Liberals drop contentious anti-abortion test for summer jobs funding

OTTAWA — Contentious wording in Ottawa’s summer jobs program that tied pro-abortion beliefs to funding eligibility is being dropped after a backlash to what was styled last year as a values test.

Instead, the federal Liberals have re-tooled the 2019 version of the Canada Summer Jobs program to require applicants to declare they don’t work to infringe on any Canadian’s legal rights.

Wording on the application for the 2018 version of the program required groups to say neither their core mandate nor the jobs being funded actively worked to undermine constitutional, human and reproductive rights.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says the change — made after informal consultations over the past few months — should clear up concerns from faith-based groups who expressed outrage over this past year’s requirements.

“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 in an interview.

“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.”

Additional changes have been made to the program’s eligibility criteria to disqualify any project or summer job that tries to restrict access a woman’s ability to access sexual or reproductive health services. Other disqualifying traits include jobs that restrict the exercise of human rights or that discriminate based on sex, religion, race or ethnic origin.

“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,” Hajdu said.

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