Right-wing groups in the United States are furious with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after his recent comments regarding a clause in the Canada Summer Jobs Grant application.
The grant supplies small businesses and companies with funding to allow for job creation for secondary and post-secondary students. Its three objectives are to: provide work experience for students; support organizations, and in particular those who provide community service; and recognize the variety of needs and priorities in different communities.
Last April, the grant was given to anti-abortion groups (among others), which sparked a controversy when the pro-choice Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada released reports which claimed that “Federal government grants from the Canada Summer Jobs program for youth have provided ongoing support to political organizations that advocate against human rights, including the right to abortion, doctor-assisted dying, and LGBT rights.”
After this report was released, a spokesperson for Patty Hadju, Canada’s employment minister, said that pro-life organizations in liberal ridings would no longer be receiving federal grants. In May of the same year, three separate groups filed in federal court to claim that they had been denied funding based on their beliefs. In November, the government handled the complaints through a settlement that included the value of denied funding as well as legal costs.
In response to the issue, a clause has been added to this year’s Canada Summer Jobs application, requiring any employer who applies for the grant to sign that they “declare, represent, attest and warrant that … both the job and the organization’s core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including 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.”
This new clause has been of particular concern to religious groups and organizations, who are religiously opposed to abortion. As of January 9, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada had received phone calls, emails, and other communications from 160 churches and religious organizations with concern and confusion about the attestation. Other religious ministries and organizations have had similar responses.
Trudeau maintains that the clause does not discriminate against religious peoples and organizations through making a distinction between beliefs and actions.
“Of course, you’re more than allowed to have whatever beliefs you like,” he said during a town hall meeting held at McMaster university on Jan. 10. “But when those beliefs lead to actions determined to restrict a woman’s right to control her own body, that’s where I, and I think we, draw the line as a country… an organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion and the right for women to control their own bodies is not in line with where we are as a government, and quite frankly where we are as a society.”
In addition to the controversy among Canadians, Trudeau’s statements also caught the attention of Americans, specifically right-wing politicians. Sebastian Gorka, a former staff member in the White House under President Trump, tweeted, “This man is reprehensible” in response to hearing what the Prime Minister had to say. In an interview with Fox News, president of the March of Life Jeanne Mancini commented that, “eight out of 10, Americans, for the last 10 years, have wanted to limit abortion more than it’s limited, at least in the United States… I’d love to extend an invitation to the Prime Minister to come to the March for Life… because he will see who’s really out of touch with mainstream America.”
According to polling conducted by IPSOS last March, nearly four out of five Canadians support reproductive rights.