Victory for Charter freedoms as federal government abandons compelled speech in Canada Summer Jobs attestation

On December 7, the federal government abandoned its 2018 requirement that applicants for Canada Summer Jobs funding express their support for the Government’s position on “reproductive rights” by attesting to the following statement:

Both the job and my organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, and the values underlying 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 or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression. 

The Justice Centre filed an application challenging the 2018 attestation requirement in April of 2018, on behalf of small business owners Rhea Lynne and William Anderson, seeking a court declaration that compelled speech and compelled ideological conformity violate the Charter

“By removing the requirement that applicants for Canada Summer Jobs agree with a particular position on abortion, the 2019 attestation appears to be a significant improvement.  The 2018 attestation prevented thousands of Canadian businesses from providing employment opportunities for young people this past summer,” stated Justice Centre president John Carpay.

The 2019 CSJ application states that an applicant organization’s summer job program could be deemed “ineligible” if it is considered to:

– restrict access to programs, services, or employment, or otherwise discriminate, contrary to applicable laws, 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;
– advocate intolerance, discrimination and/or prejudice; or
– actively work to undermine or restrict a woman’s access to sexual and reproductive health services.

“The Government has not defined specifically which programs will be deemed “ineligible” under the new criteria,” stated Carpay. “Without an accompanying 2019 CSJ Application Guide, it is impossible to assess how the new criteria will be defined and interpreted.  On its face, the language contained in the attestation could be interpreted to restrict funding from a vast array of charities and non-profit groups which advocate views that the Trudeau Government disagrees with,” continued Carpay.