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

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. We call on all political parties in Canada to do the same.

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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.