Canada Summer Jobs kerfuffle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at town hall meeting
in Hamilton, Ontario (January 8, 2018).
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, January 18, 2018

Canada Summer Jobs kerfuffle

According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, there has been a “kerfuffle” over the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program. Permit me to add my two-cents.

Recall that the CSJ program allows employers (non-profits and businesses) to receive wage subsidies to hire students, thereby helping employers (including many churches and charitable organizations) provide valuable work experience for young people, work experience that often benefits others, especially in the case of faith-based charitable agencies. So far, so good.

Problems arise, however, with the government’s new eligibility requirement, i.e., employers must now sign an “attestation.”

According to the CSJ guidelines, employers must “attest that both the job and the organizations’ core mandate respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights.”

Moreover, “These [rights] 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, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

The guidelines explain that “reproductive rights” include abortion.

Many of the rights listed are important and legitimate, but some are reasonably controversial. I see (at least) three problems.

1. Though women have the right to access safe abortions (when needed), it is not true that women have a carte blanche right to abortion (whenever wanted), contrary to what our Liberal “pro-choice” government seems to think.

As a matter of fact, in 1988 Canada’s then abortion law was struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) not because abortion is a woman’s right, but because there wasn’t equal access across Canada to therapeutic abortion committees. The SCC struck down the extant law and asked parliament to make a better law for women and unborn children, suggesting a gestational-age approach.

Let me repeat: The SCC did not say that abortion is a woman’s right. (Note: that X is legal does not mean that we have a positive right to X.)

2. A problem arises from the reference to the “values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” to which the CSJ program asks employers to attest. The Charter explicitly explains the underlying values as follows: “Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.”

This means God’s revelations by Scripture or conscience trump government’s requirements for citizens to “attest” to whatever goes against these.

This also means many Canadians believe God has given all humans—unborn children included—the right to life. In other words, these Charter-abiding Canadians cannot“attest” that they agree with “reproductive rights” when those include the right to kill a child.

So at the get-go the CSJ program and its “attestation” requirement infringes on the rights to equal benefit of the law (Charter, section 15) of those employers who take seriously Canadian law and its underlying values. This is blatant and unjust discrimination—built into the CSJ program.

At this juncture PM Trudeau would object (as he has) that when it comes to abortion we cannot restrict “the right to women to control their own bodies.”

In reply, thinking Canadians should notice this fact: It’s one thing to control one’s own body; it’s quite another to kill the body of another!

Moreover, no pro-life or anti-abortion Canadians are against the right of any woman to control her own body. Rather, they are concerned about the body that isn’t the woman’s body, i.e., the body of the child who is destroyed by abortion.

3. The CSJ program’s non-discrimination requirement concerning “gender identity or expression” assumes an ideological position on the alleged truth of many such identities and expressions, an alleged truth not settled by science or even common sense.

Think about it. Facebook used to offer 58 gender options and now allows “unlimited custom identities.” Canadians must “attest” to this to be eligible for public funding? Seriously?

In conclusion, I recommend a revision to the requirements of the Canada Summer Jobs program.

As is, it represents poor thinking or an ideological power play—or, probably, both.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views expressed in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.

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