Trudeau government drops controversial abortion values test for summer jobs funding

The updated Canada Summer Jobs program will change it's wording to require that applicants declare that they will not work to infringe on the charter rights of Canadians.

Lucas Holtvluwer Montreal QC

After well over a year of backlash and opposition to the summer jobs values test, from pro-life and pro-choice people alike, the Liberal government has dropped the controversial pro-abortion requirement. The updated Canada Summer Jobs program will change it's wording to require that applicants declare that they will not work to infringe on the charter rights of Canadians.

Past values test had a pro-abortion condition

Previously, the application required that "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." Following this clause was a list of various Canadian rights, including "reproductive rights." Oddly enough, despite the popular narrative, Canadians actually have no constitutional right to unrestricted abortion services. When the Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that lack of access to abortion violated a person's right to security, they left it up to Parliament to decide when the cut off point would be. Ultimately, Parliament was never able to pass legislation on abortion and so it has been left completely unrestricted right up until the present day.

Listening to faith groups

Speaking with the Canadian Press, Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says she thinks this change should clear up concerns from faith groups who were upset with the previously worded application. "They felt this was about their values and beliefs and not about the jobs and the performances of the students in particular roles and we took that to heart," Hajdu said. "We've been working on making sure we do what we intended to do, which is to stand up for the rights of Canadians...but that we also work closely with faith-based groups and others so that they can see how they themselves would fit into this program."

Ensuring anti-abortion activists don't receive funding

Building on their original intention to prevent anti-abortion activist groups from receiving funding, the Liberals have adjusted the programs qualification standards to exclude any applicants which seek to restrict a woman's access to abortion. Hajdu went on to say "This is a program about quality jobs for kids, so we shouldn't be asking kids in any circumstance to do work that would put them into a position to have to undermine or restrict the rights of others." "That's not the kind of job experience we would want young people to have, especially for, often times, their first (job)."

Other changes to the program

This change is just one of a few made to the program, which will be presented in parliament today. Applications for employers will begin later this month. The Liberals have increased access to the program by removing the qualification that the applicant be a current student. The program will now be open to any person aged 15-30, regardless of their current educational status. Improving the eligibility requirements for the summer jobs program was one of the recommendations the government's expert panel made made last year. A new mobile app will allow users to search through the federal government's job bank and seek out available positions.

Improving the program

Hajdu also said that mentorship plans will be instituted as part of the governments efforts to fund only "quality" jobs. Additionally, employers and employees will have to fill out a survey to help the government get better feedback in order to improve the program moving forward. In an effort to quell any lingering fears over future values tests, Hajdu said that the data collected will only be used to evaluate the overall program and not screen out individual employers. "This is a really great jobs program for kids, they make some money, they get that experience, but we want to make sure it is actually resulting in quality experience," she said.


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