent right to federal grants.
The deadline for applications for funding under the 2018 Canada Summer Jobs program is Feb. 2. In her her ruling Tuesday evening, Federal Court Justice Martine St.-Louis said the Toronto Right to Life Association had failed to meet the three criteria laid out to request an emergency injunction against the change.
Those criteria are that applicants prove that a serious issue has been raised in their underlying application, that they will suffer irreparable harm if the stay is not granted, and that the balance of convenience, which examines the harm to the applicants and the respondent, as well as the public interest, favours them.
“First, on the serious issue, I do not agree with the parties on the applicable threshold,” St.-Louis wrote in what could signal a serious problem for the potential of the challenge itself.
She continued, however, noting that given she was ruling that the group also did not meet the other two criteria, she would “assume without deciding that a serious issue exists.”
She then went on to note that the Toronto Right to Life Association had not submitted “clear and convincing evidence” that they would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction were not to be granted, before also stating that it would be Employment Minister Patty Hajdu and the public interest that would suffer greater harm from the granting of a stay than would the group if their request was denied.