More than 1,550 applications were rejected for grant money through the Canada Summer Jobs program this year because of “issues” related to a controversial new box on the form, according to the federal government.
The summer jobs grants provide taxpayer dollars to groups across the country that want to hire summer students.
Under rules introduced last winter, organizations must check off a box on their application confirming that both their “core mandate” and the job they want to use federal money to fill respect 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,” notes the application.
The Liberals said the new requirement was designed to weed out groups who were using the money to pay students to do things like distributing graphic anti-abortion pamphlets.
But some faith-based groups, backed by the Conservatives in the House of Commons, have said they can’t check the box without violating their beliefs surrounding abortion or LGBTQ communities. They’ve argued that the government has no business forcing its own ideology on them.
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Documents tabled last week in the House of Commons confirmed that Ottawa received a total of 42,708 applications for summer jobs money this year. Of those, 1,559 applications (just under 3.7 per cent) were rejected specifically because of “issues related to the attestation.” The government noted that some groups applied more than once.
The total rejections linked to the attestation had been estimated at about 1,400 back in March.
Some groups had not checked the box at all, while others had “modified” the wording about respecting rights before checking it.
Another 124 applications were rejected for other reasons, like an incomplete business number, a late application, or a business that was the wrong size (likely too large).
The Employment and Social Development Canada website shows hundreds of churches among the employers who were approved for funding this year, along with faith-based camps.
A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada noted that “this year, more than 3,000 employers are actually first-time funding recipients under the program. All told, the number of jobs (funded) is still double what it was under the Conservatives.”
The total number of rejections for 2018 is still, however, much higher than last year, before the new box was introduced. In 2017, only 126 applications (out of a total pool of 41,961) were declared ineligible.
Still, the government has not wavered from its position. Labour Minister Patty Hajdu reiterated in late April that “Canadians expect us to be thoughtful about how we run programs, and that we make sure that especially for these first jobs for kids, that they are with organizations that respect the fundamental rights of Canadians and don’t ask them to do things that are essentially looking to undermine those rights.”
The deadline to apply for funding this summer was Feb. 9, 2018.
– With files from the Canadian Press