An Open Letter Supporting Recent Changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program

National Association of Women and the Law / Association nationale Femmes et Droit 

 

 

An Open Letter Supporting Recent Changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program

 

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau, Ms. May, Ms. Ouellet, Mr. Scheer, and Mr. Singh,

The undersigned organizations wholeheartedly support the recent changes made to the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program, which seek to secure greater fulfillment of human rights in accordance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[1] We call on all political parties in Canada to do the same.  

These changes align with Canada’s existing domestic and international human rights obligations, including to guarantee the right to security of the person, equality rights, the right to be free from discrimination (including discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) and the right to access accurate, scientific and non-judgemental health information (including information related to safe abortion care).

Significant misinformation has been widely circulated in the media about the nature of the attestation that is now required by organizations that wish to apply for federal government grants for student jobs through the CSJ program. We are confident that the safeguards introduced to the CSJ program are not discriminatory, and do not represent any infringement on freedom of religion, conscience, or any other rights that people in Canada enjoy. The attestation does not force any organization or institutions to, for example, engage in work to promote access to abortion or perform same-sex marriage if they do not wish to do so. Nor does it require any individual employee in any organization to change their religious beliefs. These new safeguards are designed to ensure that federal grant monies are not used to fund discriminatory activities that undermine human rights, including as they relate to bodily autonomy, sexuality, gender identity and expression. 

Federal government grants should not be used to undermine human rights, including the legal right to safe abortion (an essential medical procedure), which has long been recognized in Canada.[2]  Indeed, no government funding should be made available to any organization or for any activities that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or are meant to undermine women’s rights, equality rights or any other human rights.  In regards to abortion, which has dominated conversation regarding recent changes to the CSJ, groups that oppose the right to access safe abortion services[3] should not receive federal grants to create or disseminate misleading information, or support activities, centres, networks or facilities that work to restrict, control, or manipulate information people receive about abortion.

The provision of accurate, non-discriminatory, non-biased, scientific and evidence-based information on sexual and reproductive health is part of the right to sexual and reproductive health and rights as defined in international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In upholding this right, States must “refrain from censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting health-related information…”[4] In addressing violations of this right, Canada, like all States, must take active steps to address barriers in access to sexual and reproductive health information that include biased counselling and the dissemination of misinformation.

The Government of Canada has a responsibility to ensure that its policies, programs and budgets respect, protect and fulfil human rights. There is, therefore, no justification for federal grant monies to be made available for any organizations or activities that undermine any human rights.

The changes made to the CSJ program are grounded in respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s obligations under international human rights law. We welcome the steps taken to ensure that the rights of all people in Canada are protected and call on all political parties to support these changes.

 

ORGANIZATIONAL SIGNATORIES  

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL)

SHORE Centre

Abortion Support Services Atlantic

HN Pro-Choice Coalition

The Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity

Women's Wellness Within: An Organization Serving Criminalized Women

Ten Oaks Project

Pro-Choice Peterborough

Media Action Media

Catholics for Choice Canada

Well Woman Counselling

Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada

Women's Human Rights Education Institute

Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition

Options for Sexual Health

The Network of Black Business & Professional Women

Women's Legal Education & Action Fund (LEAF)

Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba

Women and Gender Studies Department, University of Regina

Sexual Health Lunenburg County

Planned Parenthood Ottawa

Women's Network PEI

Abortion Access Now PEI

PEI Abortion Rights Network

Women's Shelters Canada

Thunder Bay Emergency Shelter House

PEERS Alliance

South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

National Abortion Federation (NAF) Canada

Ubuntu Ottawa

Oxfam Canada

Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD)

International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO)

Positive Living North

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

San Patten and Associates, Inc.

Colour of Poverty - Colour of Change

Social Rights Advocacy Centre

HIV North Society

Alberta Society for the Promotion of Sexual Health

Canadian Arab Federation

Peel HIV/AIDS Network

Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions

Canadian Federation of Students

Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW)

Saskatoon Sexual Health

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Health Initiative for Men (HIM)

Ottawa Victim Services

Society of Edmonton Atheists

Kind Space

Canadian Health Coalition

CATIE

Canadian Federation of University Women

HIV / AIDS Legal Network

Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre (ORCC)

Women of Halton Action Movement

Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women

Canadian Positive People Network

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)

Women's College Hospital

Inter Pares

Sexuality Education Resource Centre (SERC)

Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW)

Canadian Women's Foundation

University of Ottawa Centre for Health Law Policy & Ethics

Planned Parenthood Toronto

Nelson House Ottawa-Carleton

Oasis Centre des Femmes

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Centre, Carleton University

Egale Canada Human Rights Trust

YWCA Canada

Trans Health Information Ottawa

Sheet Harbour Sexual Health Centre

Friends of Medicare

Informed Choice Coalition

Mothers of Change of the National Capital Region

WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre 

Fédération du Québec pour le Planning de Naissance (FQPN)

CARE Canada

HIV North Society

Planned Parenthood Toronto

Nelson House Ottawa-Carleton

Oasis Centre des Femmes

The Gender and Sexuality Resource Centre, Carleton University

Calgary Sexual Health Centre

Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS)

The AIDS Committee of Durham Region

Bullying Canada Inc.

Canadian Syrian Cultural Club 

Arabic Cultural Club of Ontario

LGBT Youth Line

S.O.S Grossesse

Réseau des Lesbiennes du Québec (RLQ)

 

 

[2] The right to safe abortion care is legally protected in Canada. The 1988 Supreme Court of Canada decision R. v. Morgentaler, found that the existing legislation surrounding the regulation of abortion in Canada violated section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by infringing upon a woman’s right to security of the person. Hearing arguments using section 15 (equality) of the Charter in 1989, the SCC determined that the only individual that could make the choice of terminating a pregnancy was the woman in question and that no other individual had a legal say in a woman’s choice to either carry a pregnancy to completion or to have an abortion, further enshrining reproductive rights within the Canadian legal context. 

[4] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 14 on the right to health, 2000.

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