Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Abortion Rights Advocate Calls for More Clarity on Summer Jobs Program

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Abortion Rights Advocate Calls for More Clarity on Summer Jobs Program

Article excerpt

Summer jobs flap needs more clarity: advocate

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OTTAWA - A reproductive rights advocate who urged the Liberals to deny summer job grants to groups pushing for restricted access to abortion said the government may have gone a step too far in rolling out the changes.

Joyce Arthur, executive director of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, said she supports what she believes was the government's primary goal: targeting organizations that would hire students to undermine reproductive rights, or discriminate against the LGBTQ community.

"They are not interested in stopping churches or whatever," Arthur said. "It's really all about anti-choice groups or anti-LGBT groups."

Faith-based organizations are welcome to seek federal funding to create summer jobs for youth, the government says, but they are being asked to attest to their respect for sexual and reproductive rights -- including "the right to access safe and legal abortions" -- as well as other human rights.

That stipulation applies not only to the job activity, but the core mandate of the organization.

The change to the Canada Summer Jobs program, which created nearly 69,000 jobs in 2017, stems from a controversy last year when officials approved tens of thousands of dollars for groups opposing abortion -- a fact Arthur and her national political advocacy organization helped bring to light.

But Arthur said she thinks the message is getting lost, thanks to vague language that has faith-based groups fearful that the government is treading on fundamental freedoms of conscience, religion and thought guaranteed by the charter.

Many churches and other religious groups say that forces them to choose between their spiritual values and funding that helps run soup kitchens, shelters and other activities that have nothing to do with abortion.

"If there is a confusion in the wording, then that is a problem I think that they should look at and hopefully fix," Arthur said. "There should be some way of doing it without raising the ire of all these other religious groups."

Arthur wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Employment Minister Patty Hajdu last week, recommending the government clarify the wording on its website, both to "correct the confusions" and "mitigate the effects of any lawsuits. …

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