Summer jobs grants update
by Jack Taylor
By now, organizations have applied, or not applied, for the summer jobs grants (deadline January 25th).
The poke in the eye worked. Churches all over Canada woke up when the Summer Jobs program set up a values test with an attestation statement that tied them to support for the government’s pro-abortion stance. Charter rights on conscience, thought, belief and expression came into play. Over 1,500 organizations who refused to sign were deemed ineligible to receive government funding and were thus rejected. Nine Federal Court challenges arose to contest the attestation.
The government, and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu in particular, seemed surprised by the backlash. She continued to insist that the language of the attestation did not compel people of faith to violate their values. After consultations, the minister revised the 2019 requirements, claiming that she was standing up for the rights of Canadians plus being sensitive to the concerns of faith-based groups.
The new version says that the grants cannot be used to “undermine or restrict the exercise of rights legally protected in Canada” but it still declares as ineligible any job that “actively works to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.” Employers must ensure there is no discrimination “on the basis of prohibited grounds, including sex, genetic characteristics, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
As of December 13, 2018, there are new realities at play. Now, employers can apply for any youth (aged 15-30) even if they aren’t students. The funding can also be accessed any time throughout the year but applications had to be in by January 25. A survey must be filled out to help fine tune the program going forward. The program is designed to encourage mentorship as part of the model.
Local occupational requirements, when deciding on hiring employees, can still be considered by employers but applicants will need to describe their hiring practices and show freedom from discrimination. Programs cannot foster, promote or support intolerance or prejudice. A description of health and safety practices in the work environment is required. This may involve hiring practices, policies and work guidelines.
Initial responses from groups like the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Cardus have been cautiously optimistic. The EFC suggests that churches describe “any bona fide occupational requirements they may have for the positions to be funded.”
As long as the employer can affirm the new attestation, avoid the stated restrictions and continue with an inclusive practice without discriminations there seems to be no automatic reason for rejection. Potential employers are encouraged to apply to the Canada Summer Jobs program using “Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) Grants and Contributions Online Services (GCOS).” This allows you to “track your application status, sign agreements, manage active projects, submit supporting documents, and review past projects submitted through GCOS.”