London bishop urges boycott of Canada summer jobs program

Anti-abortion groups are angry that the federal government requires groups applying for Canada Summer Jobs grants to affirm support for reproductive rights. Liny Lamberink/AM980 London

The head of the regional Catholic Church is taking issue with a condition in the Canada Summer Jobs Grant (CSJG) program that requires applications to attest support for reproductive rights, which includes the right to access safe and legal abortion.

As a result, Bishop Ronald Fabbro says the diocese won’t apply for the grant money and he’s urging other religious groups to do the same. The boycott also applies to Catholic parishes that run summer camps and other programs that employ students.

READ MORE: Canada Summer Jobs attestation endorsed by 80 Canadian rights groups

“I believe that we need to take a stand against the position of the government of Canada and say that we will not be bullied into even the appearance of collusion on this issue. While others may take an alternative path, we can make a powerful statement by saying ‘no’ to the conditions as set down by the government,” Fabbro wrote Tuesday, in an open letter to 118 parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of London.

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“I have decided, therefore, that we, as the people of the Diocese of London, not make application or accept any monies from the CSJG program. We ask that the government remove or change the attestation, which is a regrettable infringement of freedom of conscience and religion, of thought and belief, of opinion and expression, as guaranteed in the Charter. ”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have come under fire from some for the attestation, with hundreds of churches and faith groups who hire summer help saying they feel they’re being forced to sign a statement that runs against their beliefs.

Religious groups typically rely on the grants to hire help for summer camps, daycares, drop-in centres and other programs.

READ MORE: Evangelical Christian leaders attack ‘communistic’ changes to Canada Summer Jobs program

In the letter, Fabbro says they will look at other options to raise the necessary money.

“Without this program, many wonderful opportunities could be lost. This, however, is a target that I believe we could reach, to keep these programs going. I am asking that we take up a special collection throughout the diocese in the month of February.”

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Last year, groups in the London area received close to $4 million through the program.

Nationwide, the summer employment grants fund about 70,000 placements for students.

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