Over 80 Religious Groups Urge Trudeau to Reverse Pro-Abortion, Pro-LGBT Summer Jobs Grants Rules

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, February 8, 2016.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Canada, February 8, 2016. | (Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie)

A diverse coalition of over 80 religious groups have released an official statement addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to reverse a government policy restricting summer jobs grants to businesses that are pro-choice and pro-LGBT.

The Interfaith Statement, which was released Thursday, called for the government to amend the Canada Summer Jobs guidelines so that faith-based organizations that hold moral objections to abortion and homosexuality are allowed to participate.

"The promise of a free and democratic society is that there be no religious or ideological tests or conditions to receiving government benefits or protection," reads the statement.

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"The changes to the Canada Summer Jobs guidelines and application not only violate the fundamental freedoms of faith-based organizations, they also significantly impact the broader communities served by their programs, often the most vulnerable in Canadian society."

The statement went on to cite Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in justifying the removal of the new Summer Jobs provisions.

"In managing its programs, the government should respect and accommodate the diversity of values and beliefs within Canadian society and must itself abide by the Charter in its treatment of individuals and groups," noted the statement.

"The fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion, thought, belief, opinion and expression, as guaranteed in the Charter, must be respected and affirmed in legislation, regulations and policy."

Signers of the statement include Adriana Bara, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism; Mouhammad Iqbal Nadvi, chair of the Canadian Council of Imams; Cliff Fletcher, bishop of The Free Methodist Church in Canada; Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, executive member of the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus; Archbishop Shane B. Janzen of The Anglican Catholic Church of Canada; and Evangelical Fellowship of Canada President Bruce Clemenger.

In a press conference unveiling the statement on Thursday, Clemenger said the interfaith coalition wanted "to ensure that Canadians continue to benefit from the collaboration between government and faith-based organizations, working together for the common good of our country."

"We are unable to give non-negotiable, unqualified affirmation to undefined values and other rights," said Clemenger, as quoted by CTV News.

"At the risk of losing funding or programs themselves that benefit so many Canadians, the government has placed us in an untenable situation."

The Canadian government recently issued a rule stipulating that applicants for the Canada Summer Jobs grant had to attest to specific views, in order to qualify.

Patricia A. Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, said in a statement that she was comfortable with requiring the grant applicants to check a box stating they have a "core mandate" which respects "reproductive rights [abortion]." Unless that box is checked, the online application cannot be submitted for consideration.

"In terms of church groups that are concerned that this may invalidate them from funding, in fact, my perspective is that it won't, as long as their core mandate agrees with those hard won rights and freedoms that Canadians expect us to stand up for," said Hajdu.

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