Our response to the Canada Summer Jobs Attestation

UPDATE (March 10, 2018):
While we have been rejected for a grant due to our objections over the attestation, it has come to our attention that there is ongoing debate in the House of Commons, and a vote on this issue coming up on March 19, 2018.

Your voice matters, we encourage you to contact your MP and tell them of your concerns with the attestation in a respectful and. non-partisan manner.

For more information from the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) on the ongoing debate visit:

Pastor Verner Drost shared these thoughts with our church on Sunday, February 18, 2018. Click here to listen to what he said.

For over 20 years, we as a church have applied for the Canada Federal Summer Jobs grant. For years now, we have been approved to hire at least one summer student through this federal grant allowing us to hire some amazing students over the years. Not only has this opportunity helped us provide these students with summer employment but also, we have intentionally invested in developing their leadership and working skills enabling them to further their future goals. These grants have also made it possible for us to provide life changing programs for thousands of students; programs like Caton’s Island, leadership training with Camp LEAD, other children’s and youth programs, and serving in other community endeavours.

This year, the federal government’s application form added a new mandatory clause that you must “attest” to, in order to apply. It says:

Both the job and my 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.

 Just some quick observations:

  1. Not only are we to attest that the job respects this clause, but the organization’s core mandate must as well (In our case Smythe Street Cathedral). Their wording does not aim to judge the merit of a job based on what the job is, but upon the “core mandate” of the organization.
  2. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.

Then under the heading of “Equality Rights” it says:

“Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

We are 100% on track with that! In fact, if you follow the roots of that statement, it is birthed in the Christian philosophy that all people are equally created in the image of God and therefore all people deserve to be treated with the same respect regardless of who they are, rich, poor, educated or illiterate, white, black, Native American, Jew, Gentile, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, French or English. Irrespective of race, gender, class or religion.

This is what makes Canada a great country!
And that is a Christian fundamental core belief:
“Love your neighbour as yourself” (All neighbours!)
That is why as a Church we make every effort to help and love the poor, the widow, the foreigner, the single mom regardless of their gender, race, regardless if they are part of the LGBTQ community, Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, protestant or atheist.

But when we looked at this attestation, someone added wording that is not in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms…
“…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.”

When we received this we had to ask, “What does it mean by ‘reproductive rights’?” There is no such right anywhere in the laws of Canada and it does not define what that means. But yet, our core mandate as a church must attest to it in order to qualify for a grant.

The Federal government, through supplemental information and the media, later explained that “reproductive rights” includes “the right to abortion”. Ah! So bottom line, what we are being asked is, in order to get a summer Federal student grant we must attest that our core mandate respects an individual’s right to abortion. If not, we are disqualified.

By the way, there is no such right to abortion in Canada. The law talks about the right to life, liberty, and security of the person; it talks about the right to legal counsel, rights in criminal and penal matters, right not to be subject to cruel and unusual punishment, but nothing about the right to abortion or “reproductive rights”.

We cannot “attest” to this for two main reasons:

  1. We are Christians.
    As Christians we believe in the sanctity of life for the unborn as an essential part of our core mandate of following Jesus. To sign this would be to violate our Christian faith and our conscience. And we will never do that in order to receive government funding.
    We are very aware that abortion is a very complicated and emotional issue. One bigger than what we can discuss in this article. Our hearts go out to mothers who find themselves in an unwanted pregnancy and we need to be compassionate and willing to help. But we have serious issues with abortion on demand, abortion for gender selection or abortion because it is discovered that a baby is not quite “perfect”. So, as Christians, we could never support a blanket statement that “attest” directly or indirectly to abortion. And certainly not for the sake of money!

    The other reason that we cannot “attest” to this is:
  2. We are Canadians.
    We feel this clearly violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And we are not alone in saying so. All across Canada there has been an outcry by Catholics, Protestants, the Jewish community, Muslims and other faiths. It has also been seen as a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by Canadians who do not practice faith, people in all the political parties and even by some abortion rights activists.
    Think about this:
    A Mosque cannot get a grant to hire a summer student to take care of their lawn unless they “attest” to this clause!
    Caton’s Island Camp can’t hire a summer student as a life guard unless they “attest” to this clause!

    What’s next? Will you need to “attest” that your personal core values are pro-abortion in order to get a job with the Federal government? Or to become an RCMP officer? Or to join the military? Will Joy FM lose it’s right to broadcast by the CRTC? Or Churches their tax exemption?
    These are serious concerns!

What have we done?

We applied for the grant funding as usual, but we first crossed out the part we disagreed with in the attestation, and included a letter expressing our willingness to do what the law would require of us. We also expressed our concerns with the way that the new form this year was worded. We then hand delivered our application to our local Service Canada Centre before the deadline for applications.

And we received a reply stating that our form was incomplete because we had not checked off the box with the “attestation” in question. They gave us 10 days to do so without modifying the attestation. We will reply restating in a few words that we cannot do so because it violates our religious beliefs and our constitutional rights under the Canadians Charter of Rights and Freedoms that are recognized in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

We will very likely be rejected! The Federal Government had clearly hinted to that effect.

What will we do then?

We will continue to do what we have always done:

  • We will love and serve God!
  • We will love our neighbour.
    Feed the poor, the single mom, help with housing, help the refugees, the foreigner, love our city, treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of race or ethnic origin, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and mental or physical disability. Everyone matters to God and everyone matters to us!
  • We will continue to be law abiding citizens.
  • We will continue to honour, respect and pray for our elected Government officials.
  • We will express our deep disappointment and concerns to our elected MP’s in a respectful, kind and peaceful manner.
  • We will pray for our great country that “God keep our land glorious and free”.
    Free for one and free for all people.
  • We will continue to do our summer programs as before with whatever funds we have, even if we do not get our Federal grant. Not getting the grant might limit us from doing as much, but we will trust God and do our best.

If you have any questions feel free to contact our office at office@ssc.church