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Bank of China, anti-abortion groups among coronavirus wage subsidy recipients

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The Canadian branch of the Bank of China and anti-abortion groups are among some of the recipients of the federal wage subsidy.

The Canada Revenue Agency on Monday released a searchable registry of the 339,938 businesses, charities and non-profits that applied for and received the wage subsidy so far.

Among them is the Bank of China Canada, a wholly owned subsidiary of one of China’s largest state-owned banks, along with the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition and Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, frequently condemned for their use of graphic campaign material.

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Activities that seek to “actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services” or that “advocate intolerance, discrimination and/or prejudice” are among those deemed ineligible for taxpayer funds through the Canada Summer Jobs program.

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That rule was imposed following outcry after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, which he has repeatedly told voters is pro-choice, was found to be allowing taxpayer dollars to fund student summer jobs aimed at restricting access to abortion.

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It was not immediately clear from the registry how much each entity received through the subsidy.

WE Charity was also listed as being among those receiving the funds.

Global News has requested more details on the amounts issued from the CRA.

A spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government plans to review the program criteria in light of some of the entities accessing the funds.

“Our government’s top priority since the very beginning of this pandemic has been to support Canadian families and workers,” said Katherine Cuplinkas, press secretary for Freeland.

“That’s why the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy is designed to protect jobs, and help employers rehire those who have been laid off. The program applies to businesses of all sizes and across all sectors, to ensure that no worker falls through the cracks.”

“We recognize that some state-owned enterprises have accessed the program to support Canadian workers. Our government will review this issue for future periods.“

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The registry of businesses receiving the wage subsidy is part of a push for transparency around the government program, which as of last week included payments to 368,000 businesses and non-profits.

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For privacy reasons, the agency says the public registry does not include sole proprietors.

The CRA’s announcement notes that it has a separate webpage called CRA Leads for people to report businesses who wrongfully claimed a subsidy.

The wage subsidies are meant to support employee pay cheques at businesses where revenue has dropped, and the CRA says it could make ineligible businesses repay the subsidy plus a penalty, or even imprison fraudsters.

The government estimates the $54 billion in wage subsidy payments have protected about four million jobs, offsetting about half of the negative economic effects of the pandemic on the unemployment rate.

— With files from Global’s Marc-Andre Cossette.

— With files from The Canadian Press.