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EDITORIAL: Take the politics out of summer job funding

In the endless national debate about abortion, governments walk a very fine line. They must ensure the rights of women to reproductive self-determination, and must not tolerate any effort to threaten women, or abortion providers.

On the other hand they have to respect the rights of anti-abortion groups and individuals who hold differing views, and they cannot penalize groups and people for holding those views.

The Trudeau government has slipped up in that balancing act and needs to find its feet again.

It has created a mandatory “attestation” on applications for groups applying for funding from the Canada Summer Jobs fund. On that attestation applicants are required to promise they will respect individual rights, including reproductive rights. That means that any group that has an anti-abortion plank in its core values can't receive funding.

Let's take the Catholic Church. It cannot attest that it respects women's reproductive rights, which means it couldn't qualify. (We have no idea if the church might actually apply - this is just an example.)

But aside from its anti-abortion views, it also does great community service in many areas. Should a group that does great work with, say, inner city youth or homeless people, be excluded from summer jobs funding because it has anti-abortion as a core value? Does that value mean other aspects of its work are not worthy of public support?

We'd argue the answer is no.

This doesn't mean summer jobs funding should pay for violent anti-abortion protests, or picketers displaying grotesque images, or any other activity that threatens or demeans women, families and abortion service providers. The government needs to change the attestation so that it's clear any activities that impinge on the individual rights of others will not be considered for public funding.

But simply holding anti-abortion views, as do many Liberal MPs including ministers, should not preclude an organization from being judged on the merits of its specific application, any more than holding those views should exclude people from being MPs or ministers.

This isn't a viewpoint held only by religious and anti-abortion groups. Even the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has joined the chorus calling for the government to change the troublesome wording.

One offensive thing about U.S. President Donald Trump is how he has, either by commission or omission, ensured that all sorts of public policy decisions are weighted on the conservative side. Groups that hold so-called ‘progressive’ views have found their funding cut, their political support leveraged away from them, all so the landscape is more comfortable for Trump and his base.

Good public policy is balanced across the political and ethical spectrum, which is why the Trudeau government must fix this inequity.


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