Eighty-seven Canadian religious leaders have written an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking him to reverse a government policy that denies summer jobs grants to businesses that oppose abortion.
The Interfaith Statement, released on Thursday, calls on the government to amend the Canada Summer Jobs guidelines so that faith-based organizations that hold moral objections to abortion will be qualified for grants when they hire students to staff numerous programs, such as inner-city camps for poor children.
"The promise of a free and democratic society is that there be no religious or ideological test or conditions to receiving government benefits or protection," the statement read, as reported by The Christian Post.
"The changes to the Canada Summer Jobs guidelines and application not only violate the fundamental freedoms of faith-based organizations, they also significantly impact the broader communities served by their programs, often the most vulnerable in Canadian society," it continued.
The Canadian government recently introduced a policy that required applicants for Canada Summer Jobs grant to attest to specific views in order to qualify.
Under the policy, applicants are required to sign an attestation that they have a "core mandate" which respects "reproductive rights."
The new policy came after pro-abortion groups raised objections that some grants from the $220 million jobs program went to pro-life organizations.
Patricia A. Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, said that the proposal was not meant to deny religious and charitable organizations access to funding, but to ensure that the grants "should never go to pay for work that seeks to remove Canadian rights — like a woman's right to chose, or LGBTQ2 rights."
During a press conference on Thursday, Hadiju said that the government has no intention of removing the attestation or changing its wording to address the concerns of the religious leaders.
In an attempt to quell criticisms about the new policy, Hadiju contacted several organizations, including the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and released a supplementary guide to define what is meant by "core mandate."
She assured that applications will be accepted as long as an organization's "primary activities" do not include pro-life advocacy or discrimination against minorities, but applicants are still required to tick a box to attest general support of the government's abortion and gender policies.
Dave Addison, executive director of the Toronto City Mission, said that his organization stands to lose $100,000 in grants because it cannot sign the attestation. The amount is required to pay 16 students to staff summer camps in Toronto's inner city, but the mission is already running at a deficit because it started to offer the camps for free last year as many families they serve cannot afford to pay any fee.
"We love the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the poor. We ask the government to remove the attestation and allow us to do our loving work," he said.