Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tackled the controversy about funding for the summer jobs program and anti-abortion groups head on Wednesday night.
During a town hall in Winnipeg, a person called out a question about the new rules for federal grants for companies that want to hire students, which is cracking down on anti-abortion groups.
Trudeau said he would take the question, even though it wasn’t an official one.
Trudeau began by praising religious organizations for their efforts.
WATCH: Highlights from Justin Trudeau’s town hall in Winnipeg
“Faith groups, churches, religious organizations. All these have done, and will continue to do, an extraordinary job of offering community services,” Trudeau explained.
He said that most of the religious organizations will still continue to receive federal funding for summer jobs.
“There will still be all sorts of Canada jobs students working in religious summer camps, in community organizations linked to churches. That is something we value and celebrate and need in this society,” he said.
But then he clarified the Liberal government’s position and why they felt the need to change the summer jobs policy.
“However there are certain groups that are specifically dedicated to fighting abortion rights for women and rights for LGBT communities and that is wrong,” Trudeau explained. “That is certainly not something the federal government should be funding: to roll back the clock on women’s rights.
“We will stand up for women’s rights. We will defend women’s rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community.
The controversy cropped up after the Liberal government changed the rules for federal funding in Dec. 2017.
Under the new rules, organizations must check off a box in their online application that contains an attestation stating that both their core mandate and the job they want to use federal funds to fill, both respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights and associated case law.
That includes reproductive rights – which some companies have taken exception too.
Christian groups have also come out against the new rules, saying their own rights to freedom of belief were being violated, and one religious group has already filed an application to take the issue to court.