A massive coalition of religious leaders banned together to call the Canadian government to retract its stipulation requiring groups who apply to a 2018 summer jobs program to affirm their support of abortion in order to receive grant money.
“The promise of a free and democratic society is that there be no religious or ideological test or conditions to receiving government benefit or protection,” read a Sunday statement from Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, according to the Catholic Herald.
The 2018 Canada Summer Jobs application currently mandates that applicants attest their support of abortion by declaring they will respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also requires groups to affirm their support of LGBT and reproductive rights, following complaints filed to the Canadian government alleging that some organizations had refused to hire gay youths to hand out graphic cards, according to Global News. Section 7 of the Charter protects individual autonomy and legal rights, and is enforced such that the government does not interfere with a woman’s access to reproductive health care.
“If the government has a problem with a particular group doing something they disagree with, they should talk to those groups,” the Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Christopher Collins, said at a news conference in Toronto. “To have a wide-open ideological test for everybody, which we cannot in conscience sign, that’s just not fair.”
Employment Minister Patty Hajdu has made it clear, however, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Canadian government does not intend to change the policy, positing that funding “should never go to pay for work that seeks to remove Canadian rights – like a woman’s right to choose, or LGBTQ rights.”
“The government has placed us in an untenable position,” Evangelical Fellowship of Canada president Bruce Clemenger also said, the Herald reports. He noted that more than 1,500 evangelical projects have received government funding in the past, and will no longer be able to garner financial support unless Trudeau repeals the stipulation.
“We’re worried about the future, not just now,” said Imam Refaat Mohamed of the Canadian Council of Imams.
The statements come after Newfoundland Parliament member Scott Simms also petitioned his own government to remove the abortion stipulation. “The application is asking them to do something that they shouldn’t be asked to do for the sake of a summer job for kids,” Simms told CBC Radio’s Central Morning Show. “To me that’s a lack of respect … This application, as it stands right now, is not right.”
Canadian law permits abortion at any time during a pregnancy.